Brandon-area affordable apartments fill up fast

The new Blue Sky Brandon, a 120-unit affordable apartment complex, is already filled to capacity.

BRANDON — A sizeable flock of low income families who’ve struggled with everyday needs recently found new homes at the Blue Sky Brandon apartment complex.

Blue Sky Communities celebrated the recent opening of the new 120-unit affordable housing community just north of West Brandon Boulevard on Thursday.

Located between North Kings and North Knights, the complex features one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, each with amenities such as granite countertops in the kitchens and individual outdoor terraces.

Residents, who started moving in May 12, also have use of an on-site pool and clubhouse, complete with a children’s activity room. In addition, the community is gated and contains an electric vehicle charging station.

Monthly rental fees, set by the State of Florida, range from $636 for a one-bedroom/one bath unit to $856 for three bedrooms with two bathrooms.

Developer Blue Sky Communities, based in Tampa, specializes in providing affordable housing to the working poor.

To date, it has built six such properties, mainly in the Tampa Bay area including the Brandon complex, made possible with funding by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, Hillsborough County, Neighborhood Lending Partners, Chase Bank and Raymond James Tax Credit Funds.

Shawn Wilson, Blue Sky Communities president, was on hand to recognize the Brandon project’s lending partners during Thursday’s celebration.

"You have built a beautiful property and it’s about giving these people the quality of life they deserve," Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said.

Blue Sky Communities Vice president and CFO Scott Macdonald noted that every apartment was leased by early February, despite no marketing efforts other than sign postings at the site.

"Ninety percent were leased to folks that make less than 60 percent of the yearly median income (which in 2016 was $50,758 in Hillsborough County according to the U.S. Census Bureau) and 12 percent to people making less than 35 percent," he said.

Laurel Macdonald, president of the Carteret Management Corporation, overseers of Blue Sky Brandon’s day-to-day operations, said the overwhelming interest from people wanting to live there exceeded all expectations.

"We’ve had a tremendous response and we have a waiting list of applicants," she said.

Laurel Macdonald also expressed her appreciation for how the surrounding community has welcomed them as neighbors.

Residents have offered gestures of kindness to the apartment dwellers, including donations of household cleaning supplies and literacy training classes by members of the New Hope United Methodist Church at 120 N Knights Ave., abutting the apartment buildings.

Apartments liven up aging neighborhood

Blue Sky represents a bit of resurgence in the area. Sunshine Bank is building a new office nearby and the nearby Wendy’s recently remodeled.

The new activity is taking place in the heart of a Brandon section steeped in history that includes New Hope church, said to be the community’s oldest worship center.

It was originally built in 1878 as a log structure on nearby land deeded by John Brandon, Brandon’s founder.

Stowers Funeral Home on the south side of West Brandon Boulevard directly facing North Knights Avenue was erected in 1876 as a two-story frame home for James Brandon, the son of John Brandon and his wife, Martha.

Other decades-old businesses and schools also pocket the historic neighborhood.

Sunshine Bank, located at 420 W. Brandon Blvd, has been at that site since 1954; Jesse’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant, located at 524 W. Brandon Blvd., opened in 1980; and Babe’s Pizza, just around the corner at 107 N. Kings Ave. launched its eatery in 1978.

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