Southwest Florida Roundup
Mike Sutton has never been so busy. The president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties says his non-profit built 73 homes during fiscal year 2022-23. During fiscal year 2021-22, the nonprofit built 67 homes, up from the 60 it built the year before.
But that’s still not nearly enough.
“The demand has never been so great,” Sutton says. “We often talk about the wealth moving into the state from New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, but no one is talking about the low-to-moderate income families that are leaving our region and the state for a more affordable place to live. We see about 200 to 250 inquiries a month about Habitat. From there, we approve about 10 families into our program.”
Common reasons for families being refused, he says, are earning too little or too much — the program targets families making between 30-80% of the area’s medium income — or having too much debt.
One neighborhood of concern, he says, is Pinellas County’s Lealman community, the focus of a three-year, $1.5-million partnership with Pinellas County. The funds will be used to help offset rising land costs. “The Lealman community has been underserved for decades and lacks reliable transit and is a food desert. Yet, it is centrally located within Pinellas County, so it is desirable for many families we serve.”
In 2022, the organization completed 14 homes in Lealman and to date in 2023, have finished 15 there with three more planned, he says. Next year, 13 homes are on the drawing board.
“Losing a child of your own before you go is a devastating thing to have happened."
— Frank Haskell, 93, who devoted much of his later life to raising money to support ill children. A Southwest Florida resident since 1987, he was motivated by the death of his daughter from cancer at the age of 36. Haskell, a former executive for the Burroughs Corp. in Boston and Moore Business Systems in Dallas, co-founded Barbara’s Friends, which has raised $25 million since 1995 to support more than 10,000 children to have happened.” receiving care at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers.
- After working at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota for 50 years, including the last 35 years as managing director, Linda DiGabriele has retired. Succeeding her is Ross Egan, the former managing director of the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.
- Pasco County commissioners gave preliminary approval to a 1,500-home development on more than 1,100 acres on the western side of the 4G Ranch, located near the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 52.
- Plans to redevelop the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel were approved by Pasco County commissioners. The proposal includes creating a town center and building more apartments, town homes and retail space. Miami-based developer Mast Capital purchased the resort last year for $15 million and plans at least another $53 million in improvements.
- Randy Avent, the only president in Florida Polytechnic University’s 10-year history, announced plans to step down next year. Avent plans to take a sabbatical starting in July 2024 and then return to teaching. He is currently the longest-serving president in the state university system.
- The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences plans to build a $20-million, 34,000-sq.-ft. Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence at its site in rural Wimauma. The center will include labs and housing for 32 graduate students. It will be tasked with fi nding ways to use artifi cial intelligence in agriculture.
- Orlando Health has expanded into Hillsborough and Pasco counties by joining forces with Florida Medical Clinic, a multi-specialty physician group with 350 providers in 54 locations. As part of the partnership, Orlando Health and FMC plan to open a hospital in Wiregrass Ranch in Pasco County.
- Tampa General Hospital is buying three Bravera Health community hospitals in Brooksville, Crystal River and Spring Hill. The sale, for a combined $290 million, is expected to close by the end of this year. Community Health Services of Tennessee is the seller.
- An eight-story Marriott hotel is set to open next year near the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The project includes about 17,500 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
- Sun Country Airlines will begin operations at Punta Gorda Airport in December with twicea- week, non-stop fl ights to and from Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport. The arrangement is scheduled to last through April 2024. Also, Allegiant Airlines announced plans to offer nonstop fl ights between the Punta Gorda Airport and Bangor, Maine, starting in November.