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Developer vows work on housing will go on

The Tampa Housing Authority lost its bid for up to $25-million in state aid, but the developer says that doesn't matter.

By WAYNE WASHINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2000


TAMPA -- Despite having its application for millions of dollars in tax credits rejected, the Michaels Development Corp. is determined to stay on time and on budget as it rebuilds public housing in east Tampa.

Gin Cohen, vice president of the Marlton, N.J.-based developer, made that pledge Wednesday as the Tampa Housing Authority's board held its first meeting since learning about the rejection of the tax credit application.

"Our president stood before you and made a commitment to you," Cohen said. "We're moving forward with this, with or without the tax credit."

Tampa housing officials learned last week that the tax credit application had been rejected by the Florida Housing Finance Corp. THA Executive Director Jerome Ryans said the authority will appeal the decision, which does not become final until September.

The developer planned to use the tax credits, valued at as much as $25-million, to augment the $32.5-million federal grant being used to rebuild two dilapidated public housing developments.

Work on the project has already begun. Half of the Ponce De Leon Courts development has been torn down, and residents of nearby College Hill Homes have been moved out in anticipation of demolition there, too.

Housing authority board members selected Michaels to lead the College Hill/Ponce De Leon development team less than a month before the tax credit application was due.

At the time, Michaels President Robert Greer told board members that his firm had lots of experience in getting tax credits and would pursue other financial options if the application was rejected.

That was an important pledge. It distinguished Michaels from competitors ranked close to it in the bidding for the project, and it gave board members a critical assurance that the massive east Tampa redevelopment would not get bogged down without the credits.

As Cohen spoke about Greer's promise Wednesday, board member Karen Peoples broke in: "Yes, I remember when you gave us that commitment."

Housing authority officials say the tax credit application was rejected because of a technicality involving title insurance. Cohen said three law firms have told Michaels the finance corporation's rejection on that basis is in error.

The finance corporation had more applications than tax credits to go around, and ranked the applicants before picking the winners. Tampa, and a project planned for St. Petersburg, were rejected in favor of applicants in other cities in Florida.

"In talking to people from the corporation, they indicated the initial rankings and the final rankings are very different," Cohen said.

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