AVON PARK - The goal of attaining three-quarters of a million dollars to improve Avon Park's southside leaped forward Wednesday night.
At the Southside Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board regular meeting, the five-member committee unanimously voted to recommend the Avon Park CRA - a separate public entity created by the city council to implement and support redevelopment activities in specific areas - pursue a $750,000 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant. The money would be primarily used to improve, upgrade, repair and landscape the approximately six linear blocks around the intersection of east Hal McRae boulevard and south Delaney Avenue.
The board also approved the use of $48,000 of the Southside's Tax Increment Financing (TIF) reserve of $127,000 to cover expenses and site engineering by Avon Park's Cool & Cobb Engineering Co. for required project bid documents.
Once the block grant application is submitted to the state, it is reviewed for accuracy and sufficiency, and based on a scoring system, the grant is awarded or rejected.
Maria Sutherland, Avon Park director of administrative services, said the CRA and city council should know if the grant is awarded by October. The state would then send staff from Guardian Community Resource Management of Lakeland, a development and construction administration firm serving local government and community development organizations, to look at the historic significance and structural needs and validate the decision.
From that point, the project goes for bid by contractors and the redevelopment could commence.
Sutherland said the idea is for contractors to hire sub-contractors, hopefully minority contractors, as the area is a predominantly black neighborhood.
"You won't have a mom-and-pop contractor out there applying for these large contracts. There's a lot of insurance and bonding that needs to be in place for that," Sutherland said. "The sub-contractors are when your mom-and-pops come in. It spurs the economic revitalization of the local subcontractors."
Once the money is in and plans are underway, the majority of the work would entail improving, repairing and upgrading streets, gutters, sidewalks, landscaping and streetscaping, including lighting, street signs, replacement of sewer cover and drainage improvements.
Sutherland said with the $125,000 of $300,000 set aside by the city council for the CRA, added to the $750,000, the Southside CRA would have over $800,000 to work with.
"They (Southside CRA) have saved over the past three years about $30,000 per year for this project, so it's been a long time coming," she said. "I'm really excited for them. It will be fun to see this grow."
Carl Cool, engineer with Cool & Cobb said an approximately 4,900-square-foot city parking lot across from Marion's Community Funeral Chapel on south Delaney Avenue would be needed for a retention pond and new street curves would be necessary to alleviate any drainage problems north of the redevelopment area. He asked board members and citizens for their input as well.
"I need to hear from you in the near future as to exactly what you want," he said.
Board member Theresa Whiteside asked for a tour of the site with Cool and a special Southside board meeting was been scheduled Friday at the intersection so board members could get a better grasp on plans.
The next step in the redevelopment effort will be Monday when the CRA main board - the "Mothership" - moves and votes to fund engineering for the project, said Sutherland. If that occurs, Cool & Cobb would meet with CRA members to focus plans, a conceptual plan would be formualted and final specifications should be ready by mid-February.
During the meeting, the board also approved $6,500 in funding for three of six facade improvement grant proposals which were incomplete once they are finished and discussed renaming a city in street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., which requires city council approval.