Officials promise ‘transformational’ public housing at Orange Avenue development groundbreaking

City and county leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of the Orange Avenue development project with golden shovels and green hard hats.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Picking up a golden shovel and tossing some dirt, a lengthy list of Tallahassee leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of a major undertaking along Orange Avenue.

The redevelopment of a fifty-year-old public housing complex was five years in the making. The Tallahassee Housing Authority, along with developer Columbia Residential, is constructing 290 apartment homes for a mixed-income community.

THA Executive Director said the groundbreaking marked an important step in a lengthy process.

“Getting here today was a long, long, long road,” she said.

“However, it’s one of which we anticipate will be the beginning of a transformation of the South Side of the city.”

Both city and county leaders framed the work as transformational for the South City community. Williams said the existing structures were falling apart, forcing tenants to live in terrible conditions.

“Everything was in disrepair, because nothing had been done on this site in more than fifty years,” she said.

The THA secured a budget of $81 million to build the complex, which has a target completion date of late 2024.

Columbia Residential’s Chief Development Officer Ray Kuniansky said this model breaks norms, allowing for new development that isn’t just affordable to the wealthy.

“We can prove that you don’t have to displace people from their community and still provide a real high quality product,” he said.

The former tenants were displaced ahead of demolition in March. They were offered vouchers to help find new homes.

That transition process was not without its warts. Several tenants filed a legal complaint against the THA in June. The parties settled outside of court a couple months later.

Williams said those displaced tenants have first priority for the new apartments, and the rent will be affordable. The settlement featured dozens of stipulations, including rent at a rate that matched 30% of tenants’ income.