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Zephyrhills grant application at top of state's list

The city thinks it has a good chance to receive $600,000 for streetscaping.

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- The city's application for a $600,000 redevelopment grant has been ranked first on a state agency's list, greatly increasing the likelihood that Zephyrhills will secure funding for a second downtown streetscaping project, city officials said Wednesday.

The city received official notice this week that its application scored higher than any other Florida city with a population under 10,000. The score was based on information provided by city staffers and has yet to be verified by officials with the state Department of Community Affairs, the agency that awards the redevelopment grants.

"This is the way they scored themselves, and we'll be down to verify everything," said Susan Cook, the agency's community program administrator.

Agency officials will visit Zephyrhills in the next few months to view the site for the proposed improvements and confirm that all the information on the city's grant application is accurate.

Zephyrhills Director of Development Todd Vande Berg said he expects to hear by September whether the city will receive the $600,000 grant.

The city submitted its application in late May, but at the last minute, changed its plans and decided to spend grant money redeveloping a two-block area on State Road 54 west of U.S. 301. City officials originally proposed extending the revitalization district east on Fifth Avenue, from Ninth to 12th streets.

They opted to concentrate their efforts on the west side of U.S. 301 after realizing that they could not use state money to extend the redevelopment area any farther to the east, Vande Berg said.

The city's first downtown streetscaping project, completed earlier this year, included street, sidewalk and landscape improvements along Fifth Avenue between U.S. 301 and Ninth Street.

"One of our goals has always been to connect the other side of 301 with what we've already done," Vande Berg said. "There are a number of businesses on the west side that are part of the downtown business community, too."

Cook said her agency will award $3.2-million in revitalization grants this year to small cities. She said the bulk of the money will be split among five cities.

Zephyrhills has agreed to match the $600,000 grant with $370,000 of its own money.

Most of the money would be used to install brick sidewalks, antique street lights and new landscaping along State Road 54 between U.S. 301 and Fifth Street.

In addition, $175,000 would be made available to downtown property owners in the redevelopment district to improve the facades of their buildings. Building owners would be required to match 10 percent of the funding.

Vande Berg said the city still must coordinate its plans with the state Department of Transportation, which is considering ways to relieve congestion on U.S. 301.

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