BRADENTON -- The latest prediction for actual construction on the Minnie L. Rogers Plaza at 13th Avenue West at First Street West was a continuation of the wishful thinking when officials said shovels would be in the ground by March.
Construction at the retail plaza anchored by a Save-A-Lot grocery store near the Bradenton Village Apartments is now expected to begin in June, according to City Clerk Carl Callahan at Wednesday's Bradenton City Council workshop.
The project has been a series of letdowns for the city and nearby residents since officials held a ground-breaking ceremony in October 2012. The lot has been devoid of activity ever since.
Callahan said the $6.5 million loan in federal tax credits to the developer should close within the next couple of months and construction is estimated to take about nine months. While the developer secured tax credits through the U.S. Treasury Department, more than $300,000 in incentives from the Central Community Redevelopment Agency were still needed to close the deal.
Callahan said the project will leave little funding for other CCRA projects in the future, which sparked discussion of the city's three CRA districts: CCRA, 14th Street CRA and the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
Bradenton is one of the few remaining cities to have CRA boards made up of private citizens making economic development recommendations, according to Ward 3 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr.
"We need to revisit what's going on in all the CRAs," said Byrd. "We used to be the norm, but that's not the case anymore. We are now the exception and we need to revisit that to make sure we are being effective and efficient."
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith said if the city intends to focus on economic development, the DDA should be expanded as it is looking at how to create a lively downtown for people to work and live in.
Callahan part of the problem is getting everyone to have the same vision when they are acting on their own goals.
"We need to remind folks exactly what is the CRA plan and that we don't want three plans," he said. "The boards need to remember what those plans are. If you asked me what's in the CRA plan, I couldn't tell you what the actual plan is and I don't know if their board could tell you in detail, either."
The Manatee County Commission was its own CRA Board before eliminating the CRA in favor of a new tax increment financing district. The city of Palmetto has a citizen CRA Advisory Board, but the city commission is the CRA board.
While Bradenton City Council has the final decisions, it is not involved in the CRA process, which councilmembers say they hope to change.
Early suggestions are to create a city department for economic development, expand the DDA or combine the CCRA, 14th Street CRA and DDA into one "super board."
Byrd said the city needs to hold a workshop soon focused on bringing in new ideas where everyone can get on the same page.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.