‘We are a family,’ Tenants say Cocoa apartment complex manager creates a sense of community

Rose Garden Apartments were once known for crime, violence

The Rose Garden Apartments in Cocoa look like they’re stuck in time. The exposed cinder block and a flat roof are telltale signs of the era in which it was built.

Tall palms cast long shadows in the center courtyard and tenants Lisa Wilkins and David Shaver talk and enjoy a cup of coffee on the second-floor balcony. A light breeze keeps them cool in the shade.

“This place has come a long way,” Wilkins said.

“You wouldn’t believe the change,” Shaver added.

The 60s era apartment complex offers affordable housing and a sense of community to the people who live there.

Residents say the clean, safe environment is, in part, because of their property manager, Robin Magnelli.

Magnelli and her Husband Rico have been managing the property for four years. The couple has built a sense of community by attending to the residents’ needs, keeping up with repairs, and to hear Wilkins tell it, always having a smile on their face.

“She juggles so much and she always has a smile on her face,” Wilkins said. “They make you feel like you’re people. It’s not a friend thing, they’re just people who care. That’s what this place is all about.”

Magnelli says things weren’t always so peaceful at 826 Rosa L. Jones Drive. She can point to holes in a wall and railing that can be attributed to gun fire.

“I think it’s like an oasis in a desert,” Magnelli said. " There’s a lot of crime or bad things that may be a little bit north of us, and used to be here, but it’s not here anymore and we’d like to keep it that way.” she said with a smile.

Magnelli credits an investment in the property and the relationships she’s built with the people who live here. Tenants make up a diverse mix including students, retirees, a professional tennis player and a Hindu priest.

“We have a good relationship with all the tenants and one of the key components to that is listening, so when they have something to say we listen and respond and we don’t do the minimum. These are people and this is their home.”

Wilkins nominated Magnelli for the Getting Results Award. Writing that Magnelli is a cheerleader for the residents. Encouraging them to continue their education, find higher-paying jobs and she’s even worked with city planners to improve parking conditions.

“She cares about this place, she’s proud of what she does it’s her baby,” Wilkins said.

Treddor Melvin has been living at The Rose Garden Apartments for a little more than six years. She says she feels safe there because it feels like a family where everyone knows one another.

“We are a unit,” Melvin said. “If I see something I’m going to say something. If they see something they’re going to say something.”

Magnelli stood on the second-floor stairwell looking down on tropical plants, poinsettias, lemon trees that she planted. The scene could be an analogy for the apartments themselves. A little work and attention can go a long way.

“It used to be just dirt,” magnelli said. “But the beautiful red color in the holiday season is happy and makes everybody laugh.”

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.