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Tampa city leaders looking into gradually ending the Channel District CRA and capping funds Downtown

Posted at 6:21 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 09:12:32-04

TAMPA, Fla. — After years of major growth, the Community Redevelopment Agency board wants to look into gradually ending the Channel District CRA and capping funds in the Downtown District.

“Each of the CRAs have very different circumstances that they came from, they have very different development patterns and needs, so each of them have evolved at their own rate within their own challenges,” said CRA Director Michelle VanLoan.

Some Tampa city leaders say they’re worried poorer parts of the city aren’t getting the money they need to thrive in comparison to other areas.

Councilman Bill Carlson made a motion last week and those proposals were approved by city leaders to look into gradually capping funds downtown and shutting down the Channel District CRA.

If a plan to sunset the Channel District CRA is approved, it could free up millions of dollars that city leaders want to redirect toward areas like East Tampa, Sulphur Springs and the Uptown District.

“East Tampa is challenged by a lot of single-family residential so you don’t have that opportunity to put in a lot of that high rise density you see in Channel District,” said VanLoan.

The CRA considers the Channel Side area to be the city’s most successful CRA in terms of evolution over a short period of time.

“Channel district is just that shining example of what success looks like and very fast success,” said VanLoan.

CRA leaders say there are very few lots left to develop in the channel district and they’re running out of land and streets to improve.

Now CRA staff are looking into how it could sunset the Channel District before it completes its designated 30 years, due to the success of the area.

“We’re looking at here’s already what’s on the books, here’s what we need to continue to finish, here’s what we’ve committed to. Many of these street projects are in design and then we have the construction costs. The timeline around that is Fiscal Year 21, Fiscal Year 22 when these projects would be completed,” said VanLoan.

CRA leaders haven’t had a chance to meet with the communities yet, to talk about what projects will need to be done before potentially shutting down and reducing funds.

“There are a couple of projects that could still be decided by the CRA board,”said VanLoan.

VanLoan says this will be a complicated issue. It will likely take up to a year to process all the legal documents and ordinances needed to make this happen.

If the CRA makes the recommendation to city council to sunset the Channel District, it would be up to city council to make the final decision and reallocate funds elsewhere.

“If the city administration and the city council do decide to have an added focus within some of our CRAs and we can leverage dollars for projects, the CRAs will certainly be open to that discussion," said VanLoan.

The CRA believes there’s still more work to be done in the Downtown District.

“There are a lot of streets on the north side of downtown where you still see boarded-up buildings, buildings that are underutilized, they’re older, there’s vacant lots. So that north part of downtown has not seen the full renaissance that the rest of downtown has,” said VanLoan

CRA staff will report back to the board with options on July 23.