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Thursday, Oct 19, 2017
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Top priority for Mayor Mel Jurado: Sell city's redevelopment property

TEMPLE TERRACE — As Mel Jurado takes up the gavel as mayor, she joins a City Council determined to get construction started on city-owned downtown redevelopment property even if it isn't the Downtown Temple Terrace people once envisioned.

The council has received several offers from developers after a search by its real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, and Jurado has said the city needs to pick the best of them and get them built.

That's because a $23.5 million loan — money the city borrowed more than a decade ago to buy and improve the property — must be paid off or refinanced by next April.

"I'm honored and humbled and ready to get busy,'' Jurado said after her victory in Tuesday's special election to fill the term of Kim Leinbach, who resigned in May because of a family illness and to take a job as interim city manager of Plant City.

Jurado, a 54-year-old industrial psychologist, received double the total votes of both the other candidates — accountant David Ganessingh and former social worker Linda Ormsbee.

Jurado is tentatively scheduled to be sworn into office at a special City Council meeting on Nov. 6, City Clerk Cheryl Mooney said.

The job is heavy on public relations, light on power and largely voluntary. It pays $239.18 per month with a $100 monthly travel allowance.

Jurado will act as the face of the city in appearances around the Tampa Bay area and the state, promoting it as a great place in which to live and do business. She will conduct City Council meetings but can't vote except to break a tie.

She is free to use the "bully pulpit'' to promote her positions.

While moving forward on the redevelopment land is the top priority, Jurado's next two goals are the creation of an economic development council and straightening out the budget so the city's financial picture is clear to its residents.

The council has called for an independent audit after encountering a number of errors in the preliminary budgets they reviewed in the two months.

During her campaign, Jurado stressed the need for an aggressive city economic development council, made up of business leaders in the community and city staffers, to target desirable companies and go after them.

"Amazon is looking for more property,'' she said. "I don't know if any of us has reached out to them.''

As for the downtown redevelopment district, the city is trying to sell 22 acres along the east side of 56th Street from Bullard Parkway to the Hillsborough River.

In years past, the idea was to build the downtown that Temple Terrace never had — pedestrian-friendly enclave of shops, restaurants, offices and residences along the lines of Dunedin or downtown St. Petersburg.

What the market will bear, however, are banks, restaurants, and a retail strip center with single-story shops separate from three-story walk-up multi-family apartments, according to the offers Cushman & Wakefield received.

Real estate agent Patrick Berman has been negotiating with the companies making the best offers and is expected to address the council during a meeting Tuesday.

"We need action,'' Jurado said at a recent candidates' forum. " We cannot afford a $23 million park. We cannot.''

Contact Philip Morgan @pmorgan@tampabay.com

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