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Community Backlash Over Historic Jordan Park Senior Village Demolition

Eillin Delapaz
WUSF Public Media
Historic Jordan Park Senior Village sits vacant and gated since May.

After about two months of sitting vacant, the St. Petersburg Housing Authorityrecently decided to move forward with demolition plans for Jordan Park Senior Village.

The Housing Authority evicted and displaced residents to live in what some claim are units with fewer amenities in order to rebuild the complex as a three-story building with more units.

Wedding Architects, the firm working on the project, recommended that it would be cheaper to demolish the complex rather than refurbish.

St. Petersburg City council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said renovations would cost about $3 million, compared to $9 million to partially demolish and renovate the complex. But she said the city found the complex to have a life expectancy of 35 more years.

There has been controversy over the displacement of the elderly and disabled residents who were forced to move out early.

Darden Rice, a St. Petersburg city council member, expressed concern over the housing authority's treatment of some of the residents.

“I think what gave a lot of council members so much heartburn, is that it appeared as though people were asked to leave way in advance of unnecessary time frame to evict them, and that they were even evicted before a formal decision was made,” said Rice.

The almost 80 year-old complex is considered historic by many. It was the city's first public housing project, donated by Elder Jordan, an African-American entrepreneur, in the early 1940s.

In July, Wheeler-Bowman held a press conference at the neighboring Carter G. Woodson Museumto tell the community about the plan. She said the housing authority did very little community outreach to gather input from residents before making a decision. Housing authority officials declined to comment for this story.

Museum chair Terri Lipsey Scott, Rice, Congressman Charlie Crist and deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin were at the press conference.

They and other concerned community members rallied in front of the village, demanding that Housing Authority CEO Tony Love reconsider demolishing the complex.

Wheeler-Bowman also called for theFlorida Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct an investigation into the practices of the authority.

She points out the authority still has no source of way of paying for the project.

“And that's what upset me, you displaced residents and you didn't even have funding in place. So now we're in the middle of a housing crisis and you have the historic senior village over there with a fence around it, vacant,” said Wheeler-Bowman.

The authority hopes to start demolition by December.

Eillin Delapaz is a WUSF radio intern for the fall 2018 semester.
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