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Incentives help Largo market properties
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LARGO – After two years of work, the city of Largo now has four incentives designed to attract development in the West Bay Community Redevelopment District, and businesses are ready to use them.

Even before the new resolutions passed May 6, some businesses were champing at the bit to use the incentives, said Economic Development Manager Teresa Brydon.

“Word is getting out there that Largo is considering these, and people are calling us excited,” she told Largo commissioners, who acted as the Community Redevelopment Board to pass the four incentives.

Specifically, investors are interested in buying two of the parcels the city owns within the West Bay Community Redevelopment District.

First, the city is completing the terms of an agreement with Urban Edge Development Group, based in Tampa, for the purchase of “site A” at 158 Ridge Road, Brydon said. The property would be developed into a small, high-end apartment complex.

Brydon said the city was evaluating whether the project would qualify for a housing infill program, one of the four programs passed May 6. That incentive is designed to bring high quality urban housing to the district. For rental units that qualify, the developer could receive a grant of $3,000 for each unit, or 5 percent of actual hard construction and land costs, whichever is higher, up to $8,000 per unit, according to city documentation.

The second property, “site B,” is in the 500 block of West Bay Drive. The city has been talking to a potential developer about that location for the past six months or so, Brydon said. Though Brydon couldn’t disclose many of the details still being negotiated, the property would turn into mixed-use project, with housing, retail and office elements.

“That particular block is one that can be mixed-use,” she said.

For that potential project, the third incentive program might be applicable. The real estate development incentive is designed to create multi-story offices with street frontages and active ground floor use, according to the new resolution. The developers certainly have been calculating the potential incentive as they considered developing in Largo, Brydon said.

“They’ve been aware. They too will look at tapping into it,” she explained.

After sites A and B sell, the city will look at how to market its parcels, which include old Largo Community Center property on Fourth Street Northwest, just a block north from West Bay Drive.

The most contentious program – giving businesses grants based on the number of jobs created – might come into play as new owners of the office tower at 801 W. Bay Drive look to fill the building with new tenants. The company asked for a copy of the new first incentive resolution for that reason, Brydon said.

“We expect that’s going to help them go in and do upgrades to that structure. We’re really excited about that,” she said.

The final incentive provides a grant for businesses to convert their pole signs to monument ones, as will be required starting in 2017. Largo commissioners amended the resolution to allow businesses to claim $1,000 instead of the $200 currently offered to businesses outside of the district.

Brydon said the city would be working on a marketing campaign to commercial real estate and infill housing brokers, so that “everybody knows that we’re looking for new development, and we want to be able to do well at increasing the viability of downtown.”

City to pursue tax financing for Clearwater-Largo Road

Now that the incentives are approved, the city will turn its attention to its other community redevelopment district, that around Clearwater-Largo Road. Staff asked the commission to weigh in on pursuing tax increment financing for the district May 13.

Such financing would mean that the additional revenue produced from increased property value would be set aside to underwrite special projects or programs within the district. Community Development Director Carol Stricklin pointed out that, if approved, this financing included county tax revenue as well.

Staff also wanted to expand the district to reflect the North Greenwood boundaries of Pinellas County’s Healthy Communities Initiative.

The commission agreed with the expanded direction for the district. The city will seek approval from the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners for the change and conduct a study to determine the necessity of the district. The whole process could take 18 to 24 months.
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