Communication Builds Our Community

Agreement Clears Way for Redevelopment of Vacant Downtown Apartment Building

Former Crystal Avenue Apartments to Feature Remodeled Exterior, Interior

Redevelopment of a long-vacant apartment building on Park Avenue is awaiting final action by the Lake Wales City Commission next Tuesday.

An agreement allowing the Lake Wales Care Center to close on the purchase of the property at 282 East Park Avenue is the next required step to the potential remodeling and reuse of the apartment building .

If the deal moves forward, it will bring new life to the downtown area and boost the city's goal of "strategic density" in support of downtown retail outlets.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the Lake Wales Care Center will allow the Care Center to deposit $200,000 into an escrow account to provide relief from a pending foreclosure action on the property by the City of Lake Wales.

"We haven't closed on the deal," Care Center director Rob Quam told "We're checking the boxes with the city and doing our due diligence."

Quam added that they expect to remodel the exterior of the building "to go along with the city's Connected Plan. Lake Wales architectural firm Parlier and Crews would be creating the design work.

The financial arrangement with the city is part of a policy adopted more than a year ago to encourage the redevelopment of abandoned properties, helping to mitigate the effect of liens by allowing a developer to recoup those amounts toward the construction costs if the property is renovated.

Quam described the $200,000 amount as a compromise "everyone could live with." The funds would be drawn down as the remodeling of the property is completed. If the Care Center fails to complete the renovation the amount would be forfeited.

The undisclosed purchase price for the property and the estimated renovation costs of some $350,000 would be drawn from a $1 million grant awarded to the non-profit from federal Recovery Act funds.

While the building has been used as apartments since its construction in 1925, after sitting vacant for over a year the zoning reverted to the surrounding single-family use, requiring the city's Zoning Board to approve the multi-family use. That measure will also be considered by the city commission on Tuesday.

An additional issue with the building is its location, surrounded by asphalt parking lots belonging to the AR Presbyterian Church, along with a narrow city-owned easement. "We're looking for a three-way agreement" to mitigate the setting and provide for greenspace, Quam said.

The proposed agreement with the city includes an agreement for "Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) which would supplant the tax revenue normally provided, since the Care Center is non-profit.

"If we move forward, we're looking at remodeling the interior to create 10 to 12 units," Quam said, adding that they would be used to house Care Center program "graduates" who would be long-term residents. "We call it 'supportive housing' for those who have successfully been through our programs but may struggle with housing costs," he said. "We provide affordable housing, guidance, and encouragement."

The Care Center manages multiple buildings with which they provide temporary housing and personal skills training for persons struggling after divorce, unplanned pregnancy, addictions, or other challenges. The tightly-managed programs have produced remarkable results by successfully reestablishing clients in productive jobs and stable households.


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