Redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments moving ahead with funding

Brenda Williams

Ray Kuniansky

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

Plans for the redevelopment of the Orange Avenue Apartments took a major step forward when the Community Redevelopment Agency board approved an allocation of $425,625 to the Tallahassee Housing Authority at its meeting last week.

The money will go to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund as a low-income tax credit match for the development of a section of the Orange Avenue Apartments redevelopment designated for senior citizens.

“It’s been a long time getting to this point and we are ecstatic,” said Brenda Williams, director of Tallahassee Housing Authority. “This is the beginning of a renaissance on the south side.”

The master plan has been approved by the Housing Authority’s board. It is a part of a HUD directive for 250,000 low-income units to be built in the state.

City commissioner Curtis Richardson, who lives on the south side, said it was a no-brainer to vote in favor of granting the funds to move the project forward.

“It’s simply long overdue,” he said. “Those apartments are over 40 years old and are really in terrible conditions. I could just go on with examples how inadequate and outdated those apartments are.”

The redevelopment will extend beyond the 40-year-old complex that sits on 29 acres near the corner of Orange Avenue and Country Club Drive. Developers hope it will include the corridor that stretches from Adams Street to Blairstone Road.

“It’s going to be transformational for the south side of Tallahassee,” said Richardson, a longtime advocate for the project. “This is going to be one of the largest developments on the south side of Tallahassee in decades.”

However, at least two speakers during the public comment section of the board meeting objected to the CRA giving money to help the project along. Their contention was that residents will be displaced while the construction is underway.

Williams, however, has been assuring current residents that they will have the first option on the new homes when they are completed. The initial phase could begin as early as next fall and the entire project could take as many as seven years for completion.

“Everyone who lives there now has to be offered the opportunity to move back in,” Richardson said. “They will get a Section-8 voucher and they can go anywhere they want with that voucher.  Once the development is completed they are given the right of first refusal if they want to come back.”

Making sure every family that lives in the 200-unit complex has a place to relocate is a priority in the initial stage of the project, said Williams. The first phase of the redevelopment will include building an off-site location for some residents. Others will have the option of using the vouchers for housing elsewhere, she said.