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Affordable and Unaffordable Housing in the Works

Written by on Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Sarasota Planning Board took two steps forward, one step back during their last meeting.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: June 19, 2024

Host: Two affordable housing projects are going through the approval process in the City of Sarasota, as Ramon Lopez reports; But so is another luxury condo tower that will increase demand for low-pay workers, and therefore affordable housing.

Ramon Lopez:  The Sarasota Housing Authority, led by William Russell since 2005, is the primary source for ‘affordable’, attainable’, or ‘workforce’ housing in Sarasota County. Founded in 1938, as one of the first public housing authorities in Florida, the local housing agency fell on hard times. Federal watchdogs said it had financial, physical and management troubles.

But Russell turned things around there, and the SHA has built (and is constructing) several new projects near the Newtown area. The affordable housing developer offers units to people making far below the area median income. Those benefiting include: cops and firefighters, nurses, young teachers, people on disability, or the elderly on fixed incomes. Old public housing is being torn down. The SHA is replacing them with new, larger residential buildings constructed to last.

Meanwhile, Sarasota business community leaders are pushing solutions for the affordability housing crisis. And the Florida League of Cities recently gave the city of Sarasota an award for its Affordable Housing Density Program.

Oakridge Apartments, in the back of a motel property on the North Tamiami Trail.

The City of Sarasota Planning Board at its June 12th meeting moved things along as per low-income housing. It signed off on projects of the SHA and Sarasota-based One Stop Housing that will offer more than 200 new apartments. The Board approved a three-story, 36 unit expansion of Oakridge Apartments being handled by One Stop Housing. It recommended to the Sarasota City Commission that the number of public housing units at Amaryllis Park Place to be more than doubled. And the Planning Board endorsed a utility easement for SHA’s Lofts of Lemon II.

Support of the Oakridge Apartments buildout was not unanimous. The vote was four to one. Chairman Michael Halflants, an architect, does not care for the motel-like design.

Michael Halflants: You’re making it more expensive to really create an awful product. It’s depressing to look at this and think this is a good solution. To me, it’s basic decency as an architect to look at a flow plan like, “Which unit do I want to live in?” I don’t want to live in any of these. This is awful. And it would have been so simple to design it with a minimum amount of care. 

Yes, this project should be affordable housing. They’re fantastic. The scale of all of it is perfectly fine. There’s no problem with the neighbors or anything like that. It’s just the layout, it would take a few hours of correcting the layout so that you don’t have somebody standing in front of my bedroom window. The fact that it’s an addition to a motel doesn’t mean that it has to be designed as a motel again.

RL: But fellow board member Daniel Clermont, who is also an architect, disagreed. He’s willing to look beyond the design. Clermont said the need for more affordable housing in Sarasota outweighs architectural aesthetics.

Daniel Clermont: I do appreciate the comments that the chair had about the design. It is not necessarily a looker. It is probably consistent with the hotel. Like I said, I hadn’t driven by, but I’m familiar with the property. Though for me, it’s not enough to deny it. There’s just certain realities, I guess. But I do agree. I mean, there’s maybe even a safety concern, having all those windows, bedroom windows and such, where people are walking by, that’s public, to the building.

One Park, 18th floor penthouse.

RL:  A non-affordable housing matter The Sarasota Planning Board addressed on June 12th was what to do with the Quay Commons’ contentious One Park condo towers. The original one-condo plan was scrapped by a court order. The developer came up with two condos: One Park and One Park West. The 18-story and 69 unit luxury condo One Park will be at the corner of US-41 and Boulevard of the Arts, with over 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. One Park West will be nearby.

The Planning Board unanimously approved the latest Quay Commons submission, despite the fact that Dan Clermont wanted to see more commercial space in the latest plan.

Affordability is not a requirement for the twin towers. One Park condos will sell for a whopping $3.5 million to $12.5 million. “Value-priced” One Park West will be in the $1 million to $3 million range. Who do I make the check out to?

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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