Growth yields $40M for upgrades
By JANET ZINK
Published February 24, 2007
TAMPA - A downtown growth boom that boosted tax revenues will allow the city of Tampa to spend up to $40-million on improvements to the central business district.
The money could go to such projects as the remake of Curtis Hixon Park, which could cost as much as $15-million; the portion of the Riverwalk that runs through the park; parking improvements, such as adding levels to the garage near the St. Pete Times Forum; or turning Ashley Drive into a downtown gateway, a project that has been estimated to cost $3.5-million, said Bonnie Wise, city finance director.
City officials said Friday that Bank of America was giving the city a $40-million line of credit, which will be repaid by property taxes collected in a special downtown taxing district.
"This financing will allow us to pay for projects that our downtown requires, but until now, we did not have a way to pay for them," Wise said in a memo to the City Council.
Council members are scheduled to consider the agreement, which requires their approval, March 8.
The loan will be repaid from a taxing district that includes downtown and Harbour Island and extends west to the Hillsborough River, north to Interstate 275 and east to the Channel District.
In the 1980s, that portion of downtown was designated as "community redevelopment area" where tax revenue increases could be funneled back into the neighborhood for improvements. The money has been used to pay off the Tampa Convention Center.
The payments are about $13.5-million a year, Wise said.
Until this year, the property tax revenue generated in the area has been between $8-million and $10-million a year.
"It's been flat because there really hadn't been any development occurring," said economic development manager Mark Huey.
The city made up the difference on the convention center payments using other sources.
This year, though, after two years of land sales, rezonings, and new projects as The Plaza at Harbour Island boosted property values, the tax revenue will reach $15-million, more than the convention center payments.
That means future property tax revenues, generated by such projects as the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Skypoint condominium tower, can be used to pay back the $40-million loan by 2019, the year the special taxing districts expire, Wise said.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3401.