Saturday, September 21, 2019

Speaking Of CRAs

Donna Fiala

Donna Fiala

We can all see the car transports busily picking up winter residents cars to head back up north. These wonderful people have brought much to our community over the last few months and we thank them. We wish them well during the coming summer months and look forward to their return in the late fall. 

Some of you have noticed the land clearing taking place at one of the entrances to Lely Resort across from the McDonald’s on U.S.41 East. According to Brian Stock of Stock Development they are clearing the 9-acre parcel of land that was previously permitted for a mixed-use development consisting of boutique retail shops, commercial, 150 residential units and restaurants. They will fill the land to grade once it is cleared and hope to attract some retail and restaurants to the area. With the overwhelming success of the Carrabba’s right across the street, retail investors should realize the great potential for this property. This area is just ripe for retail development! 

Speaking of retail – the Lowe’s folks are really moving along at a steady pace on their project, which is located across U.S.41 E from Carrabba’s. This could turn into a bustling area with this activity! 

A few people have asked me for my opinion about the upcoming vote on the Marco Town Center CRA. First, the county has no jurisdiction over this CRA, nor do we have a vote on it. This is strictly in the lap of the Marco City Council. I’ve been heavily involved in the CRA for Bayshore and quite involved with the Immokalee CRA as well, so I have a little knowledge about them. Also, as a county, we watch the CRA in the City of Naples and see what it was and what it has become. CRA’s are usually created for a blighted, slum area with a large amount of crime. In the City of Naples, when the CRA was established in 1994, 5th Avenue was like a ghost town with windows covered or boarded up and practically no activity in the area. The CRA was effective in changing that situation around. Personally, I feel that CRA should have sunsetted in 10 years rather than 30 years because their work was done in the first 7 years, in my opinion. What happened as the street improved immensely and wealthy developers purchased and upgraded or rebuilt entirely, the rents went sky high and the Mom & Pop’s moved off 5th Ave. because they couldn’t afford the rents anymore. Restaurants have come and gone. The old connections with the past are closed (Blue Muscle, 5th Ave. Pharmacy, etc.) and new businesses have come and gone. Right now it’s a lovely street of restaurants and art galleries, mostly. It’s truly lovely, but the Mom & Pop’s are gone, which saddens me. 

 In the Bayshore area the CRA has been buying up slums and removing them completely, which has reduced crime considerably. There is still much to do as the area gains a new identity as an Art and Cultural District, so we will have to wait and see how it comes out. This area needs every bit of those 30 years because there was a lot to do. Before the CRA began though, the people living on Bayshore decided to tax themselves (county residents were not affected by this at all) through a Municipal Special Taxing Unit (MSTU) to change and upgrade their appearance. With this MSTU they landscaped the medians, built meandering sidewalks, installed benches and waste receptacles, installed streetlights, etc., and to this day the MSTU is in effect to maintain these areas and soon to expand the beautification process. The CRA is not involved with this beautification nor its funding.

 My feeling about the Marco CRA is much of the area just needs some strict code enforcement and owners need to be responsible for improvements on their own property. But, the decision is not mine. I’ve only shared with you my personal feelings.

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