NEW PORT RICHEY – The project is far from complete, but the “Harbor House” represents a big step in the right direction for one area community.
The Town and Country Villas Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative began in early 2018 and is expected to last at least five years. April 29 marked a milestone, as leaders with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties dedicated the Harbor House to local resident and U.S. Army veteran Forest Spall.
The revitalization project is targeting the areas along Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane, roads that run parallel to and west of U.S. 19, just north of the Southgate Shopping Center.
“The Harbor House is the first of many affordable Habitat homes to be dedicated to deserving families in Pasco County,” said Mike Sutton, president and CEO of the recently merged Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. “Our redevelopment efforts on Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane will change the course of the neighborhood, and we look forward to continuing our revitalization initiatives throughout the county.”
The project’s vision and early formulation occurred when the local branch of the faith-based housing charity was known as Habitat for Humanity West Pasco and led by CEO Kobus Appelgrijn, who has since retired from the post. The West Pasco branch merged with its new partner to the south earlier this year and Appelgrijn has relocated to North Carolina. Town and County Villas, however, remains high on the organization’s priority list.
The goal of the initiative is to not only clean up a rundown area west of U.S. 19, but to erect homes that are affordable for deserving families and individuals. Since 2018, according to a press release, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties has purchased 50 lots, removed more than 15 dilapidated structures and has five additional lots going to permit to continue the redevelopment project.
Appelgrijn, who spearheaded the Town and Country Villas Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, said during the organization’s March 1 merger press conference that he’ll remain in contact with Habitat throughout the project’s completion. Part of his success promoting and championing the initiative was successfully getting it included in a nationwide contest organized by John Deere last year. The Town and Country Villas project was one of three national finalists in the company’s annual “Small Machines. Big Impact.” contest that spotlighted and rewarded revitalization efforts in communities around the United States.
Last week’s dedication of the Harbor House was attended by Habitat staff, local elected officials, volunteers and the Gulf Harbors Civic Association as Spall officially received the keys to his new home.