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City Council approves West Tampa redevelopment plan

Published Jun. 11, 2015

TAMPA — With a low rate of homeownership and a median household income less than half the city's average, West Tampa could use a boost.

On Thursday, City Council members approved a plan to do just that, creating a new community redevelopment area, or CRA, for 964 acres bordered by the Hillsborough River on the east, Columbus Drive on the north, Armenia Avenue on the west and Kennedy Boulevard on the south.

Meeting as Tampa's community redevelopment agency, council members unanimously approved the plan after an officer of the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce, property owners and residents supported it.

"We are ready for redevelopment," said longtime resident and businessman Joe Robinson. He told council members he'd like to be able to order a pizza to be delivered to his home. He said he'd also like to walk down Main Street in West Tampa at night without having to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

"It is a slum and blighted area in certain spots, and it needs an infusion of some opportunity and some resources to change," Robinson said. "It's not going to change on its own."

The West Tampa CRA area is home to 9,374 people living in 3,400 households, 70 percent of which are rentals. Two-thirds of the area's are black, 25 percent white and about a fifth identify as Hispanic. The median household income is just under $19,000 a year. Citywide, it's about $43,000 a year.

The CRA will work like similar redevelopment areas that the city has established for downtown, Ybor City, the Channel District, East Tampa, Drew Park and the Tampa Heights Riverfront.

First, the city will add up the value of property inside the CRA. In the future, property taxes generated by the growth in property values above that baseline will be directed back into public projects meant to foster more redevelopment in the area.

The redevelopment funds must be used inside the area where they were generated, and the West Tampa plan outlines a variety of uses for that money, including putting in public infrastructure like water lines and better drainage, acquiring, clearing, rehabilitating and preparing sites for development, providing incentives for development of former industrial sites (often known as brownfields) and improving the transportation network.

The city drafted the plan with participation from two community meetings in April as well as other feedback from residents, property owners and others.

The West Tampa CRA is generally residential, with businesses along its bigger roads and an industrial area in the area of Rome Avenue and Cypress Street.

The new CRA does include the 120 acres that City Hall and the Tampa Housing Authority have targeted with a separate "West River" plan. That plan calls for demolishing more than 800 public housing apartments at North Boulevard Homes and the Mary Bethune High Rise tower, something expect to begin in late 2016. In their place, local officials plan to build twice as many dwellings, both subsidized and those that rent or sell for prices set by the market.

The West River plan also calls for reworking streets to make them more walkable, to open more public access to the river, to build mid-rise apartments on 12 acres south of Columbus Drive where the city now parks utility trucks and to create new areas for commercial development at intersections like Rome and Main and where an extended Willow Avenue would meet the river.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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