TAMPA — The Tampa Housing Authority on Wednesday chose a private sector team led by a St. Louis-based developer to help plan the demolition and redevelopment of the North Boulevard Homes and Mary Bethune public housing complexes in West Tampa.
Housing authority commissioners also voted to pay the team, headed by the firm McCormack Baron Salazar, up to $350,000 to develop a master plan for 140 acres west of the Hillsborough River.
The vote to hire McCormack Baron, which specializes in developing mixed-income urban neighborhoods, was unanimous. The housing authority feels "strongly that great things will come from this partnership for both our residents and the city of Tampa," authority president Jerome Ryans said in announcing the decision.
The housing authority's plan is meant to cover an area — four-fifths of which is in government ownership — mostly north of Interstate 275, south of Columbus Drive and west from the river to Rome Avenue. The study area includes 7,200 feet of river frontage and:
• The Housing Authority's North Boulevard Homes and Mary Bethune public housing complexes, which cover more than 40 acres.
• The city's 23-acre Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and a 12-acre city truck yard just a block from the river.
• Four public schools: Dunbar and Just elementaries, Stewart Middle and Blake High.
McCormack Baron's team was ranked highest of five bidders by an evaluation panel that included officials from the housing authority, city, Hillsborough County and the school district, plus residents of the apartments to be razed. McCormack Baron has developed nearly 16,600 homes and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space in 36 cities across 18 states.
Its partners for the project include AECOM, a Fortune 500 Los Angeles-based consulting firm that already is working for the city of Tampa on a $1.4 million project to create a plan for downtown Tampa and its connections to surrounding neighborhoods. McCormack Baron's team also includes firms, mostly from Hillsborough County, specializing in architecture, engineering, transportation and communications.
Work on the housing authority's master plan is expected to begin in the next few weeks and to focus on the publicly owned land first. Officials say the planning will include neighborhood workshops and other forums.
North Boulevard Homes was built in 1941, making it the authority's oldest complex, and is home to 1,700 people. Already, the housing authority has begun meeting with residents there to discuss the plan, the timetable for redevelopment and residents' options for relocation. For now, the authority has no concrete plans or resources in place to move any residents.
The master plan is expected to be complete in the first three months of next year. After that, local officials plan to seek public funding, such as federal housing grants, as well as private financing for the project.
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The overall redevelopment of the area could take seven to 10 years.
"I recognize the impact that these predominantly public land holdings can have on transforming our community," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement released through the housing authority. "I believe that comprehensively master planning those areas will stimulate significantly larger investment in the greater West Tampa area."