ST. PETERSBURG – Last Friday, the City’s media department released the good news that the new South St. Petersburg CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) had made its first official round of grants in what city and community leaders anticipate will be an annual grant cycle over the next 30 years.
It was a moment that had been years in the making. Seven years to be precise – from the time community leaders began to push for the CRA’s creation in 2009 to the time the city council took its unanimous vote to approve the inaugural slate of 33 grants totaling $468,000 last Thursday.
I’ve asked those community leaders to weigh in on whether the CRA is meeting the mark of their original vision, which will be the subject of another article “coming soon.”
For now, though, here’s a recap of the initial round of CRA grants, what to look for in the next go round, and what some of the grantees intend to do with the funding.
The basics about the CRA
This is the first year for the South St. Petersburg CRA competitive grant program that is designed to help boost private investment by property owners as well as businesses in commercial and multifamily residential development in South St. Petersburg.
The CRA TIF funding (which stands for Tax Increment Financing) will be distributed in three budget categories: Business and Commercial Development; Workforce Development; and Multi-family Housing and Revitalization.
The CRA will make another round of grants in 2017, when an estimated $1.2 million will be available. The application cycle will open earlier next year. Rick Smith, the City’s CRA Coordinator, expects that applications will be available during the first quarter of 2017.
This year’s grantees
In all, the CRA made grants to 33 community-based organizations within the 7.4 square mile CRA that encompasses the Midtown and Childs Park areas.
Awardees included seven non-profit organizations, 25 small businesses and one owner of a triplex residential unit slated for rehabilitation.
Small business owners comprised the largest segment of awards ($433,000 in total) and $170,000 of that total went to Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy and their partners to carry-on with the renovation of the Merriweather building on 22nd Street South. It will soon serve as a “mixed use” facility – retail on the ground floor and apartment units on the second floor.
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Awardees also included well-known local entrepreneurs like Roosevelt Carter, owner of Florida Brake and Tire on 34th Street South and Gloria Campbell, owner of Advantage Insurance Solutions on 22nd Street South.
Carter will use the grant to remodel his waiting room and purchase new equipment while Campbell plans to expand into new space and gift a face-lift to her existing offices.
Early childhood education was a major focus of this round as well. Eight daycare facilities received a combined $67,000 in CRA grant funding to upgrade their facilities and purchase new equipment and supplies.
Happy Workers Children’s Center will buy new kitchen equipment with the funds while Imagination Station plans a facelift to its site with new windows.
“For the childcare facilities and entrepreneurs who were awarded funding this year, these grants can be essential to strengthening their businesses and helping them to create new jobs,” said Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, director of Urban Affairs and former business owner and banker. “We strongly encourage them and others to become active with the CRA program.”
This is the first year for the South St. Petersburg CRA competitive grant program, designed to help boost private investment by property owners and/or businesses in commercial and multifamily residential development in South St. Petersburg.
The CRA TIF funding is distributed in three budget categories: Business and Commercial Development, Workforce Development and Multi-family Housing and Revitalization.
“This is a momentous occasion and another illustration of our belief that the smartest investment a city can make is in its residents and business owners,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman.
He encouraged this year’s applicants to consider reapplying for additional funding in the 2017 CRA TIF funding cycle, when an estimated $1.2 million will be available. The second round of TIF grant funding in 2017 for south St. Petersburg will begin earlier, in the first quarter of 2017.