June 23, 2004 – Wearing hard hats and big smiles, dignitaries dipped gold-tone shovels into the earth to break ground ceremonially on Wednesday at the Bellevue Village Apartments development on Gifft Hill.
"This is only the beginning. Calabash Boom is next," Clifford Graham, Housing Finance Authority director, said. He was referring to another affordable housing project expected to get under way next year on the island's southeast side.
The Florida-based Reliance Housing Foundation, a not-for-profit housing development organization, is developing the 72-unit Bellevue project. Construction started in January.
Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and others said the apartments will help address St. John's housing problems of high rents and little availability. "St. John is like Beverly Hills," he said.
However, he said, many people on St. John make too much money to quality for Bellevue Village but not enough to be able to afford to buy a home at St. John's stratospheric prices.
The income caps for Bellevue Village eligibility range from $22,200 for a single person to $36,840 for a family of six. Rents will range from $524 to $722 a month.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley, admiring the Bellevue Village ocean view, said that affordable housing is usually tucked away in the woods. That is not the case with this project.
Reliance Housing's president, Robert O. Jackson, told the Source that 18 of the units are reserved for St. John residents who have been displaced from other housing and who work on St. John. The others are open to anyone in the territory and will be made available by lottery.
"But I don't see anyone from St. Thomas applying unless they work over here," Graham said.
Jackson said the project is feasible financially because of federal tax credits. He said it will cost Reliance $19.4 million to build Bellevue Village, but the company gets tax credits of $15.9 million.
When the tax credit package runs out in 15 years, the tenant on the upper floor of each of the two-unit buildings will be offered the chance to buy the entire building.
Other public figures taking part in the ceremonial groundbreaking included James Francis, representing Sen. Lorraine Berry, and Franke Hoheb, representing Sen. Celestino A. White Sr.
Bellevue Village sits on 36 acres of land. When completed, it will have 24 one-bedroom, one-bath apartments of 700 square; a dozen two-bedroom, one-bath apartments of 800 square feet; 24 three-bedroom, two-bath apartments of 1,400 square feet; and 12 four-bedroom, two-bath apartments of 1,600 square feet.
Jackson said people interested in living at Bellevue Village Apartments must apply by Oct. 30. The application form can be downloaded from the Reliance Housing Foundation Web site and printed out. Printed forms can be picked up at the St. John Community Foundation office. Completed forms must be postal mailed to Reliance's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.