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Lealman CRA getting local radio air time

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Pinellas County’s community improvement efforts in unincorporated Lealman will be the topic of discussion on local radio this Thursday.

The show, “No Place Like Home,” sponsored by the county’s Housing Finance Authority, airs this Thursday, from 10:05 to 10:35 a.m. on WRXB 1590 AM.

Lealman, which was recognized in 2013 by the Department of Health and Human Services as one of the five poorest spots in Pinellas, was recently established as a Community Redevelopment Area by the County Commission.

The move was a first of sorts for Pinellas, as no other unincorporated parts of the county have ever been given this designation.

Broadly speaking, CRAs attempt to foster and support the redevelopment of a targeted area. Tax increment financing is usually used to leverage public funds to promote private-sector activity within that area.

The Lealman CRA, like the South St. Petersburg CRA before it, is also unique in its attempt to improve the quality of life within the local community, rather than merely repairing or building brick and mortar establishments, which has been the traditional state-wide CRA approach in the past.

However, improving something as tough as everyday life in Lealman can be a daunting task. Some of the factors that went into declaring Lealman blighted — a prerequisite to becoming a CRA — were poorly maintained and managed rental properties, the impact of the recession on local employers, continued problems with prostitution, drugs and physical assault, a lack of awareness regarding sustainable financial practices among residents, the lack of access to a grocery store, and a lack of “sense of place,” as no visual cues are present in Lealman to let someone know they’ve entered the area.

Assisting in this ambitious effort will be the Lealman CRA Advisory Committee. The nine-member committee of either residents, business owners, property owners, or other stakeholders from within the Lealman CRA, will be tasked with helping county staff develop and administer the Lealman Redevelopment Plan, which is expected to be drafted sometime between late 2015 and early 2016.

Announcements regarding advisory committee personnel are slated for Sept. 10, during  the commission’s next regular meeting. Terms will be for three years, with initial appointments staggered, so that no more than three members’ terms end up expiring at one time.

No Place Like Home airs this Thursday at 10:05 a.m. on WRXB 1590 AM. Guests include both the Pinellas Planning Department’s division manager, Renea Vincent, and its housing development manager, Frank Bowman.

Questions or comments about the show may be emailed to [email protected].

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail [email protected], or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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