Sarasota Housing Authority Transforms Janie Poe Neighborhood: Ribbon-Cutting at Janie’s Garden Marks First Phase of Newtown’s Revitalization

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City, State, and Federal Officials Mark opening of Mixed-Income, Affordable Housing Development that Replaces Outdated Public Housing in Sarasota, Florida.

My grandmother would be so thrilled to see this new, vibrant community taking shape, and Newtown becoming the place she always dreamed it could be

City, state, and federal officials were on hand today to mark a major milestone in the transformation of one of Sarasota’s most historic neighborhoods, participating in a grand opening ceremony at Janie’s Garden apartments, hosted by the Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA) and its development partner, The Michaels Development Company.

Located on the site of the former Janie Poe public housing complex, Janie’s Garden, an 86-unit, garden-style community featuring both apartment flats and townhomes and an 4800 square-foot resident services center—is the first phase of an ambitious plan by the city, county and SHA to revitalize a neighborhood once blighted by neglect.
“We are so proud to stand here today and debut this beautiful housing community and the wonderful amenities that will make such a significant difference in the lives of our Newtown residents,” said Sarasota Mayor Richard Clapp, who was among the dignitaries participating in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We are confident that this new modern housing, which will appeal to families with a broad range of housing needs and incomes, will be a continuing catalyst for the rebirth of this entire neighborhood.”

When the apartment community’s three phases are complete, the new Janie’s Garden, will feature 225 luxury apartment homes, a clubhouse, fitness center, business center, a residents’ lounge, and green space adorned with picnic pavilions and bicycle racks. Retail space for neighborhood businesses will be available in the second phase of the project.

“Our vision for a thriving and diverse community that transforms lives and offers the best in family housing is in full bloom here today at Janie’s Garden,” said William Russell, SHA’s executive director who led the once-beleaguered agency out of federal receivership and has guided the redevelopment project from its inception.

In his remarks, Russell credited the leadership of the Housing Authority’s Board as well as city, county, state, and federal officials for their tremendous support of the project. He especially thanked the city and county for being integral supporters and investors from the inception of SHA’s Newtown Redevelopment Plan. He also thanked the members of the Janie Poe Residents’ council for their active engagement in all stages of the community’s transformation. Former residents have been given first preference on new apartments at Janie’s Garden as a way to ensure minimum displacement for their families by the redevelopment efforts.

The $150 million dollar revitalization of the Newtown neighborhood, undertaken as a public-private joint venture between the Sarasota Housing Authority, Michaels Development Company, and a variety of local stake holders, benefited from federal housing subsidies, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as significant funding from the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County and the state of Florida.

Milton Pratt, Jr., senior vice president of Michaels Development Company, told the group gathered for the ceremony that Janie’s Garden Phase 1—completed a full year ahead of schedule— is only the first jewel in Newtown’s redevelopment.

“When we began this project, Janie Poe was a diamond in the rough, waiting to be discovered and revealed,” said Pratt. “Today, we see its brilliance in the buildings and in the faces of all those who call Newtown home.”
Among those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony today was Booker Poe, grandson of famed Sarasota educator and long-time community activist Janie Poe, for whom the former complex was named. A plaque dedicated to Mrs. Poe is installed on the side of the new management building and a memorial garden is planned in her honor.

“My grandmother would be so thrilled to see this new, vibrant community taking shape, and Newtown becoming the place she always dreamed it could be,” said Attorney Booker Poe. Poe said that his grandmother would also be pleased about the array of innovative supportive services being offered to Janie’s Garden residents by Interstate Realty Management (IRM), a sister company to Michaels Development, which is providing property management services.

Computer classes, health and wellness programs, and job training and referral services are among the offerings IRM provides residents through its social services, many through cooperative arrangements with local, community-based groups such as the Newtown Boys and Girls Club. The Salvation Army provided refreshments for today’s ceremonies.

Other dignitaries attending the grand opening included Justin Ormsby, director, Office of Public Housing, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and City Commissioner Fredd Atkins, County Commission Chair Jon Thaxton and County Commissioner Carolyn Mason.

About the Sarasota Housing Authority: The Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA) was established as a public housing authority in 1938 under Florida statute to administer federal housing assistance for low, very low and extremely low-income families. Presently SHA provides subsidized housing for over 1,300 low-income families in Sarasota, FL. SHA administers 436 Public Housing apartments, 75 units of Section 8 New Construction, and 815 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. SHA administers an annual budget of over $10 million with a staff of 25.

About the Michaels Development Company: Headquartered in Marlton, NJ, The Michaels Development Company is part of The Michaels Organization, a family of companies dedicated to excellence in affordable, mixed-income, and military housing. Since housing pioneer Michaels J. Levitt founded Michaels Development in 1973, the company has developed, financing, or acquired more than 40,000 apartments in 27 states and the Virgin Islands. Its sister company, the award-winning Interstate Realty Management, currently manages more than 33,000 apartments across the country.

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