The Community Development District Policing Unit
The Community Redevelopment Policing Unit (CRPU) was established in 2010, with offices located within the CRD at 6990 49th Street North. The unit is responsible not only for reducing crime, but also for educating, building trust within the community, and assisting in identifying the social issues and blighted areas of the CRD that require attention. In addition to their emergency response duties, its officers are required to complete state certification as Crime Prevention Practitioners, and host the Homeless Street Outreach Program to link area homeless with shelter and services.
During 2015-2016, the CPRU officers made a total of 12,785 self-initiated contacts with residents and businesses. The unit has also organized Neighborhood Crime Watch units throughout the District, working closely with residents to monitor and address safety conditions as well as supporting more than 108 Neighborhood Watch meetings and events during the year. Regular ‘Coffee with a Cop’ events hosted by area businesses provide yet another opportunity to hear directly from the community.
One of the Unit’s priorities is the continued safety of the Shoppes at Park Place. The popularity of this retail and entertainment center continues to grow, due in no small part to regular patrols by the CRPU with participation by the Police Mounted Unit. The CRPU organizes and co-hosts numerous community events each year, one of the largest being its National Night Out event at the Shoppes at Park Place, with participation by numerous community organizations and businesses.
Homeless Street Outreach Project
The unit also participates actively in the Homeless Street Outreach Project to provide assistance and long-term solutions for homeless individuals and families encountered within the CRD. These resources are available through cooperative relationships established by and with the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board, which receives annual support from the Pinellas Park CRA as well the City due to its critical importance within the CRD. During 2015-2016, the unit made over 1,000 contacts with homeless individuals, 266 of which received services and were successfully placed in a shelter.
The CRPU station within the CRD has become a welcome center within the community. Its officers, however, are typically seen out in the community, visiting residents and businesses and attending meetings, grand openings, and community events. Their constant presence and accessibility has gained trust, forged relationships, and helped to create the strong partnership that now exists between residents, business owners, and the police department. The unit is represented at meetings of the CRA Board, where their on-the-ground presence offers valuable insights and information to inform policy.
Business Growth and Commercial Development
The Community Redevelopment District (CRD) offers multiple opportunities for retail, entertainment, hotel, mixed-use, and residential redevelopment. Both the City and the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) have made major investments in infrastructure and streetscape projects, increasing the area’s attractiveness for new construction, renovation, and adaptive re-use of existing facilities. The CRD’s high visibility for businesses and easy accessibility for residents have encouraged an increasing rate of redevelopment in this district in recent years, particularly in the area near the Shoppes at Park Place.
Businesses locating in the CRD benefit from zoning and land use provisions that include the ability to develop mixed uses, provisions for density bonuses and affordable housing, and reduced Transportation Impact Fees. During 2015-2016, 76 new businesses were established in the CRD, bringing the total of registered businesses to 723. Seven of these new businesses were registered in the growing arts district.
CRA Commercial Facade Grants
For both new and existing businesses, a CRA Façade Grants program offers matching funds for improvements made to building street frontages. The Façade Grant program supports rehabilitation of independently owned small businesses and apartment complexes serving low to moderate income households. Matching grants of up to $10,000 are provided for façade improvements for one street frontage, with up to an additional $5,000 available for structures with a secondary frontage. Grant funds may be used to improve entryways, including accessibility; windows; awnings and canopies; exterior finishes; landscaping; sidewalks; exterior lighting; and public amenities such as benches, bicycle racks, and public art.
Initiated in Fiscal Year 2014-2015, the program gained momentum in FY 2015-2016. During the current reporting year, grants were approved for new façade signage for a large fitness center located on 49th Street at Park Boulevard and a model train store near the intersection of Park Boulevard and 49th Street, and for extensive façade renovation for a dental office located directly on Park Boulevard with a secondary street frontage. Completed renovations offer a highly visible testimony to the success of this program, and increased participation is expected for the third year of the program.
Residential development within the CRD was limited during 2015-2016, with a small number of residential infill permits issued. Among the year’s highlights was the opening of the Parkside Commons Apartments, designed to offer economically accessible and conveniently located housing to students and faculty at the adjacent Health Center campus of St. Petersburg College. Located directly on Park Boulevard with easy access to PSTA bus lines, the Commons offers 2-4 bedroom apartments with multiple amenities, with rents starting at $725 for a two-bedroom, 953 square foot apartment. The development was fully leased at the time of its grand opening.
CRA Homeowner Improvement Grants
Like the CRA Façade Grant program, the CRA Homeowner Improvement Grants program offers matching grant funds to homeowners for rehabilitation. Eligible homeowners who meet income requirements and demonstrate need may apply to receive a matching reimbursement grant of $500 to $5,000 for eligible projects. These include roof repairs; entryway and window repairs improvements; landscaping and tree removal; and weatherization and energy efficiency improvements. Priority is granted to emergency repairs, code violations, and modifications for ADA accessibility.
Unlike a similar program available to homeowners outside the CRA, the grant program has been slow to attract attention within the District. A single home improvement grant was approved during 2015-2016, continuing into FY 2016-2017. Marketing efforts through the CRA website, CRA Neighborhood Watch Groups, and other outreach channels will continue in the coming year.