by Joseph Giannone
On, March 29th, 2010, the Collier County Board of Commissioners met with the Marco Island City Council to discuss CRA money to redevelop the Marco Town Center. The meeting took place to exchange ideas about the City’s intent to use CRA funds, provided by the County, to redevelop and rebuild Marco Town Center.
Marco Town Center is “deteriorating and economically distressed due to outdated building density patterns, inadequate transportation and parking facilities, faulty lot layout and inadequate street layout,” according to the official Agenda Notebook presented at the meeting for the Commissioners use. A CRA is an acronym for “Community Redevelopment Area.”
When an area of a town is deemed unsuitable for maintaining a business or a home, or if it’s considered “Blighted,” unsuitable for living and working, the county will go into their general funds, paid for by tax payers money, to redevelop and rebuild the area deemed blighted, creating a new and more prosperous place to live.
The Marco Island City Council and the County Commissioners discussed this issue earlier in the year, but decided jointly to revisit the issue. According to a letter of request by City Council members to the Board of Commissioners, “the city facilitated two community planning charrettes during analysis for the finding of Necessity. During these charrettes, members of the community highlighted a desire to see the Town Center district become more attractive, pedestrian friendly, interconnected, supportive of business needs, and architecturally interesting, without losing its current function.”
Before any decision to acquire CRA funds for the Marco Town Center was made, Kimley-Horn, an independent consultant firm surveyed the eligibility of the Marco Town Center for the CRA, taking pictures, surveying specific areas, and pointing out code violations, creating a very specific and detailed booklet of what the problems are, and how they can be solved. According to their written statement, “Based upon an independent assessment of the proposed Town Center Community redevelopment area, sufficient criteria have been met to qualify the area for consideration pursuant to the requirements of the Florida Community Redevelopment Act.”
The following places are under consideration for a CRA, “Buildingupon the redesign of Collier Boulevard, city planning for Veterans Community Park, and parking and landscaping enhancements along Elkcam Circle,” the city council also proposed that they would like to build Work Force Housing for the working class men and women who commute to Marco everyday, claiming it will create less traffic in the morning and supply more revenue for the city, with more people living on Marco, less people would need to commute to the island.
Even though Marco Town Center is eligible for the CRA money that the county offers, the commissioners believe Marco Island is not fully eligible for this money. Other areas like Bayshore Drive in Naples have recently been deemed blighted, so an entire redevelopment of Bayshore’s key areas, like Bayshore apartments, has been in the process for some time.
According to Donna Fiala who lead the Bayshore CRA project, Bayshore needed the CRA because crime was abundant in the area.
“It truly turned Bayshore into a safer and successful place in Naples,” says Mrs. Fiala.
The County Commissioners do not feel that the City of Marco needs the CRA funds. The Councilors understand that work housing should be available. Marco Town Center isn’t the only area to be defined as blighted, and deemed unsuitable for living or working, the entire Town Center District is included. Where do we go from here?
Marco Island’s City Council would like County Commissioners to give them more time to determine what needs to be done, and define what a proposal would entail. The Collier County Commissioners would prefer to see Marco Island set up an MSTU fund, instead of receiving CRA money, to beautify and clean up the Marco Town Center redevelopment area.
According to Donna Fiala, the Golden Gate estates set up an MSTU fund, raised their own money, which helped them rebuild areas of Golden Gate Estates, creating a more prosperous community. The Commissioners would like to see Marco Island do this as well. According to the Collier County’s official website, an MSTU is “a funding mechanism for community members to create, through approval of the Board of County Commissioners, a special taxing district to make improvements to their neighborhood and/or community area.”