SEMINOLE — Area officials, including U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, Pinellas County Commission Vice Chair Kathleen Peters, Pinellas County Housing Authority Executive Director Neil Brickfield and others, attended a groundbreaking ceremony for Valor Preserve at Lake Seminole held April 14.

The 64-unit affordable-rentals development — designated primarily for disabled veterans and their families — is situated at 9575 Seminole Blvd.

Work began on the project last month. Its completion will culminate a decade-long effort by the housing authority to build affordable housing on the 13.5-acre site, which it acquired in 2013 for $1.4 million with the assistance of development partner Norstar.

The new community will feature 58 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments in one and two-story bungalow-style buildings.

Units will be reserved for those making no more than 60% of the area’s median annual income of $34,500 for individuals or $39,420 for households. Half of the units will be set aside for people with disabilities, and the entire development will favor veteran applicants. 

During the ceremony, Valor Preserve was hailed as a landmark collaboration for veterans and a solution to the affordable housing crisis. 

“I’m overwhelmed by the community support for a cause that’s near and dear to my heart,” said Luna, a first-term Republican who represents the 13th District, including Largo and Clearwater.

With the exception of Seminole City Council members Jim Olliver and then-member Tom Christy, the development was largely opposed by council, prompting a revision of the proposal at one point to come up with a plan requiring less city input. But Luna characterized Valor as a “great example of bipartisan support working together” to achieve a common goal.

Peters said Valor serves as a reminder that the county is “committed to supplying homes that are affordable.”

Several veterans lauded the project, including John Makas, a local official with the Disabled American Veterans organization. 

“This is going to be a very special place for a lot of veterans, and I hope there are many more,” Makas said.

“There is no better use for this property,” former PCHA commissioner Joe Triolo said. “God bless our country, and God bless our veterans.”

With that, Chaplain George Francey, a Vietnam veteran, said a prayer and blessed the land before the officials and representatives of project collaborators including Norstar Development, TIAA Bank and others, grabbed a golden shovel and posed for photos while tossing small piles of dirt toward the cameras.

“The groundbreaking for this facility is the accumulation of more than a decade of work, with dozens of partners and hundreds of people working to make sure veterans have a safe, clean, dignified place to live,” Brickfield told TBN. “They selflessly served for us, and we owe them a clean and safe place to live.”