Affordable Housing

A New Affordable Housing Project Is Headed to North Tamiami Trail

New Trail Plaza in Sarasota will bring almost 100 units entirely dedicated to workforce and affordable housing tenants.

By Kim Doleatto February 15, 2024

P.J. Brooks (left) and Scott Eller

P.J. Brooks (left) and Scott Eller

Image: Allan Mestel

A long-vacant 6.24-acre lot across from the iconic Bahi Hut will now be the site of New Trail Plaza, a new project spearheaded by a partnership between the nonprofit Community Assisted & Supported Living (CASL) and St-Petersburg-based Blue Sky Communities, called Blue CASL Sarasota.

New Trail Plaza will house a four-story, 90-unit multifamily residential building and a three-story, six-unit mixed-use building with approximately 3,000 square feet of nonresidential floor space that will include a clubhouse.

Scott Eller, CEO of CASL, spoke to the urgent need for affordable housing.

“There are 16,000 to 17,000 Sarasota residents who are spending 50 percent or more [of their annual income] on their rent," he says. "That means we have families having to choose between paying the rent or buying groceries that week. Even people who work at CASL can't afford to work in this community. If you serve this community, you should be able to afford to live there.”

Spending about 30 percent of annual income on rent is often considered the baseline for affordability. 

The area median income (AMI) for the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is $98,700 a year, with 80 percent AMI set at annual salaries of $51,200 for a single-person household; $58,500 for a household of two, and $73,100 for a household of four. New Trail Plaza's long-term rental units will be targeted at those earning no more than 80 percent of the area's AMI, with the bulk of rents targeted at those earning 60 percent. Some of the units will be one-bedroom, but most will be two and three-bedroom units.

Rough architectural rendering of New Trail Plaza at 4644 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

“A lot of affordable housing is marketed at 100 percent and 120 percent AMI, but it’s the households making $70,000 and below who are struggling," says P.J. Brooks, CASL's COO.

Located between 46th and 47th Streets, the 96 units will be the first phase of the project and CASL expects to see shovels in the ground in May. "If everything stays on track we'll be open before December of next year," says Brooks. The 96 units are funded through federal tax credits, and CASL will identify other funds for the second-phase single-family homes with the help of local organizations with a similar mission to bring affordable housing to the area.

That second phase, which is planned for groundbreaking in the fall, will see five four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bathroom single-family homes built as a buffer to the adjoining Bayou Oaks residential neighborhood. The new homes also honor the already existing zoning for single-family homes. All units must remain affordable for at least 50 years.

The parcel is outlined in red.

With a focus on uplifting families, a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club is slated to provide long-term tenants’ children with after-school programs.

“When you provide help with tutoring and doing homework, students suddenly get scholarships to colleges and feel confident they can accomplish whatever they set out to do," says Eller. "A single parent working two jobs to make it work might not be able to find the time to help [their child]. This is about breaking that generational cycle of not getting ahead because rent is due.”

The county-owned parcel at 4644 N. Tamiami Trail will close on the sale to Blue CASL Sarasota once permits are in place. The price for the vacant 6.24-acre site is $1.95 million. Sarasota County purchased it in 2015 for $1.2 million.

The need for affordable housing keeps the nonprofit humming. A previous CASL-based affordable housing project called Arbor Village on Fruitville Road near Tuttle Avenue has a waitlist of 795 people. CASL also recently opened similar projects in Orlando, Lakeland and Port Charlotte, moving roughly 500 people into 300 units in 45 days or less. 

“Even though rents will be lower, it has no impact on the quality of what we provide and our intent is we want people to feel proud to live there," says Brooks. "Everyone deserves dignity and respect.” 

"We don't just want to do affordable housing," adds Eller. "We want it to be amazing."

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