St. Pete's Citrus Grove Family Housing development will get a facelift

09/07/11 Sarah Curran
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It's located near a popular recreation complex and two area schools and home to some of the areas most infamous murderers and gangs. Now St. Petersburg officials are hoping some much needed renovations to Citrus grove apartments will create a ripple affect through the rest of the community.

"Its right next to one of our big rec centers, Campbell park. It’s across the street from John Hopkins Middle School. Its part of the Campbell Park neighborhood. We can make all of those better places for kids and that’s really what its all about."

City Council vice chair Karl Nurse is spearheading the move to renovate the dilapidated housing complex. It is part of the Section 8 program. The low income housing residents are only required to pay utilities and water and rent is 25 percent of their income. At a press conference this morning he touched on some of the much needed changes the more than almost 40 year old building will require.

"There is no air-conditioning. Some people have brought in window shakers. It has original windows which are of course very in-efficient, its got a very inefficient water heating system, the kitchens and bathrooms are largely original. So those are those are the kinds of things that HUD will require in the upgrades."

The area's largest family housing complex may be best known for two of the areas most infamous crimes. It is where Demarlis Melvin killed 18-year-old Mike Smith in a drive-by shooting in 2006. And most recently, was home to Nicholas Lemmon Lindsey, the 16 year old accused of fatally shooting police officer David Crawford in February. Authorities also say the complex is so-called turf for the gang the Bethel Heights Boys and has a reputation of drug activity and other crimes.

"Since I have been in the neighborhood I have experienced a lot of shootings. I've not seen them but you hear them in the middle of the night. It’s not not-manageable, but without intervention like what Karl is doing, Karl Nurse, its going to get worse."

That's Campbell Park Neighborhood Association president Latoya Brown.

"I have been in Campbell park for about 7 years and Citrus Grove being bought by someone else, it just shows a new movement being made as far as a path to improvement."

She adds this is a pivotal point for the neighborhood.

"Of course there are more things below the surface. Once you start dealing with rich versus poor or those with and those without, of course those with cannot see what those without do not have. So, of course there is gonna be more to it than this, but this is a good starting point. When I walk by I want to be able to be OK with my son going there and playing or my daughter playing there or nearby. So, I am hoping that it will actually become the word family."

The costs for the renovations will be covered by a for-profit company, responsible for turning around some of Chicago's troubled housing developments along with the US department of housing and Urban Development. The company replacing the current managers of the development chose to remain anonymous until the contract is finalized this Friday. Nurse says he expects construction to begin no later than next March.

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