The Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is ushering in the new year with a slew of projects and initiatives in the historic downtown district.
“There’s a lot going on that you’ll see in January that staff has been working on,” Zephyrhills CRA director Gail Hamilton said, during an update of the 2021 plans at a meeting with the CRA board of directors last month.
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.
Hamilton told board members that the agency has met with a consultant on forthcoming improvements to Hercules Park, a 9-acre city-owned parkland site at the corner of County Road 54 and Gall Boulevard, next to Zephyrhills High and Woodland Elementary schools.
Discussions have centered around transforming the languished site into a passive park for residents — highlighted with trails and a picnic area, as well as regular maintenance.
Possible improvements include underbrush clearing and designing a more welcoming park entrance, along with installing a park fountain, benches, tree underlighting, and colorful sailcloth.
Another idea involves cultivating an art element into the park that pays homage to the history of the property.
A greater degree of detail will be developed once the consultant’s ideas are presented to the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Jan. 21, and then on to the CRA board and Zephyrhills City Council.
Funding for the park is available in this year’s city budget cycle.
Another CRA priority in the new year is outlining and ramping up a strategy for the Zephyrhills Code Enforcement Task.
Hamilton mentioned Pasco County has started to enforce code cases again “and so we want to at least talk about neighborhoods cleanups.”
Code issues are popping up in the downtown area, and in other areas, she said.
“We want to get back on track with our cleanups and the task force, and so we will start meeting in January,” Hamilton said.
She also reported progress on the renovation of the Carriage House property, which is nearly complete. The two-story wooden structure is connected to the Historic Jeffries House, at 38537 Fifth Ave.
The property has undergone a $155,000 makeover by Zephyrhills-based Kerns Family Construction Company Inc. Now, it is just awaiting some electrical hookups, Hamilton said.
In addition to uplifting surrounding property values and maintaining a historic structure, the city hopes to lease the space out to a business or residential tenant for around $1,500 to $2,000 per month.
The renovated structure has received serious interest from possible tenants — as has its counterpart in the Jeffries House, Hamilton said. Three coffee companies have inquired about setting up some kind of business operation at the Jeffries House, Hamilton said. She also noted a couple of other projects are interested in using both the Carriage House and Jeffries House.
The Jeffries House was built in 1910 for Capt. Harold Jeffries, the founder of Zephyrhills who was responsible for bringing many Union Civil War veterans into the area. The house is a part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Another major undertaking for the agency is facilitating a development opportunity on a city-owned lot at the corner of Sixth Avenue/Eighth Street — situated across the street from Zephyrhills City Hall.
The vacant lot originally was expected to become two-story retail space, but city staff now is working on a plan to transform the corner into a residential property, Hamilton said.
She explained the rationale for the shift: “Right now, trying to get financing for retail is impossible. If it were housing, it would be a whole lot easier, so we’ve come up with an idea that I think you’ll like. We’ve tested (the idea) with some other groups.”
Cost estimates and more specifics are expected to be presented the next CRA Board meeting on Jan. 25.
Other notable updates from the CRA director’s report:
- Initial design and cost estimates for gateway signage at Gall Boulevard/Fifth Avenue is expected to be ready in January, then presented to the CRA Board for further review.
- A request for proposal (RFP) is being prepared for a mural design at the Lake Necessity retention pond. The site has already experienced some beautification with an ornamental fence. The plan is to hire an artist to paint the concrete sides of the fence, perhaps incorporating a natural scene with water images.
- Zephyrhills Main Street has begun redesigning Transplant Park, a 0.2-acre passive park at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 12th Street. The location is just a few blocks east of the historic downtown district. The pie-shaped park, nestled between shaded trees, features landscaping and park benches.
- Zephyrhills Public Works is completing the installation of irrigated potted plants along Fifth Avenue, specifically around street corners and medians landscapes.
- Residential ownership incentive grants were approved to new homeowners for the properties at 5416 Eighth St. and 38245 12th Ave. (The grant provides $5,000 to new homeowners within the district, given they apply before purchasing/closing and file for homestead exemption for five years.)
- A new business, Vintage Chix, recently opened in the downtown district, at 38501 Fifth Ave. The storefront sells vintage, repurposed furniture, including farmhouse, country French, shabby chic and rustic décor. The space also offers instructional craft and painting classes in a café atmosphere.
Published January 20, 2021