One of the “big” projects Commissioner Rex Buzzett wanted to focus on for 2017 was folding master plans for North Port St. Joe into the overarching efforts of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency.
A project action committee (PAC) formed just under a year ago has already accomplished much of the heavy lifting.

One of the “big” projects Commissioner Rex Buzzett wanted to focus on for 2017 was folding master plans for North Port St. Joe into the overarching efforts of the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency.

A project action committee (PAC) formed just under a year ago has already accomplished much of the heavy lifting.

An updated master plan for the neighborhood, crafted over a series of meetings and workshops sponsored by the NPSJ-PAC, was released earlier this month by the consultants working with the committee.

Outlining the path, behind and forward, the document, NPSJ-PAC officials hope, will be approved by the PSJRA and moved forward for adoption by the City Commission next month.

“I think we need to act on that soon,” Buzzett said to his fellow commissioners last week in urging “big” thinking and projects for the coming calendar year.

The NPSJ-PAC work was funded in significant measure through a grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

The goal was to revisit and amend, as needed, a master plan developed in 2010, intended to eliminate and mitigate blighted areas.

One major hurdle moving forward was that the plan adopted by the Port St. Joe City Commission arrived as the national economy turned upside down; only in the past three years has seven-years of decline in the county’s tax base been reversed.

This has particularly hurt redevelopment areas, which grow through Tax Increment Financing (TIF); reaping a percentage of property value increases within the area provide revenue.

But within the PSJRA expanded boundaries, effectively NPSJ, property values have yet to climb to the level from the base year of 2009, therefore there has been no TIF revenue generated.

The issue will only grow in importance; the redevelopment designation within the original boundaries sunsets in a few years, leaving the expanded boundaries as the lone area for revenue generation.

There have also been significant changes within the expanded boundaries since the original master plant.

The Dollar Market Store has been built as well as the CVS Pharmacy, both within the expanded redevelopment area.

In addition, the Port St. Joe Port Authority, which officially expressed its support for the NPSJ-PAC work last year, is collaborating with The St. Joe Company on developing an operational port, which would be a neighbor of the expanded redevelopment area.

The path forward, the master plan update detailed, includes several critical steps in building human and economic capital.

The PAC must be expanded, the consultants write, community involvement increased and the creation of a community development corporation non-profit organization needed to spearhead fundraising for projects.

The sources for funding of the CDC must be identified and created along with a business plan.

Stakeholders must be embraced, from the Port Authority to St. Joe Company to Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf, and partnerships strengthened across the community.

The four overarching priorities for the plan, priorities emerging from the public workshops, is to create jobs, housing and open spaces while enhancing the heritage of the area.

And the primary priorities for redevelopment, so-called catalyst projects, include rehabilitation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., including both businesses and housing.

Avenue A and a concept for a new town center is also seen as a catalyst, housing community assets such as a daycare, as well as the creation of a “pocket park.”

The PSJRA and city are expected to take up the document in the coming weeks.