The City of Tallahassee is making the redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments a key feature in its efforts to generate more affordable housing in the area. The first of new residential spaces could be online by 2020—if the city can find the means to finance the project.
City officials have been discussing how to renovate the massive, 30-acre site off Orange Avenue for more than a year now, and City Commissioner Curtis Richardson says at the top of the priority list should be finding a way to break free of the stigma that affordable housing communities often have.
“We’ve got to get away from this image of these housing developments as “housing projects”, and I’m sure you’ve heard that during your discussions. That’s the image people have," Richardson said.
That’s the point, says developer Ray Kuniansky, Vice President of Columbia Residential development company, which is working on the Orange Avenue remodel. Wednesday he presented city commissioners with a vision for what Orange venue could be come. A place with walking paths and green spaces, where seniors can sit and children can play, and a place that’s not surrounded by walls that presently mark the boundary of the community:
“They want spaces where people can see where their kids are, where seniors can walk, sit, that people can enjoy that are outdoors," Kuniansky said.
If the city can secure the financing, work could begin as soon as next May with the first of the new homes coming online in 2020. The City of Tallahassee is searching for a dedicated source of funding for its affordable housing initiatives, something that could replace the piece-meal approach it’s taking now.
While the planning on Orange Avenue continues, the city is also investing in other programs, like Habitat for Humanity. City money was used to build two houses and the city’s Matthew Parker says he wants to purchase three more. Longer term, there are other plans. A new, 88 unit apartment complex is springing up at the corner of McComb and Georgia Street, with 80 of the units listed as affordable. It will be done in May.
"Most of the units are for 60 percent or less of area median income," said Parker. "It’s going to be a very attractive development.”
In other parts of Tallahassee, the city is busy buying up abandoned land in the hopes of eventually putting new homes there. And in the past year, the city has also purchased and remodeled 10 homes in various communities—selling them to new buyers. But something that is of concern is planning for growth, and making sure that while its increasing affordable options, it’s not destroying existing communities through gentrification.