A new residential complex is transforming the Leopard Street corridor, injecting it with 120 families and new construction, which the area hasn’t seen in decades.

The Palms at Leopard, a $17.5 million affordable-housing project, broke ground on Thursday and is expected to welcome the first of its 120 families in Summer 2014. San Antonio-based Housing and Community Services, Inc. (HCS) will own and operate the apartments, which will replace the aging North Side Manor Apartments.

North Side Manor, owned by HCS since 2005, has not seen major renovations since it was built in 1969. It is located in a part of town that has seen the number of residents dwindle, is surrounded by boarded up storefronts and continues to be plagued with crime.

“We wanted to preserve affordable housing for the benefit of the community and find a better location for those families,” said Raymond Lucas, an independent asset manager with HCS. “The Palms at Leopard will put families closer to Oak Park Elementary, Driscoll Middle School and Miller High School. It will provide a safer, cleaner environment for them to thrive. We’re excited to see it come to fruition.”

Families from North Side Manor will receive vouchers to secure an apartment at Palms at Leopard. HCS has never had to move a property from its original location. Only a handful of properties throughout the country have ever been moved, as affordable housing sites are part of a strategic plan.

“This is a very exciting day for Corpus Christi,” said Mayor Nelda Martinez. “The Leopard Street corridor is historically significant to Corpus Christi. The Palms at Leopard will improve tenants’ quality of life by bringing them closer to public schools and making it easier to access all areas of the city. We expect this construction to be the first of many projects that will spur revitalization in this important part of our community.”

The Palms at Leopard will consist of 10 buildings, nine of them residential and a clubhouse. Amenities include a swimming pool, security gates, washer/dryer connections, dishwashers, garbage disposals and central heating and air.

Darlene Gregory, board chairwoman of the Uptown Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), is excited to see new construction in the area.

“UNI welcomes and encourages development of Central City,” said Gregory, referring to what city planners collectively call the uptown, downtown and Corpus Christi Beach areas of town. “Revitalization in any form is a win not only for the community, but for the entire city.”

Located at Leopard Street and Palm Drive across the street from Miller High School, the project is expected to be completed by Fall 2014. North Side Manor will be demolished if the city has no use for the buildings.