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Floridian of the Year: Lift Orlando

A well deserved honor - Floridian of the Year goes to Lift Orlando - a nonprofit organization strengthening the historic neighborhoods around Camping World Stadium. Lift stands for learn, identify, focus and transform. Listed among Lift's key projects were - two from Winter Park Construction - the $40M Pendana at West Lakes and the $25M Pendana at West Lakes Senior Residences.

Pendana at West Lakes ($40 million)

The mixed-income complex includes 140 units for tenants earning 60% of the area median income or less, 40 market-rate apartments and 20 designated for extremely low-income tenants. When Lift Orlando began accepting applications for Pendana’s 200 units in 2018, nearly 15,000 people got in line. “It was like the lines at Disney. People would bring lawn chairs and literally wait in lines wrapped around the leasing office to order to make out applications to live there,” recalls Tom Sittema, one of Lift Orlando’s founders.

Pendana at West Lakes Senior Residences ($25 million)

Designed for residents 62 years and older, the three-story building (which opened in 2020) has its own movie theater, computer center and fitness center. Ninety percent of residents are low-income tenants, and 10% of the units are reserved for very low-income individuals and set aside for use in partnership with the city of Orlando for the chronically homeless.

Eddy Moratin, Lift Orlando’s president, says the group has invested more than $100 million in housing, education, health and economic development in the West Lakes neighborhood. About 25%, he says, has come from private donations. Lift has leveraged those donations through financing instruments, including low-income housing tax credits and new market tax credits. In addition, the group received a $4-million, no-interest loan from Dr. Phillips Charities that enabled it to acquire the Washington Shore apartments in 2015.

Today, where the Washington Shores apartments once languished sits Pendana, a fully occupied, mixed-income apartment building equipped with stainless steel appliances, hardwood-style flooring, a fitness center and other amenities. Across the street, a similar building provides 120 units of affordable housing to independent seniors. Nearby, a 16,000-sq.-ft. preschool operated by AdventHealth stands on what used to be a dumping ground littered with tires and abandoned cars. A few blocks away, next to Orange Center Elementary School, local kids and teens play basketball and take ballet lessons at the new Boys & Girls Club, now Central Florida’s largest.

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