Plans to fix Eureka Gardens, exclusive interview with new management

An Action News Jax investigation uncovers new plans to fix a troubled Jacksonville apartment complex.
We have been reporting about crime and problems at Eureka Gardens for nearly a decade.

On Thursday, Action News Jax Investigator Courtney Cole spoke exclusively to Scott Vitatoe, the regional property manager for Millennia Housing Management.

She learned these renovations are expected to be life-changing, and Vitatoe said it won’t increase the rent the tenants have to pay.

STORY: Eureka Gardens residents relieved water hasn't been cut off in 9 days

In fact, he told Action News Jax the renovated units will now include central air conditioning and heating, which will take $12 off of their total rent payment.

Tenants at Eureka Gardens have heard, time-and-time-again, that their apartments are going to be renovated.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole walked through two apartments on Thursday to show you the unacceptable living conditions.

She saw holes in walls, what appeared to be mold and a severe pest problem.

Action News Jax was also at the complex last month after tenants called for help due to their water being cut off regularly.

“This time it’s going to happen. We have all the pieces in place,” Vitatoe said.

He said the timeline for renovation will begin after the completely take over the ownership of the property from Global Ministries Foundation.

“The closing should take place around the 16th or 17th of this month,” said Vitatoe.

The first two buildings to be renovated will be 12 and 16.

The people who live there will be relocated to vacant apartments on the property during construction.

Tenants belongings will be put into individual pods and those individual pods will be taken away and  put into a secured location.

“They’ll be out of their apartments for approximately five weeks while we renovate their apartments. Then they’ll move back into their old new apartments, so to speak,” said Vitatoe.

It's scheduled to take 22 months and $17 million to complete the entire complex.

While the property is subsidized by HUD, Vitatoe says taxpayers will not be responsible for footing the bill.

“It’s coming from private investors and then the Jacksonville Finance Authority has approved the issue of those bonds. So what the city does with those bonds, basically is guarantee them,” said Vitatoe.

Around Nov. 1, neighbors will start to see the first little bit of demolition on the property.

“Bottom line, we’re doing this for the betterment of their lives. We saw the news like everyone else when Sen. Rubio first came around and what the property looked like, that’s why we got involved to begin with,” Vitatoe said.

STORY: Eureka Gardens apartment complex without heat as area sees cooler temps

Thomas just hopes all the tenants can remain positive throughout the process.

“Be patient, let them do their job. Don’t say anything negative. Be glad that we’re about to get a new beginning,” Thomas said.