TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn is closer to his plan to turn a piece of city-owned industrial land along the Hillsborough River into high-end residential property.
The Tampa City Council's recent approval of the purchase of two pieces of land in East Tampa will enable Buckhorn to shift operations from the public works yard at North Rome Avenue and West St. Louis Street to a site at North 40th Street and East 26th Avenue.
The city already has a large public works yard straddling East 26th. The $1.1 million purchase — $941,000 for one parcel, $220,000 for the other — will let the city expand those operations. The city will also cover more than $60,000 in closing costs on the purchases.
Both purchases are significantly higher than the properties' estimated market value, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's office. The price for the more expensive parcel is about a third higher than the current owner, Tampa Bay Holdings LLC, paid in 2006.
“We made it worth their while to sell,” Buckhorn said last week.
The city had set aside $2 million for the initial stages of the Rome Avenue yard relocations. With the land purchase and a contract to design the 40th Street site, the city had to borrow about $800,000 from its 2015 budget to close the deal, city finance director Sonya Little said.
The bulk of the work relocating the vehicles and other facilities at Rome Avenue will be done during the 2015 budget year, which starts Oct. 1.
The total cost for the relocation is estimated at $17 million, all of it coming from the budgets of the water and wastewater departments, Little said.
Moving the yard from Rome Avenue will open up nearly 11 acres of land a stone's throw from the Hillsborough River with million-dollar views of downtown.
Buckhorn sees the parcel — valued at $1.6 million, yet producing zero taxes — as part of a large plan to redevelop 140 acres between Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and Columbus Drive. The area includes the Tampa Housing Authority's North Boulevard Homes, which the housing authority plans to demolish in favor of a new development mixing subsidized and market-rate housing.
The housing authority plans to seek federal funds through the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods program to pay for moving North Boulevard Homes' current residents and demolishing the World War II-era apartments.
It's not clear when or if the housing authority will receive the HUD funding it's seeking, so Buckhorn said he is willing to sit on the Rome Avenue property after it is cleared and cleaned up.
“We're not just going to sell this property to any developer,” he said. “It was important that we get started. I would like to get this finished before I leave office.”