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Madison Heights aims to welcome tenants in June

— Amid all the talk about new high-rise apartment buildings in the works for downtown and the Channel District, a smaller residential project has gone up quietly within sight of these tony towers.

The 80-unit Madison Heights will accept its first tenants at North Florida Avenue and Fortune Street late next month.

The affordable-housing development joins several low-income options on the north side of downtown surrounding the Marion Transit Center. Within a few blocks of Madison Heights are Metro 510, which offers housing for low-income workers, and the Vista 400 apartments for senior citizens.

Beyond the bus depot and across Oaklawn Cemetery, the Tampa Housing Authority’s Encore! development rises in the distance.

Madison Heights is targeting 55-and-older tenants with low to moderate incomes.

“Our focus is to get those units occupied as soon as we can,” said Patrick Law, owner of American Realty Development LLC, the Orlando-based company building the apartments.

The first 40 apartments will open in June, with the rest to follow in July, Law said.

David Eldredge plans to be one of the first people through the door.

Eldredge was hanging out in the lobby of the project’s rental office this week as if he couldn’t wait for the complex to open. At one point, he gave a potential tenant the run-down on what the development will offer as if he worked for the management company.

There will be a gym and medical staff on site, and a parking garage.

“Plus, it’s brand new,” Eldredge said.

For now, Eldredge, a part-time comedian who relies on disability payments because of chronic health problems, lives in the Ybor City area and rents space from his pastor.

Moving to Madison Heights will save him $100 a month, he said.

The opening of Madison Heights will add 100 or more people to the residential population of downtown Tampa.

Fifteen years ago, Tampa’s urban core had about 600 full-time residents, half of them in the old Morgan Street Jail. Today, it has almost 6,000 spread from One Laurel Place on the Hillsborough River to the new Pierhouse development in the Channel District.

With three new residential towers in the works in the next 18 months, the area’s full-time residents could grow by hundreds — maybe 1,000 — more.

Those new projects will focus on people in their 20s and 30s. Combined with Madison Heights and nearby developments focused on older and low-income residents, downtown should develop a healthy mix of people, said Tony Garcia, cities team leader for the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.

Eventually, all those new full-time residents will spark retail and commercial development, including a downtown grocery store. For now, though, especially in the blocks around Madison Heights, the few aging storefronts remain shuttered.

“The residential base is still growing, so the commercial is taking baby steps,” Garcia said. “It’s an incremental thing. It’s an evolutionary thing.”

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