apartment.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FORT LAUDERDALE — After a year of construction, phase II of the Northwest Gardens housing development has been completed.

Designated for large families, the 10-acre property scattered over five city blocks from Northwest 12th Avenue to the east, 14th Terrace to the west, and Ninth and Eighth streets to the north and south, has 92 low-income two- to five-bedroom rental apartments and townhomes.

“This [project] ties in to the broader picture of what we want for the city and its neighborhoods,” Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby DuBose said during the June 15 grand opening ceremony at 824 NW 14th Ave. “This speaks to what could happen, what this area will become.”

The development originally built in the area had “outlived its usefulness,” DuBose said. “They were built during the ‘50s but now it’s time to transition the community, create a better life for its residents. This community is home to at least four generations of families. And, with the area’s transformation, they can continue to live in an area that is safe, affordable and convenient to transportation.”

Residents of the former development were given vouchers to assist with relocation costs. Those who choose to return and live in the new project are being given preference.

The $27.5 million project is a collaboration between the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale and Carlisle Development Corporation. Its funding came from sources that include TD Bank, Raymond James, a low-income tax credit from the state of Florida and a $285,000 loan from Broward County, according to Carlisle’s Chief Operating Officer Kenneth Naylor.

Phase II is about 81 percent leased and about 36 percent of the tenants have already moved in. Rental cost ranges from $367 to $1,234 and is based on income.

The project’s architectural design makes it the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) community in Florida, the fourth in the nation and the fifth in the world, according to Scott Strawbridge, the housing authority’s director of development and facilities.

“The designation recognizes the natural gardens, solar panels and walkable streets in place throughout the neighborhood,” Strawbridge said.  “We felt it was the appropriate design to enhance the comfort level of the residents.”

The LEED-ND rating system integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design, according to its website. Nearby residents and business owners are pleased with the development.

“The neighborhood has waited a long time for these improvements,” said Sonya Burrows, whose family-owned business has witnessed changes throughout area. “These homes are clean, affordable, safe and the amenities offered are wonderful. This is the boost the area needs.”

Nearby resident Clyde Johnson, 72, also welcomed the move.

“It’s been a bad area for so long and many of us seniors feel forgotten. We don’t leave without cars and certainly not at night,” he said. “With the trolley coming by and the area feeling safe, we seniors may decide to get together and get out more often.”

Phase I of the four-part project, a 55-plus community constructed along Northwest 10th Avenue between Sistrunk Boulevard and Northwest Eighth Street, opened last October, providing 143 rental units.   Construction on phase III will begin in January 2013.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net