City commissioners are ready to transition the West Bay Drive Community Redevelopment District Plan “into the next phase of its lifecycle.”
During Tuesday night’s work session, city commissioners told economic development staff they would like to hear more about plans to offer incentives that can attract developers to build upscale infill housing, target businesses to create specific jobs, and attract office development.
Since the establishment of the district's Tax Increment Financing, the city has successfully leveraged its portion of the TIF for several benefits to its downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, Teresa Brydon, Economic Development Manager, said.
TIF funds have been used to acquire and assemble parcels for future redevelopment, as well as to invest in improving public infrastructure.
During a June work session, city commissioners directed staff to develop a sign incentive specifically for the CRA district.
“Staff believes the planned amendment for the early sign replacement incentive provides an opportunity for the inclusion of other incentives that can strengthen and accelerate quality residential housing, secure a strong year round daytime business population, and bring high wage quality targeted industry jobs to downtown Largo,” Brydon said.
“The WBDCRD is transitioning into the next phase of its lifecycle from land acquisition to the sale of assembled parcels and because of this, it is an opportunity to shift the direction of how the CRA utilizes the city's contribution to the TIF to establish partnerships with the private landowners in the district in order to fulfill the goals of the WBDCRD Plan,” Brydon explained.
She told commissioners in addition to early sign replacement incentives, the city could provide incentives, which include; attracting developers to build upscale residential infill housing within the CRA that would support construction of larger homes, townhomes or condominiums, so families are not forced to move out of the city as they need more space.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes said he doesn’t want to lose the city’s small town neighborhood look, by creating the potential for a developer to assemble a few lots and build a large home that does not fit in with the surrounding community.
Brydon said the city would be careful to only permit larger homes in the few downtown areas that could accommodate such growth.
Mayor Patricia Gerard said she has seen urban in-fill residential growth work in other cities, such as St. Petersburg, and would like to hear more detailed plans from staff.
Another incentive would strive to attract more targeted offices and industries downtown that create high-paying jobs. Targeted industries that qualify for payroll and other incentives would include professional services, light manufacturing, a firm’s headquarters, internet technology-based companies, and defense or aerospace contractors.
The incentives would be designed to encourage private redevelopment to support neighborhood revitalization and help establish an active daytime and evening environment in the WBD area, she said.
Incentives would only utilize the city’s portion of TIF and would be available only if the TIF has the capacity to fund the program.
City commissioners asked economic development staff to return with more detailed information. The Community Redevelopment Agency will consider the incentive plan at its Nov. 7 session, with the City Commission holding a hearing at its Jan. 15 work session.