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Sun Key Apartment Residents Forced to Relocate

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Every other morning, Shing Jun Li sets up breakfast for his children.

He scrambles eggs, fries bacon and pours juice and milk into brightly colored cups.

Once he has completed the meal, he serves the food on a small table he sets up on the sidewalk in front of his two-bedroom apartment

“In China we like to eat outside,” Li, 41, said. “The babies love to run around in the morning.”

Neighbors walk past with smiles, waving at Li and his two girls as they have breakfast in the middle of the Sun Key and Sun Harbor apartment complex in Gainesville.

The neighbors call him Mr. Mom.

“I love that they have family time outside,” said Deanna Wright, 32, a Sun Key resident. “I think it is cool that they feel comfortable enough to do that here.”

Deanna Wright (right) and Larry Rosalez prepare coffee in Apt. 66, a two bedroom and one bathroom apartment at Sunkey Apartments. Lauren Jadotte / WUFT News
Deanna Wright (right) and Larry Rosalez prepare coffee in Apt. 66, a two bedroom and one bathroom apartment at Sunkey Apartments. Lauren Jadotte / WUFT News

Joy Oglesbee, the property manager of Sun Key and Sun Harbor apartments, said residents refer to Li as Mr. Mom because he raises the family’s two daughters, Stephanie and Sophia Li, while their mother pursues her post doctorate degree at the University of Florida.

“He does everything from cooking to hand washing clothes. He’s a good dad and kind of a neighborhood hero,” Oglesbee said. “It’s amazing how much he is able to give to those girls.”

On Monday, Mr. Mom will care for his children in a different city. He and his wife are packing up their apartment and moving to their new home in Boston, where she will continue her degree. 

“I am just worried for them in that big city,” Oglesbee said. “People that are kind like him (Mr.Mom) are taken advantage of in cities, and I’d hate to see that happen.”

Mr. Mom and his family are just one of the multiple residents relocating after the apartment complex unofficially announced its closing.

“I didn’t receive any official notice or anything,” said Ned Catari, who has lived at Sun Key for 13 years. “All I know is that I wasn’t given an option to renew my lease.”

The property is still in the process of being purchased from YMP Real Estate by Landmark Properties, according to Oglesbee. The sale will be finalized on July 18. Afterwards, an official explanation will be given to residents.

Initially, the move out date for tenants was April 30, but has been extended to July 31, said Susan Stewart, the previous property manager of Sun Key. Stewart has since become the property manager of the Sun Bay Apartment complex.

“I just hope that they do something nice with the space,” Stewart said. “I’d really hope to see some innovation, but judging on how things are developing I doubt that’ll happen.”

Sun Key and Sun Harbor Apartments, which were built in 1966, was considered innovative for its time, according to Stewart. Aspects of the buildings structure such as the high ceilings, large windows, the open space design of the living room and kitchen area still make the complex relevant today.

“They used to call this place Sin City because it was the spot to be at in the ‘60s,” Oglesbee said. “The pool was a particular hot spot. Everyone in town would hang out there.”

Today, the pool that was once a vibrant aquamarine blue has now adopted a yellowish-green hue.

“The parking lot is so empty,” Wright said. “It looks completely different now than it did in February.”

Larry Rosalez, who has lived at Sun Key for 2 years, said he is most concerned with finding an apartment complex that will offer him similar prices. Currently, his portion of the rent for his two bedroom and one bathroom apartment is $240.

Rosalez said he and his roommate, Johnny, inherited the rate overtime due to special deals Sun Key has offered in the past through referrals.

“I’ve been spoiled here at Sun Key,” Rosalez said. “I don’t think I am going to find anything else like it.”

Rosalez said he is looking into moving to Sun Bay. However, he is unsure about what he will do. Many of the residents at Sun Key have made the move over to Sun Bay, according to Stewart.

“I don’t know where to go and what to do,” Catari said. “ All I can do is wait for a sign from God and follow the sun.”

About Lauren Jadotte

Lauren is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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