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Tampa mayor fishes for state money to boost affordable-housing project

TAMPA — With hopes of jump-starting a stalled redevelopment project on the edge of downtown, Mayor Pam Iorio on Tuesday led a delegation of Tampa-area officials into Gov. Charlie Crist's office to make a bold pitch in the depths of a recession: $6 million to help begin construction on the Encore.

The project is set to be built on a 28-acre site between downtown and Ybor City that once held the Central Park Village public housing complex.

"He couldn't have been more positive," Iorio said after the visit with the governor. Crist's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The city and its partners, which include the Tampa Housing Authority and Bank of America, asked Crist to allocate state stimulus money to the project.

They want the money to bolster an application for $38 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with $28 million of that going to Encore.

Central Park Village was demolished in 2008. Plans call for building more than 1,500 residential units, many of them renting at below-market prices, along with offices, shops, a hotel and a middle school.

But the project was hobbled by the downturn in the credit markets and a Florida Supreme Court decision that restricted funding sources for such projects.

Iorio said it's important to make good on a pledge to residents who were displaced when Central Park Village was razed.

"We made a promise to them that we would revitalize Central Park Village and if they wanted to come back, they could come back and have a better place to live," she said.

She also sees it as a linchpin in boosting the area's economy, with its build-out in the next two years creating 4,103 construction jobs.

Iorio believes the result will be a national model for sustainable urban redevelopment, one block from the city's planned regional light rail system.

"The project needs this infrastructure money," Iorio said.

With Iorio on the visit were Jerome Ryans, head of the Tampa Housing Authority, a Bank of America official and two lobbyists who represent the Tampa law firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff and Sitterson.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa mayor fishes for state money to boost affordable-housing project 06/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:22pm]
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