Groundbreaking ceremony held for major housing project in Dunbar

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Matthew Seaver

The City of Fort Myers Housing Authority was awarded a $30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money is going towards housing just off US-41 in Dunbar.

On Wednesday, a groundbreaking ceremony took place for that housing project.

Dozens of people packed a tent for the ground-breaking ceremony, which is phase one of bringing more housing, including affordable housing, to Southwest Florida.

The main focus of the project is revitalizing the Southward Village community in Dunbar.

Living in Southward Village has helped Altagrace Dervil get back on her feet.

“I have experienced homelessness, and I was going through a lot of mental issues, so I needed a place to stay. So, Southward Village was able to provide my son and I a place to reside,” said Dervil.

Having an affordable place to live, like Southward Village, also helped her focus on improving herself.

“I was able to improve my life, and I was able to go to college and obtain an associate’s degree, and now I have a bachelor’s degree in science. So now, thanks to Southward Village, I was able to produce the Altagrace that my son needed to see,” Dervil said.

She, along with dozens of others, attended this ground-breaking ceremony to kick off phase one of the Greater Dunbar Initiative.

The initiative calls for 92 housing units to be built off Cleveland Avenue, north of Winkler. The project will also revitalize existing homes in Southward Village and add a grocery store and a playground for the kids in the Dunbar community.

“Our children deserve a safe place to grow, play, and live,” said Dervil.

The project is funded, in part, by a $30 million grant from HUD.

It is a project that is personal for Ward 3 council member Terolyn Watson, who grew up in Southward Village.

“It’s personal! It’s not even, it’s business in a sense, but it’s very personal to me,” said Watson.

It will be a while before the projects are complete, but Dervil is excited for people to benefit from these improvements.

“I know what it’s like to have a good education, to have a safe place to live. I would like to have other families to take part in the same criteria that benefited me,” Dervil said.

The housing is expected to be complete in about 18 months. It will offer affordable housing, including subsidized rent and rent caps, as well as market-rate units.

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