Friday, February 8, 2013

ONIC Opens Emerald Villas Apartments in Florida

This guest blog comes to us from our Relationship Manager Doug Gaither in our Southern District. Public Affairs and Communication Advisor Hillary Rowe also contributed.

By Doug Gaither, relationship manager

(L to R) Orange County, Housing & Community Development Program Manager
Mitchell Glasser
, County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Bob Ansley and Doug Gaither
The grand opening of the Emerald Villas apartment development marks a major accomplishment for private/public partnership and a turning point for the Pine Hills neighborhood in Orange County, Florida. On January 30, I had the opportunity to meet with Robert “Bob” Ansley, president of the NeighborWorks affiliate that made this moment possible: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement (ONIC). ONIC specializes in creating well-designed, high-quality housing, including both affordable housing and mixed-income developments. All of ONIC's communities have enhanced resident services such as recreation, education, counseling and personal enrichment.
Emerald Villas is an example of transforming blight to opportunity. A year ago, it was in foreclosure with a 70 percent vacancy rate and a glaring example of neglect, disinvestment and high crime. To turn things around, Bob enlisted the help of Mayor Teresa Jacobs of Orange County and well-respected South Florida developer Jorge Perez, president and CEO of the Related Development Group. 

The Related Group and ONIC were able to leverage funding including $7 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Project ( a federal program designed to help local communities redevelop abandoned and foreclosed properties) plus $1.6 million obtained through the state’s local housing program to renovate Emerald’s Village at a total cost of $20 million.

Emerald Villas
I must say, it’s hard to believe that this property was ever an eye-sore. With state-of-the-art fitness center and a sparkling blue pool, business office, classrooms, landscaped grounds, security and 264 beautiful renovated and energy-efficient units, this is a wonderful development. In fact, the complex is already 65 percent occupied! Rents are affordable too - starting as low as $431 to $763 a month. This is well below the median rent for Metro Orlando apartments, which runs about $822 per month.
Doug Gaither and Jorge Perez

I attended the grand opening of Emerald Villas along with more than 75 supporters and several beaming residents. The festivities were held in a spanking new clubhouse packed with celebratory balloons and food and beverages donated by local merchants.  At the ceremony, Jorge told me, “affordable housing developments should always look market-rate.”

These apartments certainly fit that description, and, in addition to being beautiful, the apartments are functional. Using the classrooms on site, ONIC will provide an array of resident services including financial capability classes and after-school classes. All in all, Emerald Villas bodes well for the future of residents here and the community as a whole.

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