The new Heights apartments, with market-rate features and fixtures, fill up in two months
TAMPA, FL (March 30, 2021)— DDA Development, PLACE Architecture and Gracepoint Wellness have opened The Heights, their second affordable housing project on the Gracepoint campus in Seminole Heights.
The three-story, 64-unit complex opened in December and is already nearly fully leased, showing the popularity of an affordable housing development that has many of the same features and fixtures that a market-rate apartment would have. This is the team’s second affordable housing complex adjacent to Gracepoint’s approximately 20-acre campus, joining The Graham.
The level of detail and quality of The Heights and The Graham is obvious throughout: Both complexes have apartments with 9-foot ceilings, walk-in closets, Energy-star rated appliances, higher-end cabinetry, island kitchens and ample storage.
“From the beginning, we insisted on integrating market-rate apartment features and fixtures into the developments,” said Bowen Arnold, Principal of Tampa-based DDA Development. “Building quality apartments that instill pride in residents isn’t just the right thing to do: It makes good business sense. We’re looking for long-term tenants who care for their homes.”
Since 1995, DDA has developed 35 affordable housing developments in nine states, and the developer still owns and operates nine of them. With over 1,000 market-rate apartments also in its portfolio, DDA can leverage economies of scale to outfit all of its projects with quality finishes.
The project partners see the Gracepoint complexes – where rents range from $450 to $850 per month – as a way they can help address the Tampa Bay area’s affordable housing shortage.
The Tampa Bay area has one of the most acute affordable housing problems in the state, according to a May 2019 study by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida. In its report, the Tampa Bay area (including Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties) was one of a number of areas that had only 10 to 25 affordable units available for every 100 people who make less than 30% of their area’s median income.
Addressing this issue is challenging, because creating quality housing affordable projects work isn’t simple or easy, as developers need to navigate a complicated world of tax credits and lower-interest loans.
Also, because rents in affordable housing complexes are well below market rents, these projects generate less income, yet the developer still has the same level of expenses any apartment development has. “So keeping long-term debt service costs down is the key to financing a successful affordable housing development,” Arnold said.
Since both the Graham and Heights accommodate “special needs” residents, including at-risk homeless, low-income seniors and disabled adults, DDA Development was able to secure low interest-rate loans from the State of Florida to help serve these populations.
Arnold believes DDA’s partnership with Gracepoint at both Graham and the Heights is a “best practice” example of a successful partnership between a non-profit provider and a for-profit developer. “We provide our development experience and financial capacity,” he said, “and Gracepoint provides input on all aspects of the process, including design, and takes the lead in the oversight and management of the developments when they are completed.”
One of the main design goals for the project was to contribute to the overall Gracepoint campus while also creating a strong sense of place for the community. Seven beautiful grand live oak trees were preserved and determined the project’s layout. The U-shaped building creates a private courtyard with several of the oaks defining the courtyard’s eastern edge. All of the building’s indoor and outdoor amenity spaces directly orient to this stand of trees.
“The forms and colors of the front façade are inspired by dappled light through the canopy of the trees,” said Tim Clemmons, Principal of PLACE Architecture. “We want this to be an enduring and nourishing environment for the residents.”
Gracepoint Wellness wanted the design to reflect the organization’s holistic approach to mental, social and physical wellness, said Susan Morgan, Gracepoint’s Vice President of Marketing and Development. “It has been so gratifying to work with award-winning architects that have a passion for thoughtful affordable housing design,” she said.
Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing), as the State’s Housing Finance Agency administered the federal and state resources that helped finance both developments at Gracepoint. Bill Aldinger leads Florida Housing’s Policy & Special Programs department and commented on Gracepoint’s developments. “We are extremely pleased with the outcomes of both projects. The team worked collaboratively to thoughtfully address the affordable rental housing needs of a vulnerable population and adopted best practices across the board. Residents of the Graham and the Heights are living in very high quality, market-rate style apartments, are offered a range of Gracepoint services and the opportunity for living integrated and successfully in their community – ultimately, we think these factors will lead them into greater long-term housing stability, self-sufficiency, access to community based resources, education and employment, as well as improved health and quality of life.
Both The Graham and The Heights are intentionally designed to foster community among residents and connection with the surrounding outdoor environment, with common areas, fitness rooms, libraries, lounges and hair salons.
A custom shuffleboard table, rock fountain and butterfly garden add to the Heights’ outdoor amenities, and there are several pieces of custom furniture at both properties crafted by “Built,” a Tampa-based wood design and manufacturing company.
The nearby Graham complex was completed in June 2017 and features 90 units. Half of the residents there qualify as at-risk homeless adults and 50% as senior adults. It also houses a 60-seat dining area, a general store and an outdoor Bocci Ball court (home of “The Graham Crackers” team).
Residents of both complexes can volunteer in the community to earn “Graham bucks,” which can be used to purchase items in the general store and services at the hair salons. Residents have done projects ranging from helping in the dining room or store, stuffing envelopes or distributing newsletters, and assisting with tours.
For 70 years, nonprofit Gracepoint Wellness has offered mental and physical health services to a diverse population. Residents of both The Graham and The Heights have access to Gracepoint services, but participation isn’t required for tenants.
About DDA Development:
DDA Development is a fully integrated real estate development company with capabilities in development, investment, finance, asset management and construction. Based in Tampa, Florida, the firm focuses on developing multi-family residential properties, high-end condominiums, and commercial properties primarily located in the Tampa Bay region.
About PLACE Architecture:
PLACE, based in St. Petersburg, Florida, is a team of creative design professionals committed to innovative architecture and urban design. PLACE believes that good communities make a real difference in people’s lives and at its core, architecture is designing social spaces that create community. The firm strives to create work that is modern, sustainable and is grounded in the concept of place-making.
About Gracepoint Wellness:
Gracepoint is a nationally accredited nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and creating
life-changing wellness for every individual. Staying ahead of the curve with innovative community solutions, Gracepoint has led the way to integrated care that includes medical care, behavioral health and affordable housing.
Gracepoint provides over 450 units of affordable and/or supportive housing to people most in need. Located in Seminole Heights for over 70 years, with 800 employees, Gracepoint joins over 35,000 people annually on their journey to wellness.