JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officials from the city, state and federal government hoped to close the book on the dark history of the troubled Eureka Garden subsidized housing complex on Tuesday when they cut the ribbon on the renovated property, now called Valencia Way.
The Millennia Companies from Ohio bought the property in 2018 and said it spent $24 million to overhaul the 400-unit complex on Jacksonville’s Westside.
“I’ve never seen as many unforeseen conditions as Jacksonville, whatever could go wrong went wrong,” said Millennia CEO Frank Sinito, noting a major gas leak and crime.
Millennia also purchased three other Global Ministries Foundation properties in Jacksonville and renovated them, becoming Calloway Cove, The Weldon on Moncrief Road and Palmetto Glen on Willow Street. The company said the total project cost $94 million and rehabilitated 768 apartments of affordable housing. Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony also celebrated those renovated apartments.
Millenia received praise for the turnaround. It had help from the city, state and federal government.
“I can’t emphasize enough how terrible -- not just this property, but the others in that portfolio were. So they’re all very different, and it takes time and dedication. But my hope is they can point to places like this and say ‘Look, it’s possible, they got it done there,’” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
Global Ministries sold then-named Eureka Gardens after the News4Jax I-TEAM exposed deplorable conditions in 2015, prompting a city code enforcement raid and re-inspection by federal housing regulators.
Apartments were being worked on in groups of 24, with residents temporarily moved into other vacant units. The entire renovation process was originally expected to be complete in fall 2020.
Touring the renovated property and participating in Tuesday’s ceremony was Rubio; state Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville; City Councilman Garrett Dennis, D-Jacksonville; and Millennia leadership and industry partners.
Improvements to the inside of the units include new kitchens and bathrooms, upgraded appliances, new furnaces and central air conditioning. Work was also done on the outside of each building. New windows, doors, roofs and lighting have been installed.
“I’m looking forward to a new plumbing system because the plumbing keeps backing up in our apartments and (I’m) looking forward to the mold getting out of the walls,” longtime resident Mona Lisa Arnold said.
A new recreation area with gazebos and grills is now in the works, as well as a workout facility and computer room.
“It’s just exciting,” said resident Mel Wilson. “I’m just grateful. I’m so grateful.”
News4Jax noted there’s a heightened presence from a private security team and a lull in violence over the past two years. However, on Aug. 3, a man was shot and killed outside a unit at Valencia Way. So far, no one’s been arrested.