Affordable housing community blessed in Arcadia

The recently completed San Pedro at Meadow Park affordable housing community with 23 apartments in Arcadia was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Jan. 30, 2024.

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc. (NDA), and was supported by the City of Arcadia.

During the blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bishop Dewane thanked Arcadia city officials and NDA for their support in getting the much-needed project built.

“The Church teaches that it is one of the basic rights of every individual to have adequate housing,” Bishop Dewane said. “We are happily filling a need to allow families to go forward and live together as one, where parents can be with their children and exercise that concept of a whole family being together.”

Arcadia Mayor Robert W. Heine Jr., who spoke on behalf of the city (several council members and other officials were present for the ceremony), beamed with joy as he thanked Bishop Dewane for bringing the San Pedro apartments to Arcadia.

“This is wonderful. As city officials, what we hear about most is the lack of affordable housing; and this will surely help,” Heine said. “This is an impressive project. It is not low-income, but affordable housing for those people who serve our community – teachers, law enforcement, city employees – who may not be able to afford a big new housing with interest rates and other costs.”

Matt Miller, of NDA, said the project has been in the works since 2020, noting the difficulties of getting financing when construction costs escalated. An additional hurdle occurred when Hurricane Ian struck the area in September 2022, just a month after construction began. Nothing was damaged but all of the people working on the project were affected by the storm.

Miller said San Pedro is a garden-style apartment community consisting of 23 three-bedroom, two-bath units. Each unit has new stainless-steel appliances, plus a washer and dryer. The property has an outdoor green space with a playground for children to enjoy, an on-site clubhouse and leasing office.

“The rent will range from $650 to $900 a month, depending on your income, which in these times is amazing,” Miller said.

Miller also thanked Bishop Dewane for being a continuing partner in bringing affordable housing to those who need it the most.

Previously, the Diocese and NDA worked together in Arcadia to build Casa San Juan Bosco I & II, 97 duplex homes used for farmworker housing, and later the adjoining St. John Paul II Villas, a 64-unit senior housing complex. Other projects include the recently completed Casa San Alfonso, an affordable housing community in Zolfo Springs, and the St. Peter Claver Place apartments currently being constructed in Fort Myers. Additional projects are in development.

In addition, the Diocese has built several low-income elderly housing communities in Sarasota (2), Fort Myers (4), Port Charlotte, and Palmetto (2), as well as creating transitional emergency housing for individuals or families in need in partnership with Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc.

Bishop Dewane concluded the blessing prayer service by saying, “May Christ always be here among the residents, nurturing in love, sharing in joy, and comforting in sorrow, inspired by His teaching, His graces, and His example. May the residents seek to make each home a dwelling place to be shared with God.”

For information about leasing an apartment at San Pedro at Meadow Park, please call NDC Asset Management at 863-884-2123.

Affordable housing community blessed in Zolfo Spring

The recently completed Casa San Alfonso affordable housing community with 21 single-family homes in Zolfo Springs was blessed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane on Sept. 28, 2023.

“Housing continues to be a vital concern and need for people throughout Florida,” Bishop Dewane said. “We’re pleased to support Zolfo Springs with affordable rental housing that will provide comfort and a sense of belonging for local residents.”

The Diocese of Venice partnered on the project with National Development of America, Inc., and supported by Zolfo Springs and Hardee County.

“We’re very grateful for our partnership with the Diocese of Venice and the strong support from county and city officials to help bring this project to fruition,” said John Raymond, director of real estate for National Development of America. “Casa San Alfonso is the perfect example of how a community can come together to achieve something impactful.”

Zolfo Springs Mayor Rod Cannon was overjoyed by the project and complimented the quality of the work noting that there were nearby tracts of land available if the Diocese was interested in expanding the project.

“This is beautiful. I am really overwhelmed by it,” Cannon said. “I have been excited about this whole project from the moment I learned about it to this day. We are blessed to have it, especially as it is available to families who might not have any other housing options in our community.”

Justin Smith, with the Development Group in Hardee County, said the county initially did not have a policy in place to support affordable housing but was able to back the housing project through grants to help make the finances work.

During the ceremony, Bishop Dewane offered a special thank you to the faithful of St. Michael Parish in Wauchula for their support of the project. Casa San Alfonso is located on repurposed land that was once used as a Mission of St. Michael.

Representing the Parish at the ceremony were Father Wilner Durosier, CS, Father Juan Lorenzo, women religious of the Servant Sisters of the Blessed Virgin of Matara, as well as many of the faithful.

Father Durosier said he was excited about the project and promised to promote the housing opportunities to the faithful.

The Diocese of Venice and National Development embarked on Casa San Alfonso in 2020 to address the growing demand for affordable rental housing in Hardee County. Additional affordable housing projects within Hardee County are already in the development process.

National Development of America will manage Casa San Alfonso which will provide affordable housing for qualified residents – those who make 50-60% of the Average Median Income. Monthly rents range from $673 to $976.

The community features 17 – 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, and 4 – 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes, complete with new appliances. Amenities include an onsite clubhouse with a computer lab, and charming walking trails throughout the neighborhood, which is situated on a large outdoor greenspace of 12 total acres.

Casa San Alfonso is now leasing. Interested applicants should submit a leasing form at form.jotform.com/231163616210140 or email alfonso@ndcassetmanagement.com for more information.

 

Diocese partners to build affordable apartments in Fort Myers

With the flick of a shovel, Bishop Frank J. Dewane and members of the Fort Myers City Council celebrated the start of construction of the St. Peter Claver Place Apartments.

This first phase of the project, being constructed in partnership with National Development of America, Inc. (NDA), includes 136 affordable two- and three-bedroom units with the total buildout reaching 214 units. The ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony took place April 11, 2023, and is the result of seven years of meetings, negotiations and financing, ultimately serving as a clear example of the best in public-private partnerships.

“This is a great, great project. I want to thank all the different partners, most importantly the Diocese of Venice,” said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson during the groundbreaking ceremony. “Totally, 214 units may not seem like a lot when you look at the demand, but it is. It’s huge! It’s a big chunk that’s been added to the inventory. Not only that, we have taken a vacant piece of land and we are collectively going to turn that into something really nice that gives people a place to live, hopefully a place they can call home.”

Bishop Dewane said St. Peter Claver Place is being constructed for the working people of Fort Myers.

“We see throughout Fort Myers people are in need of housing, particularly rental housing. The market is tough. It is difficult for families to find good accommodations, a place to raise their children and know that they are safe and secure. We want to contribute to that by what we undertake here, by what we do with NDA and with the city. We do it for the residents who live here and that is important to all of us. They are the reason why we are here. We are not here because someone is Catholic. We are Catholic and that’s our call; to reach out to others and to help them,” Bishop Dewane said.

Rick Miller, President of NDA, said that the St. Peter Claver Place Apartments is an example of perseverance, as the concept of the project began more than seven years earlier because of the increased demand for affordable rental housing in the Fort Myers area. The first meetings with the city were in 2016 and started the process of rezoning and permitting. The biggest challenge was getting financing for affordable housing.

“We (at NDA) are different than the other guys. Our goal is to provide quality housing at rental rates that working people can actually afford. Today, if something new gets built, the rental rates are well beyond the reach of the working people of this area. St. Peter Claver Place is different; the financing structure allows us to charge rates between $600 and $1,300 per month, a fraction of what people are paying now,” Miller said.

The timing of the groundbreaking comes on the heels of a Florida Atlantic University study released on April 6 which found that for February, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area had the largest year-over-year rent increase in the U.S. at 13.59%. The average Cape Coral-Fort Myers rent for February was $2,283.51.

St. Peter Claver Place residents must qualify depending on their financial status, making between 30% and 60% of the city’s average median income. For 2022, that was $83,200, with qualifying salaries based on last year’s numbers being annual incomes between $25,000 and $50,000.

Fort Myers City Councilwoman Teresa Watkins Brown said housing is the No. 1 issue the Council deals with each day. “There are people who cannot find a place to live. Either it is too much, or not decent. I’m elated that this project is here.”

The final deal for the project was approved days before Hurricane Ian struck the area on Sept. 28, 2022, which Miller explained made a difficult process even more difficult.

“We are well underway and will be on schedule for completion by the end of 2023. Our budget was largely out of control because of difficulty of getting materials and supplies, but we got the support needed to get this project going,” Miller said.

Michele Hylton-Terry, Executive Director of Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency, described St. Peter Claver Place as a remarkable affordable housing project, that was supported through the use of tax increment rebate financing.

“Our agency has played a crucial role in bringing this development to life, demonstrating the power of public-private partnerships and addressing affordable housing and the needs of our community. This project not only provides safe, high-quality homes for hardworking families but also contributes to the revitalization of our city, boosting our local economy and creating a more inclusive and vibrant community. Let (St. Peter Claver Place) not only symbolize the opening of new doors to these families who will call this place their home, but let it also be the beginning of a new chapter for our city, one marked with growth, resiliency and unity.”

A number of additional dignitaries were present for the groundbreaking ceremony, including City Councilman Johnny Streets, who echoed the praise for the project. There were other city staff as well as community supporters who were instrumental behind-the-scenes in helping to achieve the success of what is becoming St. Peter Claver Place. Also present were representatives from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., as well as priests and religious who serve at nearby Jesus the Worker Parish and St. Francis Xavier Parish.

The project is located on Michigan Avenue, within the Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard Redevelopment Area of Fort Myers, and is adjacent to AFCAAM of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Venice, Inc., an after-school youth mentoring program. The name, St. Peter Claver Place, is derived from the former Catholic Mission which was located on the property until the early 2000s.

St. Peter Claver (1580-1654) was a Jesuit missionary known as patron saint of slaves, African missions and interracial justice. St. Claver spent his life serving enslaved Africans who were brought to Columbia during the 17th century.

The Diocese of Venice has a long partnership with National Development of America, having worked together to create two projects in Arcadia: St. John Paul II Villas, an affordable housing project for seniors completed in 2019, as well as Casa San Juan Bosco, a single-family housing project for farmworkers completed in 2016.

Phase 1 of St. Peter Claver Place is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 with occupancy shortly afterward. The second phase of 78 units is pending financing.

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