BRADENTON -- With special guest Kensie Waller, 7, acting as "Mayor for the Day" after winning a Bradenton Christian School contest, the Bradenton City Council officially re-established the Central Community Redevelopment Agency Wednesday as an advisory board.
The council passed a resolution enacting the seven-member board as its advisory board 4-0 with Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo absent with excuse. The council spent several tumultuous months last summer pushing for control of the city's three CRAs with a lot of pushback from the public asking the council to slow down and create a plan.
The council listened, but acted against public outcry and took over the CRAs Jan. 1. While the push to assume control of the CRAs was
faster than the public wanted, the process to organize it has been deliberate.
Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. attempted several times to push the council into special workshops to quicken the organizational process and set the new CRA into motion. However, with little expendable revenue because the CRAs are locked into the 2015-16 budgets, the council instead focused on creating a new economic development department as part of its overall plan in the transition process.
Council say the new economic department must take priority as it will eventually work in close coordination with the three CRAs.
In early January, the council did discuss the CRA transition process, saying the creation of a CCRA advisory board "should happen soon," according to City Clerk Carl Callahan. Earlier this month, the council met with CCRA Manager Jesus Nino to discuss two ongoing the CCRA projects, including redevelopment of Love Apartments and a partner project in developing the mixed-use MLK project. Both projects are at least two years out.
Discussions also took place on the failed Minnie L. Rogers grocery store project on the corner of First Street and 13th Avenue East. However, the future of that site remains in limbo until the CCRA works through the legalities of closing out the contract with the developer who failed to close on guaranteed loans for the project.
Wisconsin-based Endeavor Corp. said for months the project was "shovel ready" but kept coming back to the city for more money. Endeavor Corp. officials did it again before a Dec. 31 deadline to close on $6 million in federal government tax credits.
The city said enough was enough and refused after already conceding several controversial demands from the developer over the past two years.
The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority has long overseen the city's other two CRAs, the Bradenton and 14th Street West CRAs. The DDA will retain authority over its downtown district and has been asked to serve in an advisory role for the other two CRAs. No official action has been taken, but Callahan said Wednesday none was needed.
The resolution to re-establish the CCRA board stated the city council "desires to utilize the experience and dedication of the members of the CCRA who were on the board of the CCRA prior to the city council assuming the duties of the CCRA."
The council has only met once as the CRA board since taking over and continues to debate what the board will look like. When voting to assume control late last year, the council approved a seven-member board with the intention of inviting the chairs of the DDA and CCRA to serve with the council on the CRA board.
However, that idea has met with resistance. Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff said only elected officials are ultimately held accountable for spending tax dollars. It was his primary argument in wanting the council to assume control of the CRAs.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.