The Zephyrhills CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) has several projects on tap for its 30-year master plan.
Gail Hamilton, in her first year as CRA director for the city of Zephyrhills, gave an overview of what’s expected during the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting on March 3.
The CRA oversees a 520-acre defined district that essentially encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street.
Hamilton talked about the agency’s impending priorities—neighborhood cleanup, restoration of dilapidated homes and the development of Zephyr Park.
“The idea behind the CRA is that the city looks at the city limits and they look at…slum and blight conditions. …You look at different aspects of the community and you decide that the private sector, the market, is not going to bring up the conditions within that defined district,” Hamilton explained.
“One of the things the CRA does is look at the conditions, and try to come up with incentives…for people to invest and make the conditions better within the district, and therefore, increase the property values.”
Hamilton cited the Silver Oaks community as an example for the type of area the CRA is working to clean up.
“There’s no sidewalks, there’s no streetlights, there’s no driveways,” she said.
“People are parking on the grass, and the grass has died, and it’s just sand…blowing into the street. They haven’t painted the houses. The roofs are bad. There are appliances in the yards. Trash is blowing.
“Would you invest there? Would you buy a home? The answer is no,” she said.
The first step in improving the appearance of residential areas within the district was taken at the CRA’s last board meeting on Feb. 22, with the passage of a $10,000 Residential Paint Grant Program.
The program is open to residents of owner-occupied homes on a first-come, first-served basis. The grant provides up to $500 in matching funds. For example, if an owner spends $1,000 on paint, the CRA will provide $500. If an owner spends $400 on paint, the CRA will reimburse $200.
“We want to encourage people to paint their homes,” Hamilton said. “Nothing makes a house look better than a good coat of paint.”
In addition to residential properties, the CRA is looking to spruce up commercial property, and make the city more attractive for future business.
At the CRA’s next board meeting on March 28, the CRA is expected to pass a Commercial Sign Grant Program.
“Looking at the businesses around town, the signs really do need help,” the CRA director said. “The CRA is working to come up with designs for the different commercial districts, because if you’re on Fifth Avenue, the sign you put up is a whole lot different than the sign you would put up if you were on Gall Boulevard.
“We want to make sure you have an opportunity to put a sign up that is interesting, reflects your business, and really matches the district and the area that your business is in,” she said.
The CRA is making it a priority to incorporate better branding for “The City of Pure Water.”
“You go anywhere in the world and you say, ‘Zephyrhills,’ the first thing people say is, ‘water.’ Why is it that we have no water anywhere in downtown? There’s not a water fountain or even a picture of water,” Hamilton explained.
“When we finish this (30-year master) plan, at no time will you be in Zephyrhills that you don’t see, touch or hear water.”
Additionally, the CRA is embarking on a yearlong design plan for upgrading Zephyr Park.
Hamilton pointed out that a “great park” should make the city more attractive for visitors.
“It’s a great asset. It’s going to be a great investment for the city of Zephyrhills,” she said. “We will increase the redevelopment value of all the surrounding properties in that area.”
The agency is also in the midst of restoring the historic Jeffries House — leveling, replacing window frames and rehabbing the entire building.
“When you look at Zephyrhills, there’s not a tremendous amount of economic resources, so the historic resources we have, we want to honor them,” Hamilton said.
Published March 9, 2016