WEST TAMPA - Federal grant money is the key to jump-starting a years-long project that entails demolishing the aging North Boulevard Homes public housing complex and laying the foundation for a new mixed-income, mixed-use housing and retail community.
It is a project that might not begin until 2016 and be completed until 2023.
That was the message delivered July 27 to about 30 people who attended a meeting at the West Tampa Public Library hosted by the West Tampa Community Development Corp.
"We've got to have a big source of funds for this," said Leroy Moore, chief operating officer for the Tampa Housing Authority.
The target is $150 million to $200 million in Choice Neighborhoods grants awarded annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A handful of municipalities are selected to split the money.
Similar grants have been awarded to the Encore project, which is replacing the former Central Park Village complex north of downtown. The last such award, $30 million, was granted last year. A previous grant of $28 million in stimulus dollars kicked Encore into gear, largely paying for infrastructure needed before construction of multiple apartment buildings and retail space. An additional $10 million went toward projects in surrounding neighborhoods.
Encore has one senior apartment building fully rented, another building under construction and a third ready to begin construction in mid-August. A fourth apartment building, Tempo, is close to a final design.
Moore said the housing authority planned to apply for a grant of about $30 million in 2014 for the North Boulevard project with funding approval anticipated in 2015. It would be used to move about 1,800 North Boulevard tenants and for infrastructure.
The scramble for federal dollars from Choice Neighborhoods is competitive, Moore said. The housing authority lost a bid in 2011.
"We were more ready than any other applicant by far," he said. "We didn't get funding."
Between 1,200 and 1,500 residential units would be built to replace about 820 apartments at North Boulevard.
If the federal grant is awarded, residents would be relocated in 2015 and 2016. The apartments likely would be demolished in 2016.
Construction on this project, as it has on Encore, would take years, possibly not reaching completion until 2023, Moore said. The time frame depends on securing a grant next year.
"If we're not funded, that just means we're one more year down the road," Moore said.
The housing authority's plans are one segment of a citywide redevelopment plan promoted by Mayor Bob Buckhorn called InVision Tampa. Buckhorn wants to reinvigorate downtown Tampa and surrounding neighborhoods.
Among his plans are the redevelopment of North Boulevard's complex, a redesign of Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and redevelopment of nearly 140 acres along the west bank of the Hillsborough River. The housing authority owns about 44 acres in a portion of West Tampa that includes North Boulevard.
Redevelopment in West Tampa has sparked renewed interest in creating a special tax district that could funnel property tax revenue toward community-based infrastructure projects.
West Tampa property owner Harriett McCray supports such a district. She recalls going with her mother to community meetings years ago that also focused on West Tampa's redevelopment and a special tax district.
Something feels different this time, McCray said, because city officials, residents and the local chamber of commerce are rallying behind redevelopment.
"With everybody together, we'll be more able to be successful," McCray said.