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More and more people are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region. In some places, rent has doubled. The cost of everyday goods — like gas and groceries — keeps creeping up. All the while, wages lag behind and the affordable housing crisis looms. Amid cost-of-living increases, WUSF is focused on documenting how people are making ends meet.

Jordan Park reopens with a bittersweet homecoming for St. Petersburg's Black community

The historic Jordan Park public housing project reopened on Friday as an affordable housing development for St. Petersburg seniors and families.

Sharlene Gambrell-Davis can call Jordan Park home, once again.

"I moved in Tuesday and I slept, slept, slept. It's peaceful and quiet, and very well-constructed," she said.

On Friday, after two years,Jordan Park reopened as an affordable housing development for qualifying St. Petersburg seniors and families.

"We're standing on hallowed ground. I think everybody can exhale now and celebrate the homecoming — this is really a wonderful day."
St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Michael Lundy

While owned and operated by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, the $93 million redevelopment was paid for through local and federal monies, including county bonds, federal housing tax credits and $2 million from the City of St. Petersburg.

Once the oldest public housing project in the state, the historic site is now home to the Legacy at Jordan Park, a 60-unit midrise apartment for seniors, and 206 renovated family units.

Gambrell-Davis said it's been a long time coming.

"We've been fighting for this for a long time, we had a lot of opposition, but they finally completed it," she said. "I'm so excited to be home."

She previously lived in one of the last remaining original homes in the Jordan Park Senior Village before it was vacated in 2018 and demolished in 2022.

The property, 26 acres situated in South St. Petersburg, was originally donated by an African American businessman and community leader, Elder Jordan Sr.

The Jordan Park neighborhood, his namesake, dates back to 1939 and has experienced many changes since.

At the turn of the century, the only original units remaining were 31 homes known as the Senior Village and Jordan Park's administration building, which is now the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum. There were also 206 multifamily units on the site.

While historic, many of the homes had fallen into disrepair and required attention. Though there was disagreement among the South St. Petersburg community about whether to preserve or redevelop the site.

READ MORE: Community Backlash Over Historic Jordan Park Senior Village Demolition

At Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, dozens of local and regional leaders gathered to ring in a new era for the park. Among those in attendance were Mayor Ken Welch, St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Michael Lundy and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representative Rich Monocchio.

Lundy pointed to the long history of Jordan Park and what it means to the community.

"We're standing on hallowed ground," he said. "I think everybody can exhale now and celebrate the homecoming — this is really a wonderful day."

Lundy said the community is ready to celebrate what's been a long and uncomfortable journey. During the two-year period of redevelopment, all residents living in the 206 multifamily units and the 31 senior units were displaced and forced to relocate.

Many didn't return, but some did. In total, 63 families and five seniors have returned as renters at Jordan Park — among them is Gambrell-Davis.

"This is a blessing here, it's truly a blessing," she said.

As of Oct. 27, the multifamily units were at full capacity and 40 of the 60 available senior units were leased, according to a housing authority spokesperson.

Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a  Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.

I tell stories about living paycheck to paycheck for public radio at WUSF News. I’m also a corps member of Report For America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.