Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Downtown Project Approved

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Downtown Project Approved

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

A downtown apartment building originally pitched under the banner of affordable housing may go forward with a new developer.

But whether any of the apartments will wind up being affordable is another matter.

On Monday, the City Commission agreed to let Atlanta-based developer Carter Acquisitions, LLC, move forward with a 10-story apartment building downtown without paying into the city's affordable housing trust fund.

Those payments had been a condition of the city's original agreement seven years ago that allowed the increased density for the building. But commissioners voted to set it aside, even though some were troubled that the idea of "affordability" had been cast aside. Rents for the building's one-bedroom units are expected to start at $1,100.

The $46 million project had originally been pitched by software entrepreneur Jesse Biter, who planned to build 168 apartments and retail space at the former United Way building on Second Street. The development had been much anticipated partly because of Biter's claims that higher density and more affordable housing were essential to a healthy downtown.

In return for added density at the site, the project was to pay 3 percent of the units' prices into the city's trust fund for affordable housing. Money raised from similar agreements helped build the new Janie's Garden public housing.

Carter Acquisitions presented itself as the contract buyer for Biter's property and discussed a new site plan with more apartments built at a smaller size. Carter Acquisitions is still proposing to build 168 units, but many more of them would be comparatively small, with 140 of them at 1,250 square feet or less.

Jerome Hagley, a vice president at Carter Acquisitions, asked that the city let the project proceed without making payments to the trust fund for affordable housing, arguing that the smaller units fulfilled the purpose of affordable housing.

But just because the apartments are small doesn't mean they will be "affordable" for everyone. …

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