An affordable housing project for seniors planned for the city’s gateway stalled this month because of parking problems and concerns that it was ugly.
If approved, the nearly $15 million project proposed by Carrfour Supportive Housing Inc. would put a four-story, L-shaped plaza on the northwest corner of the property at 2040 N. Dixie Highway where the Pride Center at Equality Park is located. It would be one of the first things visitors see when they enter the city from the south.
“I think it looks like a hospital or jail,” said Nicholas Berry, Planning and Zoning Board chairman, at the July 9 meeting.
The 48-unit project, for residents 55 and older, would include studio apartments and one and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 605-square feet to 895-square feet.
Members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board deferred action on the project until August 20, citing an array of concerns with the proposed site plan.
Described as “sensitive and urbanely responsible,” the project hit resistance when board members balked at a lack of dedicated parking in an area already plagued by parking issues.
The housing complex includes 163 shared parking spots which would also be utilized by people who frequent the facilities at the LGBT community center. The site is treated as one unified development with no reserved spaces for residents, according to Carrfour.
“We think it is a ‘near perfect project’ in light of the services they offer,” attorney David J. Coviello told board members.
“It's possible for a resident to come home late at night and have to walk all the way from the back,” said Planning and Zoning Board alternate Jeb Shafer. “I live in the neighborhood so I know what it’s like.”
Board member Brad Sterl worried that the designated handicapped parking would be inadequate, considering 34 of the 48 proposed units will be earmarked for people with disabling conditions. Coviello told him more spots could be designated for handicapped use.
Board member Don D’Arminio wanted Carrfour to improve 80 dilapidated parking spaces that need new car stops, striping, and in some cases, refuse removal.
The answer was “no.” Maintenance is a code enforcement issue, Coviello said.
Board member Tim Theisen disliked the project’s looks.
“It’s very close to the road and it’s very plain. This is going to be a centerpiece for that section of Wilton Manors if it’s approved,” Theisen said. “It doesn’t look homey. It looks like a business office building.”
The Planning and Zoning Board must also revise the plat, or map for the site, which designates the current land use as industrial. The proposed changes would designate 60,000 square feet of community (30,000 square feet of existing and 30,000 square feet of proposed); 4,000 square feet of office; 6,000 square feet of commercial; and 48 mid-rise units and accessory residential uses.
The site’s current designation of industrial is inconsistent with the current use and needs to be corrected. The revised plan would also earmark the 48 affordable housing units for adults 55 and older and set a maximum development threshold of 48 units.
And although the lobby of the proposed complex will connect to the Pride Center, LGBT persons cannot be “targeted” for residency, Coviello noted.
“By virtue of the location of the building and the services that are offered it’s likely the people who are going to want to live there will be from the LGBT community. Can we say with absolute certainty, no, and we can’t restrict others from living there.” Coviello said.
City resident Matthew Dreger, who lives in an adjoining development, urged the board to delay action on the project until the Pride Center addressed issues ranging from parking problems and traffic, to stormwater, rusty warehouses, an unlicensed tenant and an unsecured playground.
“I would ask you to deny it at this point only until the Pride Center gets itself in order and becomes a good neighbor,” Dreger said.
Carrfour’s affiliate, Crossroads Management LLC will manage the building and have a presence on-site, once the project is complete. The property would be leased from the Pride Center.