FORT LAUDERDALE — After five years on the drawing board and a court battle, an era spanning nearly three-quarters of a century has come to an end for the Dr. Kennedy Homes complex in Fort Lauderdale.

On July 1, bulldozers began demolishing all but three of the original 45 buildings that comprised the 68-year-old project at 1004 W. Broward Blvd. constructed as part of a national effort to bring affordable housing to low-income residents.

In their place, developers will erect eight two- to five-story buildings, while preserving three of the homes for historic reasons and use them for different purposes.

The Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale and Miami-based developer Carlisle Development Group are undertaking the upgrade that will cost around $29 million, financed through a combination of tax credits.

Tam English, executive director of the authority, said the new complex will offer the same number of units – 132 — as the original development and priority will be given to current tenants, who were relocated last year to make way for the redevelopment project.

The new buildings are expected to be ready for occupancy in fall 2012, English said.

“We look forward to providing new, clean, safe and decent housing for the residents of Dr. Kennedy Homes and for the city of Fort Lauderdale,” English said.

The complex is named for Dr. Thomas Kennedy, a physician who helped defeat an outbreak of yellow fever in the city.

English said Kennedy had nothing to do with the complex but he died about the time it was being constructed and the city thought it would be a fitting tribute to name it for him.

The redevelopment project had to clear a legal hurdle when preservationists objected to knocking down the original structures in the complex located in the historic Sailboat Bend section of the city.

A circuit judge approved the city’s plan for the redevelopment and two court appeals were also rejected.

The complex is located on some 8.5 acres and the Housing Authority has owned the property since it was first built in 1941.

The authority will continue to own it after the redevelopment. Carlisle will manage the property for the first five years, English said.

The new units will provide an average of 23 percent more living space for residents, the developers said. Amenities will include a community center and an exercise area – to be housed in two of the original buildings – as well as a library, a laundry, a computer lab, a playground, access to high speed internet and more than double the current number of parking spaces.

According to the developer and the authority, the final site plan includes many of the design goals proposed by residents of Sailboat Bend. These include more green space and trees, lower density and heights closer to the neighborhood’s existing heights and preservation of some buildings.

Photo: HOUSING UPGRADE: This is an artist’s rendering of how the Dr. Kennedy Homes housing complex in Fort Lauderdale will look after current units are demolished and new structures are built.