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Centre Place nears completion, thanks to help from many

By Staff | Jan 6, 2010

When Sanibel’s shining example of limited-equity homeownership celebrates its opening next month at Centre Place, it will be an achievement for the entire community, thanks to many volunteers and workers on behalf of Community Housing & Resources and its subsidiary, the Coast & Islands Community Land Trust.

“Our board members didn’t really have any idea of the work involved and the obstacles we would run into when we set out on this project to offer affordable homeownership to qualified island workers,” said Land Trust President Dr. Phillip Marks. “It’s never been done before, and we set the bar high to make the homes not only as affordable as possible but as environmentally responsible, community-friendly, attractive, and in keeping with Sanibel’s vision. We are grateful to the many people who made this remarkable project possible.”

Board members Emilie Alfino, Mike Cuscaden, JoAnne Fedele, Richard Johnson, Mark Norman, Tom Rothman, Dennis Simon and Dorothy Simpson took on the complicated tasks of writing, re-writing, and then writing again the lease covering the land on which the new homes sit (referred to as a “ground lease”); developing a Homeowners Association and writing bylaws and Codes, Covenants and Restrictions; and much more.

“The CHR staff, too, have been working double-time processing paperwork, talking one-on-one with prospective buyers, researching requirements and crunching endless numbers,” Marks said.

The staff includes Executive Director Scott Marcelais, Administrative Manager Patti Bohm and Administrative Assistant Cyndie Hoggatt. Maintenance staffers Dennis Minten and Robert “Doc” Lubinski have also taken on extra duties as construction of the new homes and rehabilitation of Beach Road and Sanibel Highlands continue.

Among the others deserving thanks, Marks stressed, is the City of Sanibel, the City Council and the Planning Commission. The projects required city approvals and even hearings and code changes covering everything from allowable density to platting, vegetation, and tax assessments. The projects had the city’s full support and cooperation from the start, making the process much easier, Marks said.

Three local attorneys volunteered their time and expertise to meet with the potential homeowners and discuss the details of the ground lease with prospective purchasers. Tim Murty of Murty & Monk, Jason Maughan and David Platt of Henderson & Franklin will be meeting free of charge with each of the 14 home buyers and answering their questions prior to closing.

“These lawyers are not the only members of the community to put themselves out to assist us,” Marks continued. “We have been very fortunate to have the patience and understanding of both our residential and commercial neighbors at the Centre Place project. Construction is messy and noisy by nature, and the residents and businesses surrounding the new homes could not have been more gracious.”

The homes at Centre Place sit behind Billy’s Rentals bike shop, owned by Billy Kirkland, who not only endured the noise and inconvenience but even granted ingress and egress to the project through his property

“I feel honored to be able to help the Below Market Rate Housing program,” Kirkland said. “They’re providing a great benefit for this island with projects like this that give workers and employees a place to live on the island. Whatever I can do is a small part compared to what CHR is doing.”

Two local banks – Bank of the Islands and Sanibel Captiva Community Bank – are working with CHR and its land trust subsidiary to provide mortgages for home buyers, while supportive Sanibel residents are coming forward with private mortgage money to complete the rest of the sales.

“We’re grateful, too, to our island newspapers for publishing articles and notices about this exciting new venture so we could keep the community informed and educate people who might be interested in taking advantage of this new opportunity,” Marks added.

Centre Place is the first Florida Green and LEED-certified project on Sanibel (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a federal designation). In addition, the project was built using subcontractors and suppliers that have a long history of working on Sanibel, something CHR is proud to have been able to do, Marks added. Kennedy Construction is managing the project, a family-owned company that’s been on Sanibel for 33 years.

“It speaks volumes about this special community that even in a recession, islanders come together to get something done that will help people,” Marks said.

A public dedication and open house is planned for early February, in combination with a celebration of CHR’s 30th anniversary. Watch for information in future issues or call CHR at 472-1189 for more information.

Source: Community Housing & Resources, Inc.