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County takes steps toward affordable housing in north Sarasota

If approved, a mixed-use affordable housing project would be built at 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Way.

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  • | 12:30 p.m. October 20, 2020
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With a 4-1 vote, county commissioners took the first step toward approving the sale of county-owned land for a mixed-use affordable housing project in north Sarasota. 

On Oct. 6, commissioners approved a term sheet that will help staff draft a contract for an affordable housing community and retail space on a 114-acre county-owned property at 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Way.

After staff receives a response from Woodwater Investments, the Miami-based firm it is partnering with, it will bring a draft contract to the board for final approval. 

Assistant County Administrator Brad Johnson said Woodwater first approached the county about a deal in 2018. In May, commissioners authorized staff to work on details of the sale. 

The property would feature single-family houses, multifamily townhouses and a commercial strip center. No less than 6 acres of the site would be used for specific needs of the neighborhood, such as a grocery story or pharmacy. 

Commissioner Christian Ziegler said a grocery store between Fruitville Road and University Parkway would be a good addition to an area where residents have limited access to supermarkets. 

To be built, the project would need the county’s approval for a rezoning of the site to allow mixed-use development. If approved, Woodwater will purchase the property for $2.5 million, according to county documents. The county purchased the site for $2.2 million in 2013 with the idea of building a park. 

Commissioner Nancy Detert, the lone dissenting vote, questioned whether the county should be selling the property, which sits across from Emma E. Booker Elementary School, for such a low price. She also worried about whether a Miami-based company had the best interests of the area in mind. 

“I don’t know why we want to negotiate with an unknown, unproven, out-of-town developer before we offer this to everyone locally that has a proven track record,” Detert said.

Johnson said an independent appraisal of the land determined the fair market value of the parcel to be $4.5 million. However, he said the county could consider it an investment into affordable housing projects because no fewer than 150 affordable housing units would be constructed on the site.  

“I think we’re able to leverage the property that we own to achieve some pretty substantial affordable housing commitments,” Johnson said. 

Preliminary negotiations with Woodwater show that at least half of the affordable housing units would be rented to tenants who make 60% or less of the Annual Median Income of the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area, which this year is $76,700. The rest would be for tenants who make 80% or less of the AMI. 

Rent would be $1,100 a month for those at the 60% level and $1,500 a month for those at the 80% level. Through deed restrictions, rent would remain at those levels for 10 years. 


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