Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Racing for New Tenants; Apartments on Site of Old Track

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Racing for New Tenants; Apartments on Site of Old Track

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

Six years after Jacksonville officials scrapped plans to build a controversial Westside public housing facility, a 260-unit income-restricted apartment complex is being built on the site.

Construction of Lenox Court Apartments began in April and is expected to be completed by summer 2003, with the first units available in January.

"It's going to be one of the biggest improvements for that area," said Ralph Malphurs of the Westside Area Residents Association. "It's very attractive and will be the pearl of Lenox Avenue."

The $25 million project consists of 15 three-story buildings, with garden-style apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms. Rents, which are set by the government, will range from $240 to $800. All of the apartments are income-restricted, ranging from 28 percent to 60 percent area median income.

"We felt we could provide quality new housing for people who could qualify under these programs," said Luis Gonzalez, co-owner of developer The Carlisle Group.

The site at Lenox and Plymouth Street formerly housed a stock car racetrack but had been vacant since the owner moved the business to North Jacksonville in 1973. During the 25 years it was used as a raceway, residents said, waste motor oil and other petroleum products were poured on the track to keep down the dust.

In 1994, the Jacksonville Housing Authority wanted to buy the site as part of a plan to replace public housing units lost when the city razed Blodgett Homes.

Following massive opposition from neighborhood residents, the City Council voted not to rezone the property for the housing complex. But the council had to reverse its position after a judge said it didn't have a legitimate reason for rejection.

However, housing officials said tests found oil-related products in the soil and opted not to build the complex because it couldn't be proved it was environmentally clean.

The action led property owner William Sheffield to file a complaint with federal officials saying the city violated federal fair housing laws. …

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