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Olympic group pushes redevelopment plan

Two public housing complexes would be razed and replaced with an Olympic village.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2000

TAMPA -- Florida 2012 President Ed Turanchik said Friday that he would like to see the Tampa Housing Authority solicit proposals as early as next year for the massive redevelopment project the Olympic group has put together.

The $500-million project, a main piece of Florida 2012's bid to bring the games to Tampa, calls for North Boulevard Homes and Mary Bethune Hi-Rise to be razed and replaced with an Olympic village for 17,000 people. All of the public housing apartments at North Boulevard and Bethune would be replaced elsewhere in the city.

Unlike Florida 2012's plans to have a $270-million stadium built on the site of what is now Central Park Village, another public housing complex near downtown, Turanchik said the housing can be replaced even if Florida is not selected to host the Olympics.

Private developers could work with the three major landowners in the area -- the city of Tampa, the housing authority and the Hillsborough County School Board -- to get the job done, Turanchik said. Private companies, he said, could be interested if they are given development rights to land in exchange for financial backing.

The housing authority owns the land at North Boulevard and Bethune. It would have to get approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to change its use.

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and his staff are enthusiastic about Florida 2012's plan, but School Board member Doris Ross Reddick said Wednesday she has serious concerns about it.

The housing authority on Friday embraced Florida 2012's goal of bringing the Olympics to Florida. It stopped short, however, of promising to move forward with the plan.

Housing officials said the authority's board needs to meet in December and January to learn more about the plan, which Florida 2012 will submit to the United States Olympic Committee on Dec. 15. The U.S. committee in 2002 will pick the American candidate to host the games. The International Olympic Committee makes the final choice three years later.

"This is an exciting opportunity, but there are literally hundreds of details that must be worked through," said Daniel Mahurin, chairman of the housing authority's board.

Florida 2012 has not identified precisely where replacement housing would be built, nor does it own the land on which it would be built. Turanchik said the group would be prepared to commit as much as $150-million to the project.

With high demolition and construction costs and rents that must be affordable, developers often view the projects as money losers unless they are built with substantial public assistance. Competition for that assistance is fierce.

Tampa's housing authority is using a $32.5-million HUD grant to help redevelop public housing in east Tampa, but it has twice failed to get similar assistance for another project at Riverview Terrace north of downtown.

HUD no longers gives assistance to projects that include massive, densely populated complexes because it wants to eliminate large clusters of poverty. Housing authorities have responded by attempting to build "scattered-site" housing in different parts of town. And to further reduce density, the authorities simply replace crumbling apartments with fewer new ones.

The prospect of getting private help is one reason why housing officials are paying close attention to Turanchik.

But all of the Olympic enthusiasm in the world doesn't guarantee that anything will be done.

"You don't snap your fingers and build public housing," board member Fran Davin said.

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