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Brooksville considers apartments for seniors

The city hopes to revive a project planned but then abandoned by a developer.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- The city of Brooksville is trying to salvage a proposal to build an apartment complex for low-income elderly residents after the original developer backed out.

It is doing so because Brooksville and the county have a shortage of such facilities, said City Manager Richard Anderson, and because the architect on the project is seeking about $40,000 for plans he drew up but has never been paid for.

Although this is not a budget-breaking amount, he said, "It's a lot of money for a set of plans if you don't use them."

The city has pitched the project to the Hernando Housing Authority, said Donnie Singer, its executive director. The authority is currently examining the feasibility of the project. To make it work, Singer said, his organization will almost certainly need to find a way to trim the estimated $5-million cost of the project.

"We're certainly interested in working with the city on that site. We're researching it to see if it's a doable project," Singer said.

He added that the project, as it is now designed, "has some bells and whistles."

These include a swimming pool and community room that the original developer, Bud Clark, included to help the project qualify for a federal tax credit program.

The failure to win that assistance last year doomed the original proposal, said Clark, president of Clark, Roumelis and Associates, a Tallahassee consulting company.

His firm had successfully applied for and managed two federal grants for the city in 1998, when it first proposed the idea. The firm learned about the property -- 3.2 acres owned by the city just north of a similar housing complex at Hale Avenue and Summit Road -- through its work with the city.

Brooksville had bought the property in 1982 with federal grant money and is required to use it for low-income housing, Roumelis said. The property has stood idle since its purchase.

Roumelis formed a new company, CRA Development, to build the project. But the tax credit program proved to be more complicated than the company had expected. Specifically, the program heavily favored companies with a record of successfully completing such projects; this essentially shut CRA out of the process, Roumelis said.

"We very quickly found that we were in a game we weren't prepared to play," said Clark, who has dissolved his development company.

"It certainly was a good project," he said. "I feel bad for the city that it didn't work out."

"They got out of it when they found they couldn't make a bunch of money," Anderson said.

The architect, David Jacobs of Orlando, is seeking payment from the company but has also indicated that he holds the city liable, Anderson said.

Singer hopes to use some form of Jacob's plans, altered so the property could generate enough money to finance it.

Singer envisions the rents being set at market price, though assistance would be available to tenants who need it through other state and federal programs. He said there is a need in the county for the facility.

Bill Geiger, the city's community development director, said the property would probably eventually be transferred to a private company and would generate property tax for the city.

"If the housing authority can take it over and build it the way it was supposed to be built, then everyone is a winner," Jacobs said. "And obviously, from my point of view, because I can get paid."

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