New affordable housing developments break ground in South Tampa, St. Petersburg

Two developments starting construction in Tampa and St. Petersburg are aimed at providing some relief for Tampa Bay’s affordable housing dilemma. 

In South Tampa, a public-private partnership including the Tampa Housing Authority has started wok on Casa Bel-Mar, a 100-unit affordable housing complex at 4003 S. Manhattan Ave. The one and two-bedroom apartments are designed for the small families that make up the vast majoirty of the Tampa Housing Authority’s wait list. Casa Bel-Mal will be 100 percent affordable housing, with families making no more than 80 percent of area median income.

“It’s 100 units in a market that has not seen any new affordable housing in decades,” Tampa Housing Authority Senior Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leroy Moore says. “That South Tampa market has been so void of affordable new construction. A lot of people don’t realize it but we do have public housing in South Tampa. So it’s not our first affordable housing development in South Tampa. But it is our first in many years. It is a really important market for us to focus on.”

Prior to Casa Bel-Mar, the last affordable housing development built in South Tampa was Gardens at South Bay, which opened at  6720 S. Lois Ave. in 2006.  

“We think it’s important having this quality affordable housing in that market where you have incredible schools, great retail and commercial variety and good quality grocers serving that market,” Moore says. All of those things that we, unfortunately, struggle to attract to the East Tampa markets and the West Tampa markets are already there in the South Tampa market. Tampa markets are already there in the South Tampa market. It’s important to have those quality businesses, the Publix, the  Chick-fil-A. They are employers for our residents, but they are also good, quality retailers, grocers and restaurants for the residents. And that is unfortunately a void in what many people consider to be low-income communities. Instead of only building in low-income communities and trying to attract quality commercial, which we need to keep doing and need to be successful at, we also need to build in more diverse communities where all this infrastructure already exists so that Tampa’s low-income residents are not relegated to one or two parts of town.”

Moore says Casa Bel-Mar came about when a private development team consisting of Archway Partners and Signature Property Services got the site, a former church, under contract and approached the Tampa Housing Authority about working together on affordable housing development.

Bear Creek Commons

In St. Petersburg, a public-private partnership including affordable housing developer Blue Sky Communities has started construction on Bear Creek Commons, 635 64th Street S. The senior living affordable housing community slated to open in the fall of 2024 will have 47 one-bedroom and 38 two-bedroom units for residents 62 and up who make no more than 80 percent of the area median income.

As rents and housing prices rise during Tampa Bay’s development boom and inflation puts financial pressure on seniors living on a fixed income, Blue Sky Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Scott Macdonald says Bear Creek Commons will help meet a growing need for affordable housing in built-out Pinellas County. As with Casa Bel-Mar, the Bear Creek Commons property was formerly the site of a church. 

“Our hope here is it is going to keep grandparents from having to move away from their kids and grandkids and allow people to live in a first-class place while paying a proportional part of their income for rent,” Macdonald says.

There will be a slew of amenities for residents looking to maintain an active lifestyle and take advantage of a property bordering Bear Creek.  They’ll include a gym, library, game room and social area. Outdoors, there will be a gazebo, a resident garden and a patio. 

“It’s really a beautiful piece of property with Bear Creek running on the border of it,” Macdonald says.

A mix of private financing tools and government programs will help fund construction.

“It’s a true public-private partnership at just about every evel of government,” Macdonald says. “It has federal tax credits. It has state funds through Florida Housing Finance Corporation. It has county bonds through the Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority and it has city funding.”

It is also one of the first affordable housing projects that will receive funding through the Penny for Pinellas sales tax under an agreement between the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. The use of Penny for Pinellas funds to purchase the land for Bear Creek Commons will ensure the property remains affordable housing in perpetuity. 

Uptown Sky

While two new affordable housing developments break ground, the Uptown Sky affordable housing apartment complex has opened in the Uptown/University Area community. The 61-unit complex is a partnership between Blue Sky and the nonprofit University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC) that focuses on serving households at two income levels- 50 percent and 70 percent of the area median income. 

Uptown Sky is in a North Tampa area that has seen a growing innovation hub and mixed-use development reshape the Fowler Avenue corridor. But the redevelopment has also seen some existing affordable housing converted to market-rate rentals, according to the UACDC, a shift that can price some current residents out of the area.

For more information, go to Tampa Housing Authority, Bear Creek Commons and Uptown Sky.

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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.