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CRA Vision for Next 13 Years

3/07/2013

Over the past years, I have written quite frequently about our CRA...

Over the past years I have written quite frequently about our CRA. The life of our CRA Tax Increment Funding (TIF) approval is for thirty. Our CRA is one of the few in Broward County that is funded with dedicated TIF funding through the city county and other agency tax dollars. This funding stream is set to expire in 13 years.


Over the years we have annually set up projects and programs to address the goals of the CRA through a very broad CRA plan. The plan has been rewritten in the course of 16 plus years with the most recent draft two years ago. We have utilized TIF for targeted infrastructure on Foster Road, land acquisition, affordable housing, business incentives, parks, policing programs, neighborhood improvements and community partnerships; just to name the highlights. All these programs have fit the plan and meet the requirements of state statute.


What has happened is by tackling only small incremental projects within the confines of an annual yearly budget process; the full potential of our CRA has not been realized. What has been done has resulted in good spot projects like Foster Park, Highland Village and Gulfstream, but will not get us where we all want to be in 13 years.


This past Tuesday the Board of Directors held a day long vision session to address our long term goals with more urgency to complete projects that will make a significant tangible impact on the CRA areas. After struggling a bit in the beginning the Board and Staff left the session with a unified set of long term strategic projects to meet the encompassing goal of all CRAs; addressing slum and blight. Most importantly, we agreed collectively how we would fund projects to expedite them.


The first step was to agree on what our main priorities were. We all have remained steadfast in that the CRA should address the Northwest quadrant first. There was a long discussion on what we should focus on in the area. We have done lighting, sidewalks, pavers and a new park facility on the corridor, but many of the vacant parcels are undeveloped and areas off of the main corridor have been untouched. We all agreed the the Foster Gateway Project must be top priority.


This redevelopment project has remained one of the anchor projects of the corridor. Regretfully we had approved a mixed used redevelopment project 5 years ago that was turned down by the residents. The housing market had tumbled and the business model to build affordable owner occupied housing did not work. The residents did not want any more rentals, so the project was pulled.


Staff was directed to move quickly on the RFQ request for qualifications for a developer to build on the city owned parcels. It was agreed that we would list our desires, but the RFQ will be written to allow for highest and best use under current market conditions. This would allow developers flexibility in creating an economically viable mixed use project and still reserve our ability to choose the best one for the area.
The next priority was to place on the agenda the RFP to develop various vacant lots that are within the area for housing. This RFQ was ready to go on the agenda, but needed to be pulled. The new CRA Executive Director found “fatal’ flaws in how the former director crafted the document. It did not address our community benefit model, nor did it lay out a balanced approval process for qualified developers. This RFP will be before the board by March.


After these projects, the board moved to a discussion over finishing what I called “complete streets” and was later change to “public realm improvements”. This goal envisions addressing what the CRA has control over to improve; all public space. This strategy would focus on completing the infrastructure with a comprehensive plan in all areas, including, but not limited to sidewalks, lighting, drainage, etc. The strategic goal was laid out in priority as follows, Northwest, Federal and Dixie Highways, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast. The Southeast area is already being worked on as part of our Comprehensive Parks Plan that includes Blustein Park, Post Office, Dixie and FEC railroad. Pembroke Road and Atlantic Shores were also discussed.


The next step was funding. Previously I wrote about the “full potential” of our CRA. CRA’s have the ability to bond on their future revenue the same as cities. The guarantee of TIF revenues allows the CRA to borrow up front and payout the loans without creating any additional tax burden on the residents. Our CRA can borrow a projected 40 million plus up front to get projects done now. With rates low and time ticking away this BOD has boldly agreed we must move forward.


I will further discuss the funding and implementation in next week’s article.


As always please feel free to contact me at any time with your questions and concerns at my office 954-457-1318 or cell/text 954-632-5700 or e-mail me at www.MayorJoyCooper.com

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