The Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is hitting the ground running regarding initiatives in the city’s historic downtown district, in the new fiscal year.
The Zephyrhills City Council, which doubles as the CRA board, has approved the agency’s 2021-2022 budget for $879,814.
That’s a sizable increase from the previous budget, which was $578,244.
That boost is partially due to an increase in the agency’s ad valorem revenues during recent years.
In the fiscal 2021-2022 budget, the agency’s tax increment financing (TIF) revenues are proposed to be $562,848 — up from $428,630 in 2020-2021 and $315,410 in 2019-2020, respectively.
“What we’re doing is working,” CRA Director Gail Hamilton told the CRA board during a Sept. 27 meeting at Zephyrhills City Hall. “The values continue to increase, the market doesn’t hurt us any at all, so what we’re doing as far as residential is going well, it’s working. We’ve got some new commercial projects going in the coming year.”
However, Hamilton acknowledged retail spacing “continues to struggle” in the historic district, so the agency is planning some incentive programs to lure new merchants.
The bulk of this year’s CRA budget is set aside for three major capital outlay projects — combining to total $672,500:
- Little But Loud outdoor venue: $250,000
- First United Methodist Church of Zephyrhills parking lot improvements: $320,000
- Entrance signage installation: $102,500
The Little But Loud project, planned at 38426 Sixth Ave., is envisioned as an entertainment backyard space of sorts featuring food trucks, vendor carts, games, live music, public art installations, and various seating and lounge areas.
It is planned for a 150-foot by 60-foot city-owned vacant lot at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street, and is the CRA’s scaled-down version of Sparkman Wharf, a popular waterfront venue in downtown Tampa’s Channelside.
“I know there are some that say we can’t do it for $250,000, but we’re going to see what we can do,” Hamilton said, referring to Little But Loud.
Hamilton also underscored the importance to lease and repair the church parking lot located right in the center of downtown, at 38635 Fifth Ave.
“One of the problems that we encountered last year was that there is no public parking in downtown,” she said.
Besides formalizing a long-term lease, CRA funds will be used to address paving, stormwater and lighting issues on the church’s lot, which is over 20 years old.
“When a developer comes to us and wants to build something, we have strict standards on what the parking lot has to be. We have to follow those standards, as well,” Hamilton told CRA board members.
“It’ll be an asset to have a paved parking lot downtown,” she added.
Installing entrance signage to provide a gateway to the historic district is another noteworthy capital project.
The first sign is expected to be constructed and installed between Fifth Avenue and U.S. 301.
Moving forward, Hamilton said the agency is aiming to launch “a real campaign” about what the city has to offer “and try to get people motivated to look at downtown and the CRA district.”
The CRA director later encouraged city leadership to make suggestions about what else they’d like to see within the historic downtown district — which spans approximately 501 acres and encompasses the center spine of the city, generally between Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street.
She noted some smaller undertakings in the past year included installing landscaping, benches and pots along Fifth Avenue; installing public Wi-Fi downtown; and installing streaming wireless audio speakers downtown.
“If there is a project, if there is something you see in another community, let us know, let’s talk about it,” said Hamilton. “The CRA has to be nimble enough that we can change and meet the demands of the market, because improving the market, improving the ad valorem taxes is why we’re here.”
Meantime, Main Street Zephyrhills Director Faith Wilson shared several event updates during the CRA meeting:
- Preparations are underway for Halloween Howl, scheduled for Oct. 30 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., along Fifth Avenue. Family friendly activities will include a pony ride, petting zoo, haunted house, hayride and face painting. There also will be a ghost tour “to offer our citizens something new and exciting,” Wilson said.
- The 2021 Festival of Lights Christmas Parade is scheduled for Dec. 4 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., in downtown Zephyrhills. This year’s event theme is “Candyland Christmas.”
- The annual Zephyrhills Founder’s Day Parade and Heritage Festival may need to be rescheduled or pared to an evening event with no parade.
It’s anticipated March 5 date coincides with The Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce’s annual Pigz in Z’Hills BBQ & Blues Fest.
The city’s Founder’s Day event is supposed to be on the Saturday closest to March 10, without going beyond it. City officials are actively discussing various options and possibilities, noting parade attendance has fallen off over the years.
- Main Street Zephyrhills Board of Directors approved a new “community and unity” initiative, which aims to help create a positive narrative around events and partnerships within the city. “We all want to do good for Zephyrhills,” Wilson said, “and by working together, we can do great things for our community, so organizations can join together with Main Street to co-host and coordinate events downtown, and instead of competition, it’s cohesive and we work together.”
One upcoming “community and unity” event is the First Florida Chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association Fall Rally Honoring Our Nations Veterans, from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14.
- Wilson also noted that she participated in the Florida Main Street’s fall quarterly conference meeting in Crystal River. “There were some great community branding and marketing strategies presented,” she said.
City of Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency fund
- Personnel services: $112,549
- Operating expenditures: $69,765
- Capital outlay: $672,500
- Contributions: $25,000
Published October 27, 2021