BROWNSVILLE — The late Democratic Miami congressman Claude Pepper made a reputation for himself as a champion of senior Americans both at home and nationally.
Himself an elderly American when he served in Congress, Pepper’s signature achievement locally was a housing complex in a predominantly black neighborhood of unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
Named after the former state representative and senator who died on May 30, 1989, the complex at 2350 N.W. 54th St. in Brownsville opened in 1978 as home to 150 residents who pay an average monthly rent of $150 for a one-bedroom apartment.
The Claude Pepper Senior Towers, owned by Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation (EHDOC), a national non-profit low-cost housing developer based in Fort Lauderdale, has been fully occupied over the years and now has a current waiting list of more than 800, according to a company announcement.
Pepper Towers recently underwent a 15-month upgrade costing around $9 million, using around 100 union construction jobs, along with support work, according to the announcement.
Residents can now enjoy special amenities for seniors, such as a new exercise room, a computer room, a theater room, a library, a crafts room and a new pavilion with a shuffleboard court. The renovations included installation of screened porches and barbecue areas, bathroom tubs and showers with grab bars and energy efficient lighting and appliances.
IN A DAY’S WORK
New kitchen cabinets and countertops were installed in all units, along with full-size energy efficient appliances and lighting and ceiling fans in all bedrooms and living rooms, new tile flooring, new low-flow kitchen and bathroom plumbing fixtures, new high efficiency windows and sliding glass doors.
Some 200 people, including company representatives and elected officials turned out for a ribbon-cutting and rededication ceremony May 8 to mark the completion of the overhaul of all 160 units and work on common areas.
“Pepper Towers is a unique example of a successful rehabilitation utilizing a combination of public and private financing sources,” said Steve Protulis, EHDOC’s executive director. “We are grateful to all the parties involved who worked toward a common goal of keeping these seniors in their homes during the rehabilitation in a safe environment with minimal disruption.”
The company said a “tenant in place” rehabilitation team took great care to make the project as least disruptive as possible for the elderly tenants.
In a single day, a construction company packed up the resident’s belongings, tore out and replaced the kitchen and bathroom and brought the resident back into the home by the end of the day, the statement said.
MEETING A NEED
“This is a testament to what can happen when public-private partnerships come together,” state Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, said. “There is a critical need for affordable housing for seniors today in Florida and across the entire U.S.”
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson added, “This is a wonderful facelift for the community. I am pleased to be here and to see this development continue Claude Pepper’s legacy of fighting for the needs of the elderly.”
Photo: COURTESY OF EHDOC
OPENED IN 1978: The Claude Pepper Towers recently underwent a major upgrade.