The second phase of a long-awaited low-income housing project in Venice is one step closer to becoming a reality.

On Tuesday, the Venice Planning Commission approved a new site plan for Venetian Walk II, albeit with scaled-back parking. The old site plan approved years earlier had expired.

A funding agreement between the Venice Housing Authority, which owns the project, and the Venice City Council is up for approval on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

The VHA and Norstar Development USA, its development partner, had been trying for five years to get a tax credit award from the state to help fund Venetian Walk II, the family component of the city’s affordable-housing community on Grove Street.

The original Grove Terrace Apartments were torn down in 2009 due to deteriorating conditions. Venetian Walk I, for seniors, opened in 2014 but it took four more years to get funding for the second phase.

Overall parking for both phase 1 — a 61-unit senior housing complex — and phase 2 would be short 33 spaces under city rules, so a special exception application was filed, and approved by the Venice Planning Commission on Tuesday, allowing fewer spaces.

The new plan calls for 75 parking spaces, down from the original request for 104 spaces.

By way of explanation, Norstar officials said “ownership of vehicles by our residents is limited and is a commonality in all affordable projects.”

Phase 2 calls for 52 housing units of affordable public housing, in a string of five separate two- and three-story buildings. Apartments will be a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. There will also be a “tot lot” playground and a community center.

Venetian Walk I funding was used to install the bulk of the stormwater and utility infrastructure that is anticipated for Venetian Walk II, reducing the overall cost of the project.

In December 2017, the city learned the Florida Housing Finance Corporation preliminarily approved an award, but the decision was open to challenge by applicants who were denied. Official news came in March that Venetian Walk II will receive funds to build the $11.6 million project.

As a local match, the city of Venice dedicated $550,000. The city of Sarasota and Sarasota County contributed $1.2 million and the Venice Housing Authority put in $1 million.

Construction is to begin in early 2019, with the first of five buildings slated to open in March 2020.


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