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Clearwater takes first step in bringing renaissance to North Greenwood

If approved, a new Community Redevelopment Area could direct millions of dollars to a struggling neighborhood of more than 6,000 residents.
Vacant buildings line Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Clearwater's Greenwood neighborhood on Jan. 6, 2020, including the former theater building seen in the background.
Vacant buildings line Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Clearwater's Greenwood neighborhood on Jan. 6, 2020, including the former theater building seen in the background. [ Times (2020) ]
Published Jan. 13|Updated Jan. 13

CLEARWATER — City officials took the first step on Thursday toward what they hope will be an economic renaissance in the North Greenwood neighborhood.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a Community Redevelopment Area plan and its trust fund, which will direct tax revenue to support business, housing, public safety and quality of life initiatives.

The plan will require approval from the Pinellas County Commission and the state. But, if finalized, it’s expected to funnel $28.6 million in property taxes over the next 20 years to a struggling area that once was a vibrant hub of Black entrepreneurship in the city.

Members of the Clearwater Urban Leadership Coalition began to encourage city and county officials in 2019 to create a redevelopment area in North Greenwood.

“We look forward to great things happening,” coalition member Gloria Campbell said after the City Council chambers erupted in applause with the vote.

For community redevelopment areas, a trust fund is created with a base year to set the floor of taxable value. As property values in the area increase every 12 months, the amount above the base year, or the “increment,” is allocated to the trust fund.

This so-called tax increment financing revenue must be spent on projects that reduce blight. The city also allocated $5 million of its COVID-19 relief funds toward the creation of the fund.

The community redevelopment area encompasses 840 acres and is bounded roughly by Sunset Point Road to the north, Kings Highway to the east, Palmetto and Jones streets to the south and North Osceola Avenue to the west.

The proposed North Greenwood Community Redevelopment Area encompasses 840 acres and is bounded roughly by Sunset Point Road to the north, Kings Highway to the east, Palmetto and Jones streets to the south and North Osceola Avenue to the west.
The proposed North Greenwood Community Redevelopment Area encompasses 840 acres and is bounded roughly by Sunset Point Road to the north, Kings Highway to the east, Palmetto and Jones streets to the south and North Osceola Avenue to the west. [ City of Clearwater ]

Those boundaries include small areas just outside the traditional North Greenwood neighborhood but will help generate revenue as redevelopment occurs. The city expects roughly $100 million of investment over the next few years in the Old Bay neighborhood southeast of North Greenwood, which will contribute to the tax increment, according to planning manager Jayme Lopko.

The area is home to 6,619 residents, including about 27% who live in poverty, according to the plan. In some blocks where restaurants and shops thrived in the 1960s, there now are vacant lots and empty buildings.

The plan outlines the increment tax revenue to be spent on initiatives focused on housing, economic development, mobility and poverty reduction. This includes one-time emergency financial assistance for individuals, sidewalk and trail improvements, mentoring and apprenticeship programs, rental assistance, affordable housing development and business programs.

A Citizens Advisory Committee will be established, with three members appointed by the city council and two by the county xommission. The committee will make recommendations to the council members on the annual budget, adoption of programs and new initiatives.

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In a previous interview, Campbell, with the Clearwater Urban Leadership Coalition, said the idea for the community redevelopment area in Clearwater stemmed from a 2013 county study that identified North Greenwood as one of the five most impoverished areas in Pinellas.