Great, great, great grandmother Cora Haynes was the ambassador of Richard Allen Gardens during a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the $1 million renovation of the housing complex.

The 95-year-old dressed in a celery green suit and white straw hat showed off her garden of collard greens, peppers and tomatoes outside her apartment door. The 13-year resident raved about her new apartment and asked if she could buy the place.

“I love that everything is new,” said Haynes. “It’s beautiful and I love it.”

Through a partnership with the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, the City of Orlando renovated all 30 units of the housing complex, including the conversion of two ground floor apartments into one bedroom and one bath handicapped accessible units.

The apartments were gutted and new air conditioners, water heaters, kitchen cabinets, appliances and fixtures were added to the complex, which was built in 1979.

The public gathering spaces were landscaped and the contractors saved Haynes garden cordoned off with a white picket fence,

Mayor Buddy Dyer pointed to the improvements as another sign of the transformation and revitalization of the Parramore neighborhood.

“We want to make sure we have quality, safe and affordable housing for everyone,” Dyer said.

Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents the district, introduced herself as “a daughter of Parramore,” who grew up sharing a bedroom on the west side of town.

“Parramore is on the rise,” Hill said. “Ms. Cora did not have to go to her glory in a dilapidated building.”

Valerie Golden moved back into an apartment with her daughter, Sharonda Gamble, who remembers her mother never letting her and her two siblings play outside because of the dangers of drugs in the neighborhood.

“It’s safe and secure now,” said Golden, 50. “I come home at night and don’t feel on edge. I don’t even mind telling people where I live now.”

The apartments were named for Richard Allen, who was born into slavery in 1760 and became an educator, writer, minister and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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