Redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments moves closer to starting

A wire fence was constructed around a portion of Orange Avenue Apartments to prepare for demolition.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Brenda Williams

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook Staff Writer

 With no foreseeable additional glitches, Tallahassee Housing Authority has received funding that will keep redevelopment of the Orange Avenue Apartments on track for work to begin this summer.

Closing on funding for the first of three phases is expected to be completed when the Florida Housing Corporation meets in April, said Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority.  Funding for the initial phase will cost $35.9 million.

Following the lead of the Leon County Commission, Tallahassee City Commissioners unanimously approved $227.853 toward the project last Wednesday. The County gave $1.2 million last month. In all both governments have given an equal amount to the project, despite the difference in their recent allocation, Williams said.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Commissioner Curtis Richardson, following a presentation and recommendation from staffer Jean Amerson for approval of the funding. “Those of us who live on the Southside know that this is going to be transformative for our community. We are really looking forward to it.”

 THA had to request additional funding to secure closing after supply shortages during the pandemic drove up construction cost, which includes material and transportation.

Meanwhile, most of the tenants have relocated from housing where phase 1 work will begin in July. One remaining family that requires ADA accommodations is expected to be relocated before demolition begins in May, Williams said.

Mad Dog Construction has already fenced around the units that sit between Country Club and Brighton Road and runs from Orange Avenue to Putnam Drive. The company is currently removing hazardous materials from the buildings.  

Some residents had expressed concerns about relocating before the process began, but Williams said it has gone surprisingly well.

“Everybody was saying there was going to be a problem, but look at what has happened,” Williams said. “Since August, 157 families have moved. The relocation has gone remarkably well. I think the residents were ready to move and they went out and found units.”

Another 40 families will have to be relocated to clear out the apartments. That, Williams said, should be done by June.

Many tenants found homes on the Southside of town, Williams said.

Another round of relocating residents will have to take place in the units where phase 3 of the project will be built. When completed, units will double to 400.

Funding for phase 2 is pegged at phase 2 is $29.2 million, while Williams estimated that $26.2 million will be needed to complete phase 3, which will include construction on an area that includes five acres that THA recently purchases. Prior to that there were 197 units on 29 acres.

 “This project is going to be the beginning of a transformation for the Southside of the city,” Williams said. “We are looking forward to building a property that everybody in the community can be proud of. We are equally excited about the economic opportunities that are going to be created as a result of this project.”

When completed, the project is expected to put somewhat of a dent in the shortage of affordable homes in the city. But Williams is expecting THA’s impact to be even greater.

“We are not going to stop at Orange Avenue,” she said. “We’ve been approached by other developers who want us to partner with them to provide more affordable housing. We intend to pursue those relationships moving forward.”