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Largo wants brownfields designation to redevelop chosen areas

In an effort to spur economic development, Largo is requesting that a large swath of the city be designated a brownfield redevelopment area.

Brownfield sites are typically abandoned, idle or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by environmental contamination. The designation is primarily used as a tool by local governments to qualify for state and federal grants.

"It's an opportunity to have an area get re-energized and to encourage developers to come in, especially in the commercial areas," said Teresa Brydon, Largo's economic development manager. "It allows developers to come into an existing site, revitalize it and create an opportunity where we are not going into the green space and building out when we don't need to."

Largo is asking for the designation in the Clearwater/Largo Road and West Bay community redevelopment districts, the Missouri Avenue commercial corridor and a cluster of other city owned properties.

A third public hearing on the request is scheduled for July 1. If the Largo City Commission approves, then it would be passed to the Pinellas County Commission. County commissioners could approve the resolution at their Aug. 5 meeting.

"It's a good program to get the redevelopment areas to spark some interests," said Tom Morrissette, Largo/Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce president. "No developers are knocking down doors. This just provides additional incentives to get property owners to clean up their property and get them ready."

Morrissette said Largo business owners in the proposed sites were pleased to know that they could opt out of the brownfields program if they choose to.

Being designated a brownfields redevelopment area doesn't mean that there is contamination. It's the perception of contamination that allows the designation.

"It's another tool in the toolbox," said Teri Hasbrouck, Pinellas County's business development manager for the brownfields program.

Hasbrouck noted that nearly all of Duval County is designated as a brownfield area. In addition, Clearwater and St. Petersburg have large areas that have been successful in attracting state and federal grants as a result of being declared brownfields.

Clearwater — the first state-designated brownfields area — has pulled in more than $4-million in state and federal grants. Some 70 private sector projects and 17 city-related projects have used brownfields grant funding in the city.

St. Petersburg's enterprise zone, which includes large portions of downtown and areas of Midtown, have been named brownfields.

"It's something we market and it catches the eyes of developers and businesses," said Dave Goodwin, St. Petersburg's economic development director. "A number of companies have taken advantage to remain, or expand in the city."

Some of the benefits for a company include a job creation tax credit. If 20 percent of a project is affordable housing, the developer could receive a sales tax refund for the materials used on the affordable housing component.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 dalee@sptimes.com

Largo wants brownfields designation to redevelop chosen areas 06/28/08 [Last modified: Sunday, June 29, 2008 1:18pm]
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