FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 7, 2014) – The revitalization of two former public-housing properties that now provide 212 affordable housing units have been completed months ahead of schedule and are giving low-income families a new lease on life.

The development sites for Landings at East Pointe (formerly Sabal Palm Apartments) and East Pointe Place (formerly Palmetto Court) were existing complexes owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers (HACFM). They are located just north of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (SR 82) corridor and west of Interstate 75.

The revitalized Landings at East Pointe consists of 126 units, and the new East Pointe Place offers 86 units, both with an effective mix of floor plans and bedroom sizes. Previous units at East Pointe Place were demolished in preparation for the new buildings to be constructed. Both developments were expected to be completed and fully leased by mid-2015, but thanks to the diligent effort of the development, construction and property management team, construction and lease-up came in months ahead of schedule.

The combined $38.3 million dollar investment was made possible through a public/private partnership between Pinnacle Housing Group, LLC and Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation, Inc., a 501(C)(3) nonprofit created by the HACFM.

“I am so pleased that the efforts of the Southwest Florida legislative delegation and Florida Housing Finance Corporation are bearing fruit in Fort Myers, with the grand opening of Landings at East Pointe and East Pointe Place,” said Senator Lizbeth Benaquisto. “The sound policies that have led to allocating much needed Housing Tax Credits for these two developments have ensured quality new housing, jobs, opportunity and future economic growth for the citizens of our community.”

“East Pointe Place is a nice place to live, and I have been given a second chance for myself and my daughter,” said an anonymous female resident who was able to move into the new community after leaving Abuse Counseling & Treatment’s shelter.

A Grand Opening Dedication and Ribbon Cutting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 13 beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Landings at East Pointe’s new Clubhouse. Special guests will include officials from partnering agencies including the City of Fort Myers, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Pinnacle Housing Group, the Southwest Florida Affordable Housing Choice Foundation Inc., and the HACFM.

“These two developments are such a major improvement over what was there before; as a result, the quality of life of each family living in these developments will be tremendously enhanced, and the surrounding neighborhoods will also benefit from the positive energy from each development,” said Marcus D. Goodson, HACFM executive director.

“These types of projects show what can happen when public and private sectors are both invested in revitalizing a community,” said Senator Bill Nelson at the projects’ groundbreaking in 2013. “Families in the area will have more affordable housing options, and construction of the new units will bring much needed jobs to the region.”

Combined, development contractors for the two projects had an average of 46 percent minority participation and 71 percent Section 3 participation.

“The overall condition of these properties had deteriorated due to functional obsolescence and were in need of significant rehabilitation,” said Goodson. “The buildings had aged significantly, and the operation of the development was inefficient due to the condition of the structures plus the inefficient nature of the complexes themselves.”

Goodson and his HACFM team realized that both complexes required a long-range plan for the ultimate redevelopment and restoration of both properties. Thus, the HACFM sought out private development partners. The HACFM is an experienced agency in the redevelopment of affordable housing having successfully administered the multi-phase, mixed-use for numerous other similar initiatives in the Fort Myers area. The HACFM selected Pinnacle Housing Group, LLC as its co-developer, a Florida-based firm that is among the largest and most successful affordable rental-housing developers nationally with a significant positive track record in PHA redevelopment joint ventures.

“It’s a great day when public/private partnerships work together to better the lives of families who need it most while revitalizing an entire neighborhood and offering job opportunities throughout the process,” said Timothy P. Wheat, vice president of Pinnacle Housing Group. “For Pinnacle Housing Group, affordable housing is about more than providing places to live; it’s about bringing communities together and instilling a sense of pride in our residents. The end result at these two communities is a great testament to these core values.”

East Pointe Place was entirely demolished and replaced with a more efficiently master-planned and designed community, taking advantage of an FHFC preference for PHA redevelopment and revitalization ventures. Virtually all of both developments’ units received some form of project-based rental assistance in order to compete in these preferential set-asides.

Through this public/private partnership, the HACFM and Pinnacle secured Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The partnership then utilized the private debt and equity markets for the syndication of LIHTCs, which were purchased by Wells Fargo Bank N.A. Most importantly, the HACFM secured the long-term commitment of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide continued rental assistance for no less than 20 years.

“We asked HUD to think outside the box in terms of its future support for these two developments, one of which was considered ‘public housing’ and the other ‘assisted housing’ under their regulatory structure, and in the end, it approved an innovative plan that allowed us to move HUD resources between the properties,” Goodson noted.

The development plan is unique as it combined both the substantial “gut” rehabilitation of Landings at East Pointe along with demolition and new construction to create East Pointe Place.

“The scope of the rehabilitation for Landings at East Pointe will be so significant that the end product is virtually in ‘new’ condition now that it’s complete,” said Goodson.

In addition, the redevelopment strategy resulted in:

  •       Modern, energy-efficient units, and LEED®-certified residential units
  •       Concrete block construction with durable interior and exterior improvements   such as solid-surface floors and countertops
  •       The latest in hurricane-resistant construction techniques
  •       Clubhouses and resident common area facilities, both indoor and outdoor, to provide recreation, education and stimulation to the resident population
  •       Designs which promote a sense of “connection” and “community” for residents, featuring Pinnacle’s signature Art in Public Places program
  •       Accessibility to transit, employment, retail and social services

East Pointe Place has received LEED®  Platinum certification, the highest LEED®  rating, and The Landings at East Pointe are expected to receive the designation as well. LEED®-certified buildings save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants while promoting renewable, clean energy.

As part of the redevelopment, the former Sabal Palm Boulevard, the roadway on which the Landings at East Pointe is located, has been rededicated as “Nelson Tillis Boulevard” by the City of Fort Myers. Tillis was Fort Myers’ first free black pioneer when he arrived on Christmas Day 1867, two years after the Civil War ended.

The Clubhouses at each development are also being dedicated to notable historical residents.

East Pointe’s Clubhouse is being named after Lemuel Teal who was born and raised in Fort Myers and dedicated his life to the education and cultural growth of his community. He served in the Lee County Public School system as a mathematics teacher for 38 years and won the coveted Golden Apple Award for Teachers in 1995. His commitment to quality housing for the greater Fort Myers community is reflected in his long service as a board member with the HACFM since 2001.

The Landing’s Clubhouse is also being named after Mr. Tillis, one of the first four settlers in the Fort Myers area. Tillis sailed from South America and up the Caloosahatchee River to settle on 100 acres across the river from what is known as modern Fort Myers. Tillis married Ellen Summerall in 1870 (an interracial marriage), and they had 11 children together. He constructed a schoolhouse shack on his own property and sailed to Key West in search of a teacher to educate his children. Tillis worked as a farmer, hauled buttonwood from Punta Rassa to sell to villagers, and was a commercial fisherman. Tillis was known to take Thomas Edison fishing and may well have been the area’s first fishing guide. The Tillis family relocated from their farm home on Riverside Avenue in 1910, which is known today as McGregor Boulevard. The Tillis family remained in Fort Myers, including his daughter Daisy, who survived until 1983, when she died at the age of 104. Today, a great many descendants of Tillis still reside in Fort Myers.

Each community will also have its own custom designed public artwork.

Colombian born artists Gus and Lina Ocamposilva’s “Reaching for the Sky”, a 13×15 ft. welded aluminum sculpture, is now at home at East Pointe Place. This piece was previously on display along the East River Park Promenade in New York City. The couple’s work has gained attention internationally in Spain, Canada, Germany, Columbia and the U.S.

Miami-born Clayton Swartz’s public art can be seen around the state of Florida, including Florida Gulf Coast University. For the Landings at East Pointe, he created a free-standing aluminum structure approximately 10 feet tall featuring two hearts held by two abstract arms with abstract shapes and images called  “Love Thy Neighbor.”

Wilfredo Martinez, a former migrant worker who is currently unemployed and disabled, and his sons previously lived in the former Sabal Palm Apartments and recently moved into the Landings at East Pointe.

“This is really a great place. We like it,” said Martinez, a single father who still cares for his ill 25-year-old son. “While I am looking for a job in construction, mechanics, housekeeping or anything I’m able to do, it’s comforting that a roof over our heads is not something I need to worry about.”

Development participants for the Landings at East Pointe included BSSW Architects, Inc., Chris-Tel Construction as general contractor, Quattrone and Associates as civil engineer and landscape architect, and Northbay Energy as green building consultant. Development participants for the East Pointe Place include Parker/Mudgett/Smith Architects, Brooks and Freund as general contractor, Quattrone and Associates as civil engineer and landscape architect and Northbay Energy as green building consultant.