Tampa, Florida: Addressing the Housing and Transportation Cost Burden
Located in Tampa, Florida, Metro 510 diversifies the city’s downtown housing stock while restoring an area landmark. The development’s 120 units provide much-needed affordable housing in the urban core, and the adaptive reuse of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church creates a dynamic community center. Located close to the Marion Transit Center and employment centers in downtown Tampa, the project aims to reduce the high housing and transportation costs that Tampa residents face. The Metro 510 project has won several local awards for excellence and was also a 2012 finalist for Affordable Housing Finance magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.
Background and Context
Tampa, like many U.S. cities, has experienced a growing demand for urban living in recent years. Once a veritable ghost town after business hours, the downtown area, with a population in the hundreds in the early 2000s, has added more than 6,000 residents in the past decade.1 This population growth, although a promising trend for the city, has been fueled by the construction of upscale apartment buildings that are not affordable to the low- and moderate-income workers in and around downtown.2
The need for location-efficient housing is particularly pronounced in the greater Tampa metropolitan area, where moderate-income residents bear one of the most severe housing and transportation cost burdens in the nation. A 2012 report by the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology found that moderate-income renters in Tampa — defined as those earning between 50 and 100 percent of the area median income (AMI) — have the second-highest burden of the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. On average, moderate-income Tampa renters spend $882 on transportation and $892 on housing costs each month — 65 percent of their monthly income.3 With 32 percent of monthly income going to travel, Tampa’s transportation cost burden is the highest of the metropolitan areas included in the study.
These alarming costs did not go unnoticed. A 2010 survey by the Tampa Downtown Partnership revealed a demand for more housing among downtown workers, 14 percent of whom earned less than $50,000 annually4 and could not afford the upscale apartments dominating the area’s rental market.5 In response, developer Sage Partners acquired the St. Paul A.M.E. Church in 2009 with plans to preserve the historic structure while expanding housing options in the downtown area. With more than a century of history inside its doors, the church was once a center for the civil rights movement, having hosted such leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Jackie Robinson; and Thurgood Marshall. However, its congregation had dwindled over the years as Tampa’s population spread to the suburbs.6
Program and Design
Preserving and honoring both the church’s legacy as a center for the civil rights movement and its early 1900s architecture played a prominent role in the development of Metro 510. The 14,000-square-foot church was given new life as a community center and serves as the development’s focal point. The building’s first floor includes a community kitchenette and lounge area, computer lab, and fitness area, and the 7,000-square-foot second floor provides a dynamic space for children’s programming as well as space for teenagers to gather and relax. In repurposing the structure, the developers uncovered brick walls and preserved interior design accents and the original beadboard ceilings. Restoring the church’s stained glass windows, which are illuminated at night, both honors the building’s history and fulfills the city’s public art requirement.
A six-story apartment building wraps around the remaining portion of the 1.2-acre lot. The building’s neutral stucco and brick exterior complement the church’s restored brick facade, and the building’s massing and geometry frame the historic structure. A brick walkway connecting the two buildings features the names of congregation members, further celebrating the church’s history.
The first two floors of the new building provide covered parking for residents, with the apartments on the upper four floors. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units have an open floor plan and feature 9.5-foot ceilings, granite countertops, washers and dryers, and ENERGY STAR®-rated stainless steel appliances. Large windows designed to withstand hurricane-force winds provide ample light and deaden the noise from downtown streets. The units’ amenities and features are comparable to high-end units in the downtown and attract singles, empty-nesters, and families alike. Ninety-six units are reserved for households earning up to 60 percent of AMI and 24 units are for those earning up to 35 percent of AMI, 6 of which are designated for youth aging out of foster care.
Table 1. Metro 510 Apartments
Number of Bedrooms
Number of Units
Outdoor spaces include courtyards and play areas. A splash park is located between the community center and the apartments, and a third-floor courtyard is used for a community garden and an outdoor movie theater.
The recession halted construction of Metro 510 in 2009, and restarting the $27 million development required federal support. In addition to nearly $18 million in nine percent low-income housing tax credits, the project received $6 million in tax credit exchange funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The remainder of the project’s financing came from a $3 million first mortgage and a $200,000 loan from the city’s Community Redevelopment Area fund.
Filling an Unmet Need
Metro 510 has been an enthusiastically received. The project was at full occupancy within months of opening and has a long waiting list. Sage Partners marketed the project through downtown employers and approximately 80 percent of Metro 510 residents work downtown. The development’s strategic location next to the Marion Transit Center provides residents with access to local and regional bus routes throughout Hillsborough County, reducing transportation costs and supporting sustainable modes of travel.
The project is another sign of the changing landscape in downtown Tampa and the growing demand for urban living among a broad cross section of the population. Approximately 2,500 residential units are currently in the development pipeline for downtown, including roughly 800 mixed-income rentals that are part of the redevelopment of the Tampa Housing Authority’s Central Park Village. Sustaining such efforts to create a more livable city center, however, will not come from housing investments alone. In 2010, Tampa received a Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant from HUD to create a twenty-first century vision for the city’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The subsequent plan, InVision Tampa, provides a framework and core strategies that will help shape infrastructure improvements, infill development, and economic development opportunities in a way that better connects the downtown with its surrounding neighborhoods.
Interview with Debra Koehler, president, Sage Partners, 16 August 2013; interview with Christine Burdick, president, Tampa Downtown Partnership, 29 August 2013; HCP & Associates. 2013. “2012 Workforce-Resident Study,” Tampa Downtown Partnership. Accessed 5 September 2013.
Interview with Debra Koehler; interview with Christine Burdick.
Center for Housing Policy and Center for Neighborhood Technology. 2012. Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation. Accessed 5 September 2013.
The median household income for the entire city of Tampa is approximately $44,000.
Tampa Downtown Partnership. “2010 Workforce-Resident Survey.” Accessed 5 September 2013.
Interview with Debra Koehler; interview with Christine Burdick.