Bradenton CRA gets $6 million commitment for Save-A-Lot plaza

myoung@bradenton.comApril 10, 2014 

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The former location of the 13th Avenue Community Center. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- Locks will open, fences will come down, and a retail plaza will eventually be built.

That was good news for Bradenton Village Apartments resident Toneisha Long, who just returned from the Palmetto Walmart on Wednesday with a toddler in one hand and an attempt to wrangle groceries with the other.

Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Polk said the proposed Minnie L. Rogers Plaza at the intersection of 13th Avenue West and First Street will move forward after an announcement that $6 million of New Market Tax Credit dollars are being allocated toward the project from Florida Community Loan Fund chief lending officer Nelson Black.

Polk said the $5.7 million plaza proposal, anchored by a Save-A-Lot grocery store, is receiving the funds from various NMTC projects that fell through over the course of 2013.

"It helps tremendously in moving this project forward because if we didn't get the 2013 allocation, we would have had to try for a 2014 allocation, which means we would have to start the vetting process all over again," said Polk. "That would have been a guaranteed 6-8 month delay."

Now that the financing is in place, the next step is to find a developer to build the plaza.

The NMTC program was one of the last implemented by former President Bill Clinton and allows select developers to register with the U.S. Treasury Department as a community development entity. If approved, the company receives tax credits to balance profits in order to proceed with development in underserved areas that are primarily considered to have a large number of low-income residents.

There are still steps to take when it comes to multiple entities working on the same project.

"People don't realize how tough redevelopment is," said Polk. "There are a lot of incidentals you have to deal with, but the good thing with some of the delays is we've had the time to do the things to make sure constructions happens quickly."

This is the CRA's first experience going after NMTC dollars.

"The other good news about all of this is that this breaks the ice for future CRA projects," said Polk. "I'm not saying it can be used for everything like the 14th Street CRA project, but this gives us the experience of going after this kind of funding and sets a nice precedent in how to use those dollars."

The money will eventually be allocated to the development team, which consists of multiple entities including Development Associations of America, which helped to secure the tax credits.

Stemming tide of frustration

Frustration in the Bradenton Village Apartments and surrounding area whose residents the plaza will likely serve the most has been mounting over the lack of perceived progress -- and perhaps for good reason, since the city held an official ground-breaking ceremony in October 2012 with no visible progress since.

Polk said the ceremony was largely symbolic to show a seed was being planted that would eventually be harvested.

"I'm still believing in the harvest," he said. "We have this funding commitment, but there has to be an understanding that with the planting of a seed, it takes some time for the seed to grow and be ready for harvest."

Too much time for Alex Bradley, who has lived in the area for nine years.

"It should have been up by now, but I guess all good things take time," said Bradley.

With a little push, added Norma Dunwoody, who repeated a previous complaint over the lack of communication from the city to residents.

Polk said committees, including residents, were formed when the process first started, but that the last meeting took place in May 2013.

"They were responsible for naming the plaza and find out ways to memorialize the property with public art," he said. "That was accomplished and I told them then that there was no longer a need to meet until we closed on the property."

However, Polk said the CRA board gives a project update at its monthly public meetings and said he has always extended an invitation for the public to contact his office with questions or concerns.

Espree Leaks said she doesn't feel like the community has been neglected but will be happy to see construction begin.

"A grocery store there will definitely do a lot of business because people have to go a long way to get groceries," said Leaks. "There are a lot of older people in this community that this plaza will make life easier for."

The project still has a few hoops to jump through. Commitment letters are anticipated soon, at which time the development committee will outline what they believe the city's responsibilities should be. The city will review and work through those, at which time the CRA board must approve the project before it goes before the city council for final approval.

"I don't want to give a date," said Polk. "But with that said and if absolutely everything falls into place just right, we could close by September and start construction about 30 days later."

Polk said he welcomes the public to address the CRA with questions by calling him at 941-932-9400 ext. 408 or Jesus Nino, CRA manager, at 941-744-2362 ext. 105.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.

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