Latest News (July 19, 2004)

In mid April the Tampa City Council voted unanimously “to support a Community Redevelopment District in north Tampa.” This latest Tampa CRA district is intended to reinvigorate the neighborhoods bordered by Fowler Avenue, Busch Boulevard, Nebraska Avenue, and 30th Street. “Once the district is created, new property taxes collected from the district must be spent within its borders, which spurs Revitalization.” The creation of this latest CRA area plays directly into the Revitalization of our own city.

At the May 4th City Council Meeting, the Temple Heights Townhomes project came before Council for final site plan approval. This is noteworthy because the project will be located in the Northwest portion of the Community Redevelopment Area. Because the Master Plan and Design Guidelines for the CRA District are not yet in place, the project was approved as merely another conventionally planned and designed townhome project. Hopefully no more of our precious CRA land will be sacrificed to the lackluster building standard that has become recently acceptable in Temple Terrace. For more on this subject please see the Q & A section below.

As a kick off for the June Public Charrettes, the City of Temple Terrace and our Town Planner Team hosted the Downtown Revitalization Workshops on May 14th and May 15th. Nearly 350 people attended the kick-off presentation the evening of Friday, May 14th. The following day, 350 citizens returned to participate in the two Hands-On Design Sessions, with an open house at the end of the day. At the Design Sessions, Temple Terrace citizens had an “opportunity to assist in planning the new Downtown Redevelopment Area. Torti Gallas and Partners, the City’s planner for the project, organized the public planning workshops (or charrettes), and during the planning sessions, every citizen had the opportunity to express ideas.” The Charrette process is new to our area and was greeted with enthusiasm. Since the Revitalization of Temple Terrace is a grassroots, citizen-led movement it makes perfect sense that the citizenry of Temple Terrace should play a big part in the design of our new Downtown!

NOTE: The 22 citizen-generated town plans that were created during the Hands-On Design Sessions later became the basis of the Master Plan(s) the Town Planner Team developed for the June Public Charrettes.

There was a Temple Terrace Community Redevelopment Agency (TTRA) meeting on May 18th, 2004. The three items on the agenda were 1) “Purchase Approval – 56th Street Equity Group Partnership Property at Chicago Avenue and 56th Street” (Dollar General, Just Brakes, and U.S Postal Annex), 2) “Purchase Approval – Former Havana Palms Restaurant (8615 N. 56th Street), Pending Satisfactory Completion of the Remaining Due Diligence Items.” and 3) “Purchase Offer – Initial Purchaser Offer for Beacon Plaza.(117 Bullard Parkway)”. As you may recall, Beacon Plaza is owned by the family of City Council member Frank Chillura, they have 90 days to respond to the city’s generous purchase offer (for more on “why is the City is acquiring land?”, please see the Q & A section below). All three motions were later approved by the City Council with Council member Chillura abstaining from the vote on his own property.

Regarding the Busch Boulevard beautification efforts from Florida Avenue to 56th Street, Tampa’s “transportation department is seeking $4 million in state and federal grants to bring the Busch Boulevard beautification plan to reality.” With the addition of trees, crosswalks, and benches the proposed changes to the corridor appear to be mostly cosmetic, but it’s a start. Many think the corridor needs to be completely and fundamentally re-thought from the ground up. If the grant is approved, the money won’t be available until at least 2009.

Drum roll please….On June 14th the City of Temple Terrace and its Town Planner Team kicked off the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan Public Charrettes. Please visit the City of Temple Terrace’s website for an excellent overview of the Public Charrettes. The Charrettes lasted from Monday, June 14th to Saturday, June 19th and were attended by over 1000 participants!

On Monday, Neal Payton of Torti Gallas and Partners, our town planners, opened up the Public Charrettes with a Presentation titled “Implementing the Vision: What You Have Told Us”. At the presentation Neal described how the planners analyzed the 22 citizen generated plans created during the May Workshops and derived Twelve Guiding Concepts or Ideas for the creation of the preliminary Downtown Master Plan, they are:

1. Sense of Place

2. Pedestrian Friendly Environment

3. High Density, Mixed-Use Environment

4. Public Squares and Parks

5. Central Open Space (Emerald Necklace)

6. Main Street as Part of New Street Grid

7. Improved Character of 56th Street

8. Concentration of Civic Uses

9. Turquoise Necklace (fountains, reflecting pools)

10. Unifying Architectural Character (based on own superb 1920s Mediterranean Revival architecture)

11. Gateways

12. Riverfront Park

On Tuesday, Retail, Residential, and Market Analysis consultant Marc McCauley of the respected firm Robert Charles Lesser & Co. LLC, presented on the “Development Program.” At the presentation Marc distributed a Preliminary Matrix of Projected Market Opportunities for Downtown Temple Terrace which gives a preliminary overview of the wide range of market types we could explore in the Downtown Revitalization. These prices are preliminary and are pending development of the complete Master Plan.

As a side note to McCauley’s presentation, their was recent mention in a local newspaper of citizens attending the Charrettes, “many of them organized” who “came out to speak their concerns about the project, and the large expenditure of taxpayer money that’s going into it.” Many folks attended all of the Charrette presentations during the week and did not see the organized group that is implied above, what we did see was about five citizens who weren’t on board with the Revitalization for varying reasons. Marc McCauley’s presentation on Tuesday probably had the most organized opposition (by two people) of any of the presentations. Our Town Planning Team is composed of some of the finest experts in their fields and the CRTT is of the mind that it is safe to trust their expert opinions. Consultant Marc McCauley has done voluminous demographic and marketing research to back up his Preliminary Matrix of Projected Market Opportunities for Downtown Temple Terrace presented above, and though he has not distributed this research material to every citizen in the city for their perusal, we believe it is prudent to not only hire the best experts one can find, but it is also prudent to trust that they are capable of accomplishing their jobs with alacrity.

Back to the Charrettes, on Wednesday, June 16th, Neal Payton of Torti Gallas and Partners again presented, this time on “Implementing the Vision: Proposed Concepts”. Neal presented the initial three versions of their preliminary Master Plan and pointed out the positives and negatives of each plan. These three plans were to be later boiled down to one. Thursday, involved a discussion about what turned out to be the most controversial issue in the May Workshops, “The Waterfront and the Public Space”. It was pointed out that the riverfront land was the most expensive land in the Revitalization area and that their was enough acreage available to develop some of the land and still leave the land that borders the river as a public park.

Friday, June 18th brought a Developer Stakeholder Meeting that was attended by sixteen interested Developers, some from as far away as Charleston and New York. The main developer concerns were taming 56th Street, Doral Oaks Apartments, and the need for the City to acquire the last remaining Revitalization area out parcels. CRA Director Ralph Bosek has mentioned that additional developers have contacted him since that meeting and expressed interest in the project. Friday evening our Traffic Consultant Rick Hall of Hall Engineering presented on “56th Street.” Rick mentioned that narrowing the road down to two lanes was out of the question because of traffic volume, and that he had met with the local FDOT representative that afternoon and they were willing to work with the City to improve 56th Street. In the final preliminary Master Plan (again refer to the City of Temple Terrace website) Rick proposed adding a local access lane on the east and the west of existing 56th Street. Thus, local traffic would not have to venture onto the main four lane arterial in trips around town. Landscaping would also be added on the center median and on the sides of the road. The proposed shorter block sizes of the Master Plan would allow additional traffic lights that would make it easier to cross 56th Street and would also slow down traffic. On Saturday, the last day of the Charrettes, the final Master Plan was presented along with the three colored pencil renderings, all of which can be seen on the City of Temple Terrace website. A standing ovation brought a close to the Public Charrettes.

On June 24th, the Temple Terrace Downtown Revitalization drawings were presented by Neal Payton of Torti Gallas and Partners at the Florida Salon of the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism held in Chicago, Illinois. The project was warmly received. The New Urban News and the Creative Tampa Bay Newsletter have also covered the Revitalization. Mike Dunn of the Tampa Tribune gave our project excellent coverage in his June 20 article. Ernest Hooper of the St. Petersburg Times wrote a story titled “It’s French for yes, we want your opinion” (June 16, 2004) outlining the impact our little project could have on our region. Kudos to our Public Relations consultant Lani Czyzewski!

Lastly, we’ll again end with some Questions and Answers culled from questions we’ve received over the last few months. At the end we include some of the questions and answers from the June Charrette newspaper which was bulk mailed to every address in Temple Terrace. The City has done an extraordinary job trying to inform each and every citizen about the Downtown Revitalization.

Q. How many developers will be involved in this project?
A. It is our hope that we have multiple developers, not just one, because that would give the Revitalization a more varied appearance (as though created by many hands) as opposed to having one developer creating a monolithic and unvaried project ala Disney. In reality there could be a developer for each building type—residential, civic, cultural, etc.. Another idea that was suggested by Neil Payton of Torti Gallas is to have a Master Developer with the other Developers working beneath him/her. This would make it easier to keep control in the multiple developer scenario. The City also plans to hire a Municipal Development Consultant as a liason between the Developers (“a shark on our side”) and the City and this entity would help write the Developer RFQ. This person would obviously be extremely savvy regarding the developer world and would be able to bring in the very best developer teams like the very best Town Planner teams were brought in previously.


Q. How is it possible to propose that an eighteen story condo tower be built in Temple Terrace, isn’t this against Code?


A. Our planners are writing a special form-based code (our current Code is numerically-based) called FormCode that will apply only to the Downtown Revitalization area (the four quadrants of 56th Street and Busch). This Code will make it possible bring buildings close to the street, vary building heights, mix uses and buildings of different “zones” vertically and horizontally and basically allow all of the good planning and building practices that are illegal under our current antiquated City Building Code. For the rest of the City, many want to see a version of the FormCode made an alternate alongside our existing old City Building Code. The FormCode would be used by builders because it would offer incentives like faster permitting times and greater chances of project success.
Q. Parts of the architecture as represented in the Torti Gallas street renderings look a lot like “Old Tampa” or “old Ybor City”, since we don’t want to be seen as remaking ourselves in the image of Tampa, or Ybor, could we use Temple Terrace’s own 1920s Mediterranean Revival as our inspiration instead?

A. The renderings are only preliminary and the style of the architecture was derived at the last minute to “test the waters.” We believe the Mediterranean Revival direction is the correct direction for our specific Revitalization, and not any old Mediterranean Revival, but our specific version in Temple Terrace. Our own version of Mediterranean Revival is found nowhere else and this architecture best typifies the character and essence of Temple Terrace better than any other “style” to date. Conversely, architect Grant Rimbey is working with the planners at Torti Gallas regarding “directing them to local examples of this architecture that best typify the Temple Terrace style, and other observations he’s made in this regard.” Torti Gallas will incorporate this information into the design guidelines they are creating for the our Downtown Master Plan.
Q. I know the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan encompasses all four corners of 56th and Busch, what can be done in areas like the Northwest corner that has the K-Mart?

A. Considering the northwest corner, there are many things that can be done to improve the appearance and function of an existing conventionally designed strip shopping center with seas of asphalt out front, short of demolition. One solution that has gained acceptance recently is to add Liner Buildings. Liner Buildings are small, narrow retail shops placed next to the street that are used on the periphery of large strip mall parking lots to create a bona fide street edge. Liner buildings improve appearance, increase density and as a fairly easy retrofit, they address the inherent ugliness of the typical strip mall.


Q. So, how much is all of this costing us now and what/when will we have to pay in the future?
A. The City has financed the land purchases with short term borrowing. We plan to recover all or most of this investment when we sell the land to a developer, hopefully by late next year. The interest on this borrowing is capitalized, meaning we do not have to pay the interest until the notes come due in about 2 and 1/2 years. Most of the parcels in the Southeast quadrant that the city has already acquired are either leased out or about to be leased. It has been a surprise to the city but it actually has a surplus of revenue because of these new short term leases. To finance future public infrastructure on the redevelopment site, which will include as a minimum, water and sewer pipes, new City Hall, and a Civic Center, a Bond Issue will be necessary–which means we’ll need to go our for a Public Referendum. We are in need of another fire station and a new police station, and we likely will include those needs in the bond issue as well.
Q. Why is the City in the land acquisition process?

A. The City owning most or all of the property in the southeast quadrant of the redevelopment area will ensure that its master plan is built. The fewer number of landowners in the redevelopment project area, the less impedance to complete redevelopment. By completing the planning and land acquisition phases at the same time, years of time will be saved in the redevelopment effort. So many communities that hire developers first and planners second end up with developments that may make money for the developer but don’t meet the needs of the community. While the City is liable for all costs of the land purchases, including interest, taxes, and operating costs, three of the four properties already purchased (or in the process of being purchased) have tenants who are paying rent to the City. To date, these rents have far exceeded total operating costs, thereby creating positive cash flow during the pre-construction period.


In addition, it is in the city’s best interests to gain control of as many of the CRA parcels in the Southeast quadrant as possible, as soon as possible. Simply put, the creation of the Downtown Master Plan will increase the value of the land within the CRA, which will make it more difficult to acquire later on. When the developers come on board, the best developers will be attracted to a project that has as many contiguous parcels as possible already assembled. The City has acted wisely by adding enormous value to the project by their recent CRA land acquisitions and it is doing what no private entity could do—that is, spending years patiently assembling a Redevelopment area. Our Community Redevelopment Agency, City Council, and STAR deserve our praise for their visionary and progressive thinking!
Q. Why is redevelopment a good investment for the City?
A. Investing in the redevelopment area will help the City in several ways. First, as property values increase in the redevelopment area, there should be a positive ripple effect in property values throughout Temple Terrace. The more the City has to offer on the way of attraction for its citizens, the more demand there will be for houses, townhouses, condominiums, apartments, and commercial property. As demand increases, so do prices. Since property taxes paid to the City are tied to property values, the City can collect more taxes without an increase in tax rates. Temple Terrace has been on the low end of the property value increases over the last five years, and that could change with successful redevelopment. Secondly, the City and County have executed a joint agreement whereby the County will give the City 100% of the ad valorem taxes collected over next ten years from the increase in values of property located within the City’s redevelopment area.

GR 719/04

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