Orange Avenue Apartment residents will have relocation choices during redevelopment

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

With financing secured to begin the first phase of redevelopment of the Orange Avenue Apartments, residents don’t have to fear being asked to move without knowing where they’re going to relocate.

The available options for relocation was among the details that officials behind the project disclosed during a Zoom media briefing last week on the project. 

“No resident from Orange Avenue will be displaced,” said Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority. Residents will begin to receive a 90-day notice in October after the Department of Housing and Urban Development gives approval to begin demolition to make room for 130 new units, she said.

One of two options that residents have for relocating is moving to other low-income housing owned by the Tallahassee Housing Authority at Springfield or Pinewood Place Apartments. The other choice is to request a housing choice voucher that would allow them to rent housing anywhere.

In her reassurance to residents, Williams said they will have first rights to return to the 29-acre Orange Avenue property. Cost for living in the new one, two or three bedroom apartments will remain at 30 percent of the residents’ income, Williams said.

Brenda Williams is executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Talks began three years ago about replacing the apartments that were built in 1972, with 19 units being in a flood way along Orange Avenue. Initially construction was being mentioned to begin last year, but funding hit a snag.

Construction could begin as early as April, with completion in the fall of 2021.

None of the new units will be built along the current flood way, said Ray Kuniansky, Chief Development Officer for Columbia Residential which heads up the redevelopment.

The first phase of the redevelopment will cost $26 million for 130 apartments. Funding was secured from Leon County government, the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and the City of Tallahassee.

All of the current 200 apartments will be replaced when the redevelopment is completed, said Kuniansky. The units in phase 1 will be in five three-story buildings, he said.

The surroundings will include walking paths and green spaces, pool and a playground. Most of those amenities were requested by residents during a series of meetings that took place during the past two years.

“Our part of process was our team came with the objective to listen, learn and to advise the community,” Kuniansky said.

When completed the apartments will not only be larger than the old ones, but the image of the community will be transformed, Williams said.

The aged buildings are “obsolete and no longer demonstrate fiscal and social viability as decent and affordable housing,” she said.

 Living at the new Orange Avenue Apartments will be life-changing for residents, said Courtney Atkins, executive director of the South City Foundation.  The foundation is working with Purpose Built Communities Inc., which operates on a model comprised of quality education, affordable-mixed income housing, health and wellness, economic opportunity and leadership development.

The holistic model is already in place at the Eastside neighborhood in Atlanta and other locations around the country. 

“We know from our experience and work over the years that if we really want to ensure quality and sustainability when we are in the revitalization efforts we have to attack this with a coordinated holistic approach,” Atkins said. “If we don’t do that we are not going to be successful.”

Purpose Built joined the Orange Avenue project last year.

“We know if we can do this we can improve our children who not only live in South City today but that will be living in South City for generations to come,” she said. “This is our long-term commitment from the partners to see this through.”

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