Amid the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has managed to stay plenty busy.
In a virtual CRA board meeting last month, Zephyrhills CRA director Gail Hamilton outlined a number of tasks the agency has on its plate to beautify the 500-plus acre historic district that stretches through the center spine of the city.
Hamilton told the board: “We are in strange times, trying to do remote meetings and getting things done has certainly been a challenge, but everybody has pitched in and worked hard.”
More immediately, the CRA is in the final review of its sidewalk master plan and updating signage design standards in the district. It’s also collaborating with the Zephyrhills Public Library to redesign the agency’s website “to make it more appealing and easier to navigate,” Hamilton said.
Meantime, the CRA is working on a bid proposal for the final restoration of the historic Carriage House, a two-story wooden structure connected to the historic Jeffries House, at 38537 Fifth Ave. The city recently received architectural plans on the project that calls for a new balcony, footings and columns — with the idea the home’s restoration will contribute to the preservation of other buildings within the CRA district.
Another ongoing CRA initiative is reviewing its grant programs and the grant application process, “looking for ways to make it clearer, better, easier to read,” Hamilton said.
The CRA director added she’s working on providing information on a single sheet to better explain residential ownership grants, residential paint grants, and so on.
The idea is to make the process easier.
Hamilton also touched on other general projects the agency has on its to-do list, too.
She said the public works department is set to install flowerpots and other landscaping upgrades along Fifth Avenue, once it returns to its regular, fully staffed operations. (Public Works is presently in partially staffed, split shifts, due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
She also mentioned free, public Wi-Fi has been installed at Zephyrhills City Hall and the adjacent courtyard, but the amenity won’t be activated until large gatherings are deemed safe again.
Additionally, the agency has received three bids for public-use Wi-Fi at Clock Plaza, a half-acre park located on Fifth Avenue, two blocks east of U.S. 301 in the historic downtown district. The Wi-Fi at that location would support up to 100 users at a time, and will be presented at the next CRA board meeting scheduled for June 22.
Hamilton also is evaluating “four or five locations” in the CRA district that could be ripe for residential developments, such as duplexes and condo townhomes.
To do that, the CRA is working with consulting firm GAI Community Solutions Group to handle “proformas on the land and see how the numbers work out,” Hamilton said. “We would like to really promote some of the city sites and other sites that are privately owned within the district, to try to encourage residential development,” she said of the plan.
Meanwhile, the CRA director is finalizing the job description for the Main Street Zephyrhills coordinator position and meeting with Main Street board members on how to best proceed with the organization — following the recent resignation of Anna Stutzriem, who held the role for more than two years.
Main Street Zephyrhills is a 501c3 nonprofit that generally facilitates new business and organizes large events within the historic downtown district.
Hamilton underscored the importance of having a new Main Street coordinator and action plan in place once storefronts and downtown activity is fully operational again, for whenever the COVID-19 pandemic blows over.
She observed, “When we can open back up, when the stores can open back up, Main Street needs to be up and running and working on promoting the city, our merchants, the businesses, and really doing a full press on creating a promotional for events…to get people to come downtown and use our businesses.”
Elsewhere, Hamilton presented the CRA’s 2019 annual report, which showed a notable increase in ad valorem revenues collected by the city and Pasco County. For fiscal year 2019, the county’s share was $107,238 and the city’s share was $89,510. That’s up from 2018, when the county and city generated $36,000 apiece in ad valorem taxes in the district.
To Hamilton that means the agency is “seeing the fruits of our labor in working on redevelopment for the CRA district and taking out the blight.”
In other business, the CRA board approved the following grants/incentives:
- $5,000 matching façade rehabilitation grant to Faithful Friends Pet Cremation, 5221 Eighth St.
- $5,500 historic preservation developer’s incentive to Kerns Family Construction for the restoration of a 1928 wood frame structure at 5524 11th St.
The Zephyrhills CRA is a dependent special district in which any future increases in property values are set aside in a Trust Fund to support economic development and redevelopment projects within the designated district. Although it functions within the City of Zephyrhills, the Zephyrhills CRA is a separate and distinct legal entity. The Zephyrhills City Council also serves as the appointed board governing the Zephyrhills CRA.
The CRA district encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street. Within those boundaries are the following historic neighborhood districts: Hercules, Historic Jeffries, Historic Abbott, Moore’s Estate, Zephyr Lake, Oakside and Plaza.
Published May 13, 2020