After several years and several failed attempts, The Tampa Housing Authority Board of directors gathered this afternoon at Stetson Law school to have their first look at the newest proposal for what will replace the central park housing projects. Less than 3 weeks before a county commission vote which will determine if the plan can move forward, there is cautious optimism that the poverty stricken area will be replaced by a mix of housing and help change the image of inner city Tampa. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer has the story.

ACT-Ryans “Were looked at several, were still looking at it, and it will be great..�

Tampa Housing Authority President Jerome Ryans opened the meeting by letting the board know that no details have been decided and the afternoon was just to listen to the new proposal and ask questions. As recently as a few months ago, Plans to redevelop central park were for 60 acres, but after Don Wallace and Bill Bishop, the lead developers, were unable to purchase much of the land, the plans have been scaled down to 28 acres. Wallace is still involved however.

ACT-Don Wallace “This is just a concept, were not here to try and sell it or ram it down somebody’s throat..�

The area to be developed is Between Nebraska and Orange avenues, bordered on the south by Cass and on the north by the interstate. Along Orange Avenue, Perry Harvey Park would be redeveloped, and would be come the gateway to the new community. Jim Graley, senior development officer at Bank of America said that one of the centerpieces f the proposal was the restoration of the St James Church, which would be turned into an African American history museum, to celebrate the history of the area.

ACT-Jim “Respect for neighborhood history should be reflected, artwork, we need to learn more, we find doing is crucial, we are trying to recreate a community and bring in new folks, and history is part of the draw..�

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio came in half way through the presentation, and she spoke at the end of the meeting about the need for the Tampa city council and the Hillsborough county commission to approve the proposed Community Revitalization area, and Tax Increment Financing, both designations that will bring tax money to assist in redeveloping the area.

ACT “On June 7th the city will be asking, it will likely be the last, I cant think of any more TIFs its the last we have found as blight..I think its important that designation is for 143 acres, just as with channel district you designate a larger area, and it’s a 30 year plan, the CRA we get the potential of a jumpstart of a 28 acre project, and so when we go before the commission June 7th, its about a larger piece of the community..�

The plan envisions a wide variety of prices for rentals and home ownership, with 2,030 total residential units, up to 800 of which will be affordable. Up to 1,250 will be condo and town homes for sale. Roxanne Emeroso was the head of an 8-person team from Bank of America, which presented the new proposal. She said that Environmental and construction permits, and right of ways will all be obtained by 2008, Construction could begin as early as 2007, and would be completed in 2010.

ACT-Roxanne ‘The first and foremost is the CRA an TIF, without it, no redevelopment, its totally unfeesable..CRA and TIF, without is redevelopment can not occur..�

Besides the history museum, the proposal calls for 8 main structures. The first would be a 160-unit 9 story building for seniors to rent apartments, with everything priced as “affordable housing.� 4 more buildings would hold rental housing; two would be 9 stories, and two would be 7 stories. All 4 buildings would have a 4 story parking garage. There would be 3 buildings with apartments for sale; one 8 stories high an second designed for your professional would be 26 stories high, and a third designed to be purchased by retirees. Finally a 4-story building would be built to hold the offices of the Tampa Housing authority. All the residential buildings would mix low, moderate and high-income residents. One member of the board asked Emeroso about the need for a school.

ACT-Roxanne “We’ve been speaking with the Hillsborough board of ed, we’ve asked to get Meacham to relocate and swap land, there are 2 elementary schools, they said they need a middle school so we are working with them to develop middle school.

There would also be recreation rooms and computer labs in each of the buildings, 35,000 square feet of total retail space on the ground floors, and 50,000 total square feet of office space. Jon Sabechea, Bank of Americas Southeast regional asset manager, said the types of tenants they seen in their similar developments in Orlando and Charlotte are what they envision for Tampa.

ACT-Jon “The tenants we see are local tenants, not incubator, they have established themselves, looking for second location, you might get national brands, it took time to get national brands, when you are pioneering it takes time to get starbucks, circle k, but we’ve seen a pizza shop, pharmacy, clothing designer,

Some of the concerns raised by the board members were the fact that the park is located along a busy road, and that the high buildings will tempt children to play with the elevators. Jon Sabechea, Bank of Americas Southeast regional asset manager, said that swipe cards will probably be used instead of keys to get into the buildings, and to keep track of who is going in and out and when.

ACT-Jon “Were looking to put in elevators, we want residents and if there are any damages we can go back through the cardswipe program ..they will push rules to limits, we show enforcement they residents fall in line..�

Housing Authority board chair Dr Hazel Harvey said she still has concerns that the buildings are too tall, and the overall community is too dense.

ACT “I would like for you to think about can we not have density with poor people and from a sociological point of view, you don’t put masses of poor people together, lets think about less residents and less stories..�

There would be a maximum of just over 2000 residents. Concerns were raised that there would be no meeting space big enough to host a meeting of the entire community, which Emeroso responded to by saying residents could use a neighborhood church. When asked about the possibly of building a wall to protect the children playing near the road, Emeroso said they don’t like to build walls, because it generally keeps people from leaving, but if the residents want it, she’s open to the idea of having a gated community. There were also questions about a supermarket, which Miles Vaughn, senior vice president for Bank of Americas community Development Corporation responded to.

ACT “If you bring in the rooftops they will come, dry cleaners, targets, its difficult to entice them at this juncture, then you can begin to dialogue, lets talk about it,..�

Iorio called central park an important link into making Tampa a seamless city, as they are between Ybor, downtown, and Tampa Heights. After the workshop, WMNF asked Mayor Iorio if she though the county commission would approve the TIF and CRA, something which they refused to do in 2004, when they complained that they were given short notice.

ACT-Iorio “All the indications we’ve received have been positive, Scott was part of committee that unlike the quick time frame, I think it’s a totally different situation….unlike Civitas when the project was the CRA< this time the CRA goes beyond just Civitas…INFORMAL POLL..last time it was 4 to 3 and having one about it differently I would hope a majority of commissioner go with it.�

Iorio said the county commission vote could be put off as late as June 21st. The Tampa Housing Authority holds their next board meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd, at which they plan to discuss the new proposal

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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