Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Largo considers downtown development incentives

RECOMMENDED READING


LARGO — For more than a decade, the city has been trying to transform the West Bay Drive area into a bustling downtown district. The sluggish economy of recent years certainly hasn't helped.

Now that the economy is starting to pick up, Largo officials are preparing to offer businesses and property owners a series of incentives in a renewed attempt to foster the creation of offices, homes and storefronts in the district.

At this point, downtown's retail sector is outpacing the development of offices and housing.

"We're doing a great job right now with our retail space. It's all starting to fill in," said Teresa Brydon, Largo's economic development manager. "Hopefully, private developers are going to come in and say, 'Your downtown is really starting to fill up.'

"It's becoming a lot harder to find a vacant retail space in our downtown. They're pretty much booked up. We've got that, but we also want to add that office component to it."

Officials have been considering a series of four incentives:

• Grants to encourage the construction of apartments, condos and townhomes. The grants would amount to $5,000 per unit, or 5 percent of the land and construction costs, whichever is higher — up to $10,500 per unit.

• Grants to expedite the construction of office space in the district. This would include mixed-used projects with at least 15,000 square feet of offices. The amount of each grant would depend on a formula that takes into the account the taxable value of new construction. The grants could only be used for public improvements such as landscaping, lighting, bike racks, sidewalks, drainage and parking lots.

• Small grants of $200 to help businesses replace their pole signs with monument signs. The city says 17 pole signs along West Bay in the district are required to be replaced by 2017.

• A job creation incentive that would reimburse employers up to $10,000 for each professional office job they add to the district.

Largo staffers and the City Commission have been honing these ideas at several work sessions over the past year, including one last week. Commissioners will vote on the incentives at a public meeting soon.

They plan to allocate $80,000 to kick off the program in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The money will come from tax increment funds raised in Largo's downtown community development district.

The incentives are designed to cut costs for developers and lure them downtown.

"It's specifically looking at ways to help lower the costs to come in and redevelop in our downtown — because a lot of times they've got to take down a building," Brydon said, which can cost $6,000 to $10,000. "That's a lot of money when you're talking about going into that location versus going down the street where there's a vacant parcel."

The job creation incentive has been the most controversial one for some city commissioners.

"I don't see the public good as much as I do with the other incentives," commissioner Robert Murray said. "With the others, I see concrete public good coming out of the incentives. There's infrastructure, there's buildings, improvements to the landscape. A business is not going to put somebody on the payroll until the demand is there."

Mayor Pat Gerard had similar concerns.

But they recently decided to support it after reviewing examples of similar programs in Lakeland, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

"More jobs in the downtown bring higher sales for existing retailers and restaurants that are there in the district," Brydon said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.

Comments
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 5 hours ago
SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

SOCom asking rifle makers for single weapon to serve many sniper roles

When Ryan Cleckner was an Army Ranger sniper in Afghanistan, he had as many as nine rifles he would use in different situations. But whenever a mission would evolve quickly, he would have to choose which ones to lug onto a helicopter. Even narrowing ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Basketball: USF Bulls bounce back with rout of Howard; FSU, Miami win

TAMPA — Three nights after running out of steam in a loss at Indiana, USF had enough to steamroll Howard of the MEAC.A 17-1 run late in the first half helped the Bulls to a 75-52 win Wednesday before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,080. USF (3-2) he...
Updated: 7 hours ago
From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

From USF-UCF, to UF-FSU, to Alabama-Auburn, it’s a busy college football Thanksgiving weekend

 
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

TAMPA — The Bucs have some positive momentum with back-to-back wins, but DT Gerald McCoy said it’s too soon to say his 4-6 team has turned a corner."We haven’t turned a corner yet," McCoy said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. "It’s ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Across country, small retailers aim for emotional ties big chains may lack

Associated PressSome smaller retailers will tug at shoppers’ heartstrings during the holidays, trying to create an emotional experience or connection that a big national chain might not provide.Store owners are going well beyond the usual holiday dec...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Nov. 22, midday:76 001 3688e_SRit36220Wed., Nov. 22, evening:18 535 9156e_SRit57364LottoWed., Nov....
Updated: 8 hours ago

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Updated: 8 hours ago