Central park townhomes


TAMPA - Feuding city and county officials could not agree in January on a plan to redevelop dilapidated public housing north of downtown.
Now, after federal officials on Thursday turned down a $20 million backup proposal, the city plans to try again to reach a deal with the county for incentives intended to lure developers to Central Park.

This time, the proposal to establish a community redevelopment area wouldn't specifically support Civitas - the company behind a Central Park redevelopment plan derailed in January.

But that doesn't mean Civitas couldn't re-emerge as a key player in bringing new homes and businesses to an area riddled with crime and blight.

The city has had some discussions since January with Civitas as well as other development entities interested in investing in Central Park,

By designating Central Park a redevelopment area, tax money generated there could be tapped to pay for road repairs, water lines and other infrastructure required for new development.

``All we can do is put tools in place and provide a certain level of public leadership,''

Without federal help, it's up to local government to determine how to improve Central Park,

``I feel really bad for the people in Central Park. They deserve better,'' ``There may be a role for us, there may not be.''

The Tampa Housing Authority lost its bid for $20 million from a federal Hope VI revitalization grant to help replace the Central Park Village public housing complex.

Original Plans

The housing authority intended to team with Civitas to pursue the grant as part of a larger proposal to reshape 157 acres between downtown and Ybor City.

Civitas in December unveiled plans to topple public housing and build more than 3,500 homes, including $125,000 lofts and $600,000 town houses.

Mixed-income apartments and other rental units were proposed as replacement housing for residents.

The plan also called for a redevelopment area that could have used tax money generated in Central Park to help pay for an estimated $80 million in infrastructure.

Iorio didn't sign on until the day the plan went before the county commission - less than a week before the grant deadline.

Commissioners complained the city left them out of the process and said they didn't have enough time to consider the plan. It didn't pass.

Iorio said she took the time she needed to consider the plan and that the grant deadline doomed the deal.

``That was the big mistake ... rushing through such complexities,'' Iorio said.

A new redevelopment designation proposal should fare better because it doesn't face a time constraint,

That allows for a more open discussion about what area to target and how to coordinate efforts with the housing authority,

The city and county have already agreed to move forward with redevelopment designations for east Tampa, Ybor City, the Channel District and Drew Park.

County Commission Chairman Tom Scott said this week that he would continue talks with the city about creating a community redevelopment area for Central Park.

Master Plan For Downtown

Pursuing the redevelopment designation would be part of a city effort to include Central Park in a master plan to revitalize downtown with new homes, businesses and arts attractions,

Civitas hasn't decided whether it will get involved again in Central Park development efforts,

His partner, developer, said in January that Civitas would continue planning up to the point when a Hope VI grant was awarded or not.

Civitas representatives preferred to deal with the housing authority free from federal restrictions that come with a grant.

One alternative was to team with an apartment developer and use state tax credits with other federal housing money and private investment dollars to build replacement homes for toppled public housing.

After the Central Park deal fell apart in January, Civitas continued building model homes on Columbus Drive.

Work nears completion on prefabricated steel homes built as examples of what Civitas billed as a pioneering affordable housing alternative it planned to use in Central Park and beyond.

It would be a great example of urban redevelopment in Florida.

October 6, 2004

TAMPA - The Tampa Housing Authority unveiled plans Tuesday to redevelop Central Park Village, a public housing project northeast of downtown.

The proposal calls for selling nearly half of the housing authority's 28 acres at the corner of Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue. Public housing units would be built on the remaining land.

Housing Authority executive director sketched out the concept for board members at a workshop Tuesday. Later this month they plan to give it more formal consideration.

Last year, Central Park was at the center of a proposed 157-acre master-planned community envisioned by Civitas, a for-profit developer. Hillsborough County commissioners crushed the idea in January, refusing to grant tax incentives to get construction going.

The Housing Authority pursued a backup plan, applying for a $20-million federal grant to tear down and rebuild the aging, dilapidated neighborhood, but federal officials rejected that. Now, the authority is taking matters into its own hands.

"We cannot afford to wait,"

The plan would increase the number of public housing units in Central Park from 482 to 590. Renderings of the project show five- and six-story buildings with canopied windows at street level and wide landscaped boulevards.

"It cannot look like affordable housing,"

"It has to look like well-done housing that's occupied by people paying affordable rates."

The parcel developed by the private sector would contain market-rate housing,

The Housing Authority hopes to pay for the $56-million project with $20.9-million in low-income tax credits; $28.7-million from the Hillsborough Financing Authority; $5.8-million acquired through a Housing and Urban Development program that issues $1,100 for each public housing unit demolished; and $1-million in Housing Authority capital funds.

Current residents would be relocated at no cost to themselves, and would be first in line to move into the new buildings.

Some board members questioned the wisdom of forcing more low-income people onto less land and selling valuable real estate.

"Once we sell the land we don't get it back," "That's probably some of the most valuable land in the city."

the sale was necessary in part to create a community of mixed income levels and to generate cash for future projects. The Robles Park and North Boulevard communities also need upgrades,

Board member Toni Riordan also expressed frustration about trying to come up with a plan for Central Park while city officials are in the middle of a "visioning process" for Ybor City and downtown Tampa that doesn't include Central Park, which sits between the two areas.

it's important for Central Park to fit into the neighborhoods around it.

economic development director for the city, said Central Park is being considered as a an "area of influence" in the downtown plan.

"Many people misunderstand what we're doing. They think we're doing a master plan for downtown and we're not," "Really we're looking for specific next-step catalytic projects for our downtown."

The downtown plan focuses on the business district, but "I think you will see some recommendations coming out of the process related to Central Park because they're an influencing area for downtown."

The visioning process includes opportunities for people from the community to offer their opinions,

Board members and Housing Authority staff said they're open to suggestions from county and city officials as well as the private sector. They're making a strong push to get the word out about their plans, which some people believe caused the downfall of the Civitas project.

Tuesday's board meeting, talked about taking out two-page newspaper ads describing the project. Housing officials have already hired a consultant to inform the public of the plan. The authority will outline a timeline for redeveloping Central Park later this month.

president of the Central Park resident association, said the sooner construction begins, the better.

"The residents are tired of the rats, the roaches, the leaking roofs, the dirt, the crime," "It needs to be gone."