Building 10 to 20 affordable apartments on Sugarloaf Key for Monroe County School District employees is economically feasible and will pay off handsomely for either the district or a developer in about a decade, officials said.
Yet questions remain, including should the district go it alone or partner with the county on construction, estimated to cost $2.5 million? Should the School Board manage the rentals or farm it out to a company or nonprofit?
A task force assembled to hash out the plan says partner with the county and that the process could take two years before the homes go up, and the best approach would be to work with the county in a public/private effort.
“I don’t think that it would be appropriate to do it alone, speaking on behalf of the task force,” said schools Superintendent Mark Porter.
School Board member Andy Griffiths, who first proposed the district apply a DIY approach as an answer to the Florida Keys’ affordable housing crisis, said the timeline is unfortunate.
“I’m disappointed it’s going to take two years,” he said. “If there were a faster way of ruffling feathers, I’d pull some feathers.”
A unanimous School Board Jan. 30 signed off on the proposal to build units on district-owned land behind the Sugarloaf School.
“It’s about $125 per square foot,” said veteran Keys builder Niels Hubbell, a member of the task force. “It’s about 20,000 square feet of housing.”
Hubbell said the model of 10 duplexes could become several one-bedroom units as well as two-bedroom ones. The School Board owns the two acres in question so the next phase is putting out a request for proposals to receive bids from developers.
“The numbers were actually surprisingly low,” Hubbel said of a cost analysis he did. “When this goes out, there will interest in doing it.”
Griffiths said once the project is paid for, it would become a “cash cow” and the district — not a developer — could reap the rewards. But board member Mindy Conn said she doesn’t want to see the schools go into the property management business, despite the prospect of raking in cash.
Hubbell agreed that in a decade, someone is going to “hit pay day” with the project.
“It’s going to be money in the bank,” he said.
The board Jan. 30 also agreed 5-0 on a longtime proposal to eventually move its administrative offices out of the Trumbo Road location in Key West to make room for workforce housing.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen