Pensacola’s Community Redevelopment Agency will exist until at least 2046 after the City Council voted 6-1 Thursday evening to extend the life of the CRA.
The vote passed over the objection of Councilwoman Sherri Myers, who attempted to require the CRA to provide more low-income housing and take actions to address systemic racism as part of the extension before the council Thursday.
Myers said that since the CRA was created in 1980, the Black population in the Urban Core CRA has been forced to move out of neighborhoods like the Hawkshaw area and the Tanyard.
“During the CRA’s forty years of existence, it cannot point to one low income African American community that has benefited from the millions of dollars spent on projects in the CRA Urban Core,” Myers wrote in her legislative summary.
Other council members questioned the legality of the proposal by Myers. The city attorney said she could not give her opinion because the proposal was not sent to her office before the meeting.
CRAs are special districts that local governments can create in economically depressed areas to redirect property tax money in the district to fund activities and projects aimed at redeveloping that area.
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Pensacola has three separate CRA districts, an East Side CRA, a West Side CRA and an Urban Core CRA that contains most of downtown Pensacola and the surrounding area. All three CRA districts are governed by the city’s CRA board, which is made up of all of the City Council members.
CRA Executive Director Helen Gibson took issue with Myers’ characterization of the CRA, saying its mission has been focused on improving the area by creating parks like Plaza de Luna and Community Maritime Park.
“There’s not been one project that the CRA has done, other than Aragon Court, that has relocated citizens,” Gibson said.
The CRA’s current projects are focused on streetscape improvements to connect the innercity to the waterfront, but it’s also working on taking on projects to increase affordable housing in the area.
“That focus on the public realm has provided a stabilizing base for private investment, which is what is needed to be done in order to have any revenue at all to do anything else such as public facilities or affordable housing,” Gibson said.
Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn said Myers should have brought her proposal through the CRA board first and had it reviewed, and there might have been a way to include the language in the resolution.
“This amendment did not go through the proper channels,” Cannada-Wynn said.
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.