Affordable housing complex opens in Venice

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VENICE, Fla. -- After years in the making, an affordable apartment complex for seniors has opened in Venice, replacing dilapidated public housing units.

Gone are the decades-old Grove Terrace Buildings. Now Village Walk greets those entering the island of Venice on Venice Avenue.

The project was a long time coming, with a lot of organizations coming together. 61 units there ranging from $350-$650 a month, providing a good place to live for those who might otherwise have to leave the area.

When ABC 7 first sat down with Mary Smith nearly eight years ago, she and all her neighbors were being evicted from the old Grove Terrace public housing units. “I love where I live, I don't want to move. I want to stay right here."

At the time it was and wasn't a tough decision for city leaders, says Mayor John Holic. "The only thing you could do with them was tear them down. They were dilapidated. They were very rundown."

All these years later, Mary is returning to the more than $10 million building in its place. "It's beautiful, it's breathtaking."

Amenities include spacious rooms, gathering areas like a pool hall, exercise facility, crafts, media, and more. A big change, considering some thought the whole plan was just a way to tear down the old buildings and get rid of the poor.

Venice Housing Authority chairman Jason Weaver says they've been working all this time to get the federal funding, planning, and building. "The full intention was always to replace it with something nice and beautiful that represents Venice and the surroundings."

The rent for about half of the units is reduced for low income seniors. The rest of the units are slightly more.

Some have already moved into the 62 and older facility. "It's close to my doctors and close to restaurants. It's just a very nice location," says writer Mary Anne Snell.

Just completing her first book, she has plans for more. “It's a very nice place to write because it's quiet."

Mayor Holic says that's what the whole project is about. “To make this a complete community we have to be able to provide housing for all income levels. We have to work on workforce housing. We have to make sure people who work here in the city are able to live in the city."

More workforce housing is supposed to be on the way. Right next door, the groundwork for Phase Two has been started. "We are hoping now that Phase One is done, it might help move things on a little bit."

Around $10 million more is needed from federal and state housing programs to build 52 townhouses for families in need. "We need the money. We are waiting on the money."

For Mary, she's thankful to be in Venice -- the only place she ever wanted to live. "I am very happy and I am going to enjoy this place."

Apparently there is a need. The wait list to get an apartment there is already more than 200 deep. We are told that those at the end of that line could be waiting as much as five years.

Four units there are for temporary housing for those who suddenly find themselves homeless; a temporary solution, but something.