TAMPA — Less than three weeks before a deadline, the Straz Center has secured a two-month extension to fulfill its contractual requirements with the city for its multimillion-dollar expansion.
Tampa’s downtown Community Redevelopment Area committed $25 million in 2021 for the waterfront, art mecca’s $100 million renovation, which includes new event and outdoor spaces and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Riverwalk.
The City Council approved the art center’s extension request 5-2 Thursday midday, acting as the board of Tampa’s eight community redevelopment areas, which are state-designated and retain tax money generated within their boundaries to fund future development to reduce “slum and blight.”
“The estimates are coming back higher than originally projected,” Erica Moody, Tampa’s Community Redevelopment Agency director said at Thursday’s meeting. “We are working with them to bring the project within the original budget scope.”
City Deputy Administrator of Development and Economic Opportunity Alis Drumgo added the center was facing inflation and supply-chain related delays.
The agreement between the Straz and the community redevelopment area required, among other things, the center to submit a final plan for the project, a construction budget, a fundraising plan or a community benefits agreement by Oct. 1. The center now has until Dec. 1.
The city funds were set to be distributed over a five-year period beginning October 2021, but none can be spent until the agreement conditions are met.
“I don’t like it,” council member Gwen Henderson, whose seat represents East Tampa, Ybor City, downtown and part of West Tampa, said at Thursday’s meeting. She added she’d preferred to hear from Straz officials about progress they have made, rather than the request be added to the agenda just a few days prior.
Under the extension agreement, the Straz will provide the City Council with a project update Nov. 9.
Joining Henderson in voting no was council member Luis Viera, whose district includes northern and New Tampa. He voiced his opposition to the size of the funding commitment back in 2021, telling the Tampa Bay Times: “What we could spend it on in downtown Tampa? Imagine — we could spend funds to improve the streetcar. We could spend these funds on affordable downtown housing.”
Consistent with that, he said Thursday, he could not support the extension. “But again, I want to be very, very clear I’m not urging people to vote it down.”