The Miami Herald
Becker Public Relations May 13, 2012
Low-income apartments renovated in Brownsville
By Theo Karantsalis
Community leaders celebrated the grand opening last week, of the recently renovated Mildred and Claude Pepper Towers, an apartment building for low-income senior citizens in Brownsville.
“The Claude Pepper towers are a unique example of a successful rehabilitation utilizing a combination of public and private financing sources,” said Steve Protulis, executive director of the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corp., a nonprofit developer that owns the building. Protulis thanked everyone who helped keep seniors in their homes during the $9 million rehab with “minimal disruption.”
The 15-month project created jobs for about 100 union construction workers, each of whom took great care to facilitate the process for elderly tenants. For example, in a single day, crews were able to pack up a tenant’s belongings, tear out and replace a kitchen and bathroom, and return the tenant to their unit in time for dinner.
“This is a wonderful facelift for the community,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose office is across the street at the Caleb Center. “I am pleased to be here and to see this development continue Claude Pepper’s legacy of fighting for the needs of the elderly.”
Edmonson has been an advocate for affordable housing throughout her district, which extends from Liberty City up to North Miami.
The need for affordable housing is evidenced by the waiting list of 800 people to get in at the Pepper Towers, 2350 NW 54th St.
All of the units have one bedroom and rent for $150, subsidized by taxpayers. Units are only available to pre-qualified low-income seniors.
Total funding for the 150-unit renovation plus rent subsidies was nearly $11 million, which was raised through the sale of low-income-housing tax credits allocated by Florida Housing Finance Corp. In addition, a Housing and Urban Development-insured mortgage for $4 million was handled by Wells Fargo.
The project was also awarded $2.3 in federal stimulus money.
The green construction used to renovate the Claude Pepper building, originally built in 1978, has tenants beaming with features like energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency windows, new kitchen cabinets and counter tops, and full-size Energy-Star rated appliances.Other amenities include a computer room, a gym and even a library.
“We have aerobics, bingo and sometimes charter a bus to go shopping at Wal-Mart,” said resident Carrie St. Lot, 69, who ran a well-known ice cream business on Northwest 15th Avenue for decades.
St. Lot’s “youth” is what led her to head a volunteer group at the towers that keeps seniors, many who are in their 90s, extra busy with special activities and field trips.
“I am a teenager compared to them,” she said.
Each floor has a “captain” who checks daily on residents by knocking on the doors or making phone calls. If no one answers, another resident will enter to make sure all is well. It is this sense of camaraderie that keeps the seniors close.
And almost every week, they all get together for a party.
“We love to celebrate each other’s birthdays.”
Photo caption: Residents of the Mildred and Claude Pepper Towers pose outside their newly renovated home on Friday.