TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa City Council – acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency – rejected a proposal on Thursday to begin to sunset a redevelopment area in the Channel District that is now booming, as compared to when it earned that designation back in 2004.

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The council had approved Councilman Bill Carlson’s motion last month to permit the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency staff to research the idea of not only putting a sunset on the Channel District’s CRA (community redevelopment area), but also consider capping the revenues in the downtown Tampa CRA as well. 

The rationale behind his proposal was to redirect funding for those two areas of Tampa that are doing economically well, and ultimately reallocating those tax revenues to lower-income areas - specifically East Tampa, Sulphur Springs and the University area in North Tampa.

“It’s a shame that there will be millions of dollars that will continue to go into an area that will benefit from the amenities, but there are areas of the city that have potholes and broken sidewalks and community centers that are falling apart,” Carlson said after the vote.

Even if the board had opted to sunset the Channel District CRA, those monies would not go directly back into those communities that Carlson had called for. Instead they would have gone back into the city’s general fund, where the council would have to work with Mayor Jane Castor during the regular budgeting process to work on those allocations.

The Channel District was designated as a CRA in 2004 by then Mayor Pam Iorio, and is scheduled to officially sunset in 2033. The first step in the CRA process is for a local government to make a finding that one or more areas in the district have slum or blight and there is a need to redevelop.

“To pull the rug is irresponsible, and it’s not right to people who have invested their hard-earned money in an area,” developer Andy Scaglione told the board during the virtual meeting.

Developer Ken Stoltenberg, who has been involved with more than $300 million in direct investments in the district since 2003, warned that if the council were to kill off the Channel CRA, it would set a negative precedent for investors considering developing projects in one of the seven other CRAs throughout the city.

“I don’t think you would see any type of large private investor take a chance on most of the districts that need the most investments, which would be East Tampa, West Tampa and Drew Park,” he said after the meeting. 

Stoltenberg said he understood what Carlson was attempting to do, but said he believed it would actually have the opposite effect of what he intended. “I think it would hurt those other districts much more than it would help it,” he said.

Stoltenberg says he’s grateful to Carlson in one respect. That’s because he says that the CRA staff has neglected to update the Channel District’s “strategic action plan,” despite a call to do so last year by the district’s Community Advisory Committee.

“It appears to me, that Mr. Carlson’s motion has spurred staff on to action and now they’re agreeing with us and we are going to update, it appears,” Stoltenberg said.

When it came to getting support from his city council colleagues, Carlson could not get a second member of council to advance his proposal.

“I see a lot of potential there. But I also see a lot of potential for a lot of bad things. I see a lot of potential for a lot of “Hail Mary” passes that may have to be made in order for this all to come true,” said Councilman Luis Viera.

“Once something goes into the general fund, the money can be moved around,” said Councilman Guido Maniscalco. “There’s no guarantee.”

The board did not have any time to deliberate on the second part of Carlson’s original proposal: to cap the revenues of the downtown CRA. That will be discussed during the next month’s CRA meeting.