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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

City Pledges $1 Million to Grove Manor Replacement, Approves Phasing Change

American Recovery Act Funds Will Support Demolition, New Apartments if Grant Approved


Last updated 12/10/2022 at 8:35am

Courtesy Lake Wales Housing Authority

The complete redevelopment of Grove Manor will increase available housing from the current 120 units to more than 300, including two parcels which will be deeded to the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency to be developed for affordable single-family homes.

A long-desired re-do of the aging Grove Manor housing complex north of downtown may be closer to reality if the recent actions of the city commission bear fruit. Commissioners, on a 4-0 vote, approved allotting all of the original funding, once spread over several phases of a reconstruction project, to be assigned to phase two of the 300-unit project. Commissioner Daniel Williams was absent.

Housing Authority Executive Director Albert Kirkland Jr. and construction management consultant Richard Crogan explained the requested change, and how it may boost the application for Florida Housing Finance Corporation funding in a highly-competitive market. Crogan is the vice president of development for Smith and Henzy, the housing authority's consultant firm. If the project receives the desired funding, S&H will also serve as construction managers.

Smith & Henzy Advisory Group, Inc. and MDG Design + Construction formed joint venture in 2018 with Pantheon Development Group, LLC to partner with the Lake Wales Housing Authority for the redevelopment of Grove Manor, to create a mixed income, affordable housing community featuring both apartments and single-family homes.

Stating that "the million dollars will be helpful on the application," Crogan explained the confusing process that will see some projects funded in mid-sized counties. Five different criteria are weighed, and applicants are also subjected to a random "lottery ball" process to determine who gets the millions of dollars at stake. "We're in a very good position to win the award," he told commissioners.

The new proposal will start with the 90-unit phase II, rather than the 120-unit phase one. Crogan explained that the funds available would be $23 million, and that will only support 71 units at today's costs. Realistic numbers are essential in the applications, he added. The actual number in the application will be 72 units, he told, due to design restrictions in the symmetrical buildings. "You can always add units" to the project after an award, Crogan said, but you can never reduce the number.

Robert Connors

The existing Grove Manor housing was constructed in the 1960's, and it is considered obsolete in several regards. It sits on a large parcel that will include parks and facilities including a future inter-city trail connection.

The desired replacement of the decaying one-story apartments with modern, two and three-story buildings is part of the city's "Lake Wales Connected" plans. "This is the lynch-pin" of those plans, Crogan said, giving credit to the city's planning firm of Dover Kohl and Partners, which helped redesign the site to complement the award winning Lake Wales Connected plan.

The million-dollar contribution from the city, plus the associated long-term plan, strengthen the application, Crogan said. The funds, awarded at the end of the project, will come from the federally-awarded American Recovery Act. The city has until 2026 to use all of the $7 million awarded under the federal grant.

As part of the deal the Housing Authority has agreed to convey two parcels, identified as Phase IV, to the CRA so that they may be re-platted as single-family homesites. The CRA's ongoing infill housing program is successfully partnering with private not-for-profit organizations to build new and improved housing stock in the Northwest Neighborhood.


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