By Harold Bubil, Herald-Tribune
VENICE — The $10.3 million public housing structure taking shape near the corner of U.S. 41 Bypass and Venice Avenue will be one of the first in the state to be green-certified under the LEED for Homes-Midrise program of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green consultant Drew Smith of Two Trails Inc. in Sarasota said the project should gain the Silver level of certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
“They get all of the urban credits” for being close to downtown, public transportation and a public park that is adjacent to the 61-unit first phase of Venetian Walk, said Smith.
Bank of America will be granted tax credits to pay for the construction, said Rick Cavalieri, development manager of Norstar Development USA LP. Phase I is for residents 62 and older whose income does not exceed certain levels; 26 of the 61 units are public housing units. “No income is required,” said Cavalieri.
Phase II, on the north side of a creek that runs through the properties, has been approved for low-income families with no age restrictions. Twenty-four of the 52 apartments are public-housing units, with little or no income required. For previous Herald-Tribune coverage, click here.
Achieving the green certification, “actually is pretty challenging,” said Smith after a groundbreaking ceremony today. “The multifamily midrise standard is kind of a cross-pollination between the LEED commercial standard and the LEED for Homes standard. They have to incorporate some elements of the common areas, the public spaces, along with the residential units.
“It makes the process more stringent and a learning curve for everyone. There are very few of these projects that have been done. I only know of one other project in the state that has gone through the LEED for Homes-Midrise program. But from what was put in from the initial specifications, it wasn’t that difficult to achieve. Most of those items were already part of the project.”
Bruce Lampitt of Sheeley Architects in Fort Myers said, “Most of what is in LEED we are already doing. The Florida building code mandates a lot of it. Sometimes it isn’t that difficult.”
His firm just designed a Hodges University in Fort Myers. “The cost was maybe 5 to 10 percent more. It is not cost-prohibitive like it used to be,” he said.
But Smith added, “It is much more difficult than a house. Each unit is separately graded and inspected. So we literally are doing 61 living units at the same time.”
Cavalieri said green certification was required by Florida Housing Finance Corp.
“We had to get a green certification to maximize the points for the application,” he said. “The only way you get funded is if you maximize your points. It was mandated we go LEED. Cost permitting, we would have done it anyway. We put as much green into the projects as we can within the parameters – we are working with a fixed budget.
“The benefit for the residents is their utility bills are very low,” the developer added, “which really helps their living situation. And it ultimately helps the taxpayer, who has to subsidize that.”
The building will be done in the Northern Italian architectural style that is mandated by the City of Venice.