NEW PORT RICHEY — Looking for ways to improve commercial corridors that need refreshing, the Pasco County Commission approved a landscaping grant program for areas in need of redevelopment, including the U.S. 19 corridor.
They set aside $500,000 for the grants, which will allow businesses to purchase plants and trees for their properties.
Funding will come from the county’s tree mitigation program, fees collected when developers cannot fully compensate for trees removed from a site with new landscaping. The program allows for finding additional funding sources in the future.
Numerous business owners have told the county that they have had to delay or cancel redevelopment projects because of requirements they couldn’t afford to bring their project up to the current code requirements, according to a memo to the commission from David Engel, the county’s economic growth manager.
Proper landscaping would benefit these blighted commercial areas, but studies also show that sprucing up the site can be an improvement for business, he said.
“First impressions are important,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano.
He said he was happy to see the project come forward, because he has heard the story again and again as people try to take worn out properties and make them attractive and vibrant again. “Redevelopment is hard,” Mariano said. “You’ve got to go spend a lot of money. It can get expensive.”
Under the redevelopment landscaping grant program, business owners will be able to get up to a $20,000 grant but will also have to commit to a match of other site improvements worth at least 20 percent of their grant to secure the funding. That could be external redevelopment projects including facade improvements and painting, restriping and/or repaving of parking areas, and new business signage conforming to county codes.
The grant funds cannot be used for labor, dirt, mulch or irrigation systems, according to the program rules. Businesses must also provide the county with the landscaping plan, which includes an inventory of the specific trees and plants to be included and must commit to maintaining the plantings for the next five years.
The grants are available for commercially-zoned properties located in designated areas of Pasco County where more than 25 percent of the households are low and moderate income. Redevelopment in those areas is a goal of the county’s strategic plan.
For more information about the grant program, contact the Pasco Office of Economic Growth, at (727) 815-7092.