(The video above is from a previous story)
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was in Jacksonville Tuesday for the grand opening of Valencia Way, formerly known as Eureka Gardens.
The opening follows a rough few years for the complex, including dozens of tenant complaints of unsafe and unsanitary conditions and allegations about the misuse of federal funds.
Valencia Way operates as a HUD Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance complex.
A troubled history
Back in October 2015, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry wrote a letter to Rubio and his staff about the conditions at Eureka Gardens Apartments.
The letter from Curry read, in part:
"While I have walked through the doors of my home for nearly 10 years, Friday evening’s entry was unlike any other, as I could not shake the images of mold, deteriorating stairwells, and other conditions that a few hours earlier, residents of Eureka Gardens - a community in the city I’m elected to lead - showed me they face every day"
HUD Secretary Ben Carson toured Eureka Gardens - the first time the organization's leader toured the apartment complex.
“I don’t think you can come here a year ago and come here today and not be optimistic about the future,” said Sen. Marco Rubio during the visit in 2017.
For years the property had issues ranging from crime to poor living conditions. Some residents say seeing lawmakers tour the property is nothing new and others say there have been a lot of empty promises.
U.S. Congressman Al Lawson was also there for the 2017 visit.
“For the next four years there will be a considerable interest in subsidized housing all around this country and Eureka Gardens has been the poster child for what we need to do to improve the lifestyle,” Lawson said.
In 2018, a new management company, Millenia Housing, rolled out a $92 million renovation plan to transform the complex into “Valencia Way” but many residents told First Coast News that the change made no significant difference.
Electricity and gas outages plagued the complex after it changed hands.
Just a few months after their gas was turned off for weeks, residents said their electricity was cut off for almost 24 hours, leaving them in the dark and the cold.
A new hope?
In February 2020, Curry signed bill 2020-0024 which will offers property tax rebates an effort to supplement the renovation of Valencia Way.
The signing took place at City Hall and offered the rebates to Millennia Properties, which owns Valencia Way as well as Florida properties Calloway Cove, Palmetto Glen and the Weldon apartment communities.
City of Jacksonville Council Member Garrett Dennis released the following statement at the signing:
"After years of working with multiple owners, the residents, and organizations supporting the residents of Valencia Way (formerly Eureka Gardens), I want to thank the new ownership group for their commitment to the residents and to the City of Jacksonville. The Millennia Companies said they would provide the basic human living conditions my District 9 constituents deserved and they backed up their commitment with action. This week, my colleagues joined me in supporting legislation to reduce ad valorem taxes for the property owners and, with active involvement of the new owners and the positive feedback of the residents, I was proud to support the legislation as a stronger sign of partnership with Millennia Companies....
As the Millennia Companies knows, I will continue to hold them accountable to the basic needs of my constituents and I thank them for their continued efforts to providing safe and decent housing."