DUNEDIN — Downtown Dunedin's Main Street has evolved over the last two decades from a state road lined by a few faded buildings to a winding, walkable street featuring appealing restaurants and shops that attract residents and tourists.
That positive change will continue thanks to the Pinellas County Commission's approval of a city request for a 15-year extension of its Community Redevelopment Agency tax increment financing beyond 2018.
Under tax increment financing, any taxes collected on increased property values can be plowed into redevelopment of the downtown rather than going back to into local government coffers.
In Dunedin's case, that means roughly $4.3 million could be raised for beautification projects over the course of the 15-year extension, which expires in 2033.
"Having that steady revenue source ... has really served us well," said Dunedin economic development director Bob Ironsmith, adding that the money helps make downtown nice for residents and tourists, as well as setting the stage for growth.
"It creates a fertile environment for private investment to come in and do adaptive reuse on buildings," Ironsmith said. "We still have 20 acres of land downtown so there's a lot to be done."
First implemented in 1988, Ironsmith said, the city and county's combined CRA programs have already raised nearly $6 million for Dunedin through 2011. The transformation has been amazing.
In the 1980s, Main Street downtown was designated as State Road 580 and "had no ambience, no landscaping, benches, lighting," Ironsmith said. "It really just catered to moving traffic from point A to point B, and nothing else."
SR 580 was rerouted around downtown, removing high-speed traffic. Today, visitors to Main Street are greeted by brick sidewalks, decorative lighting, shaded benches and dozens of storefronts and restaurants.
The CRA funding has contributed to enhancements to the Pinellas Trail, downtown parking and the undergrounding of overhead utility lines.
City officials say their partnership with the county will help them implement revitalization efforts under the recently approved 2033 downtown master plan, parking study and downtown waterfront corridor study.
The first major initiative, Ironsmith said, will be the construction of two mixed-use parking structures with retail envisioned for the west and east ends of Main Street. Other key projects include marina improvements and a promenade linking downtown to the waterfront.
The extension of the program past 2018, Ironsmith said, is especially timely given the strain on city budgets everywhere.
"Each million dollars of new taxable value translates to $8,300 (in revenue). So the better the downtown does and the more taxable value goes up as the result of an additional project, the more money goes toward the CRA," Ironsmith said. "It's a big deal."
In 2025, Pinellas County will do a mid-term review and determine whether to honor the funding extension through 2033.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (727) 445-4153, or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.