An organization seeking to revitalize the North Port St. Joe neighborhood has enlisted into a partnership with a Tallahassee-based group.



An organization seeking to revitalize the North Port St. Joe neighborhood has enlisted into a partnership with a Tallahassee-based group with a successful track record in such redevelopment.

The North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition (NPSJ-PAC) last week entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Big Bend Community Development Corporation.

The MOU details four primary objectives: establishing a local CDC board of directors; putting in place governance and administration mechanisms to ensure success of the CDC; working to create a business plan for the local CDC; and building, and starting to execute, a strategy for attracting financial support for the redevelopment process.

“The (NPSJ) PAC recognizes it has neither the capacity, nor the means of building capacity, to execute its redevelopment plan,” detailed documents announcing the MOU.

“It is certainly not equipped to build a new CDC from scratch, especially at the speed necessary to meet the community’s ambitions for redevelopment of North Port St. Joe.”

However, in the Big Bend CDC the local organization gains the opportunity to work closely with a well-established organization carrying more than 20 years of experience in the exact effort the NPSJ-PAC has launched.

“They can move efficiently and confidentially through the process of building a new Community Development Corporation in North Port St. Joe,” read the MOU announcement.

The MOU, and the objectives it spells out, is intended to carry over 12 months and will be financed by outside sources.

The ultimate goal is to accelerate North Port St. Joe’s access to a range of sources for public and private investment in redevelopment.

The MOU, which links the two organizations, will be recognized, in turn, by a wide range of sources that can provide funding and assistance.

“That means that redevelopment projects initiated in North Port St. Joe under the auspices and guidance of Big Bend Community Development Corporation will immediately have a realistic chance of being considered by external agencies for funding and other forms of assistance,” read the announcement.

From the outset of its 2016 work to update a Master Plan for NPSJ and the framework for redevelopment, the PAC has understood it would likely need assistance, monetary and otherwise, from public and private sources beyond Gulf County.

Redevelopment, no matter how complex or simple, would be impossible without it, PAC leaders have said from the beginning.

The county tax base is not deep enough and the county lacks the “motivated leadership” to carry out the heavy lifting needed to redevelop the NPSJ community, which, PAC leaders have said, has been repeatedly frustrated and fatigued by the back-burner placement of its needs over many decades.

It was long a central goal to find outside sources for assistance.

A particular objective was the creation of an organization, in this case a non-profit Community Development Corporation, to focus solely on redevelopment.

As the MOU announcement detailed, “CDCs are a nationally tried-and-tested means of realizing local community restoration and redevelopment.

“Furthermore, financial institutions and federal and state government entities are comfortable working with CDCs.”

A successful CDC also breeds success, PAC officials said.

And those officials found a perfect match during a June leadership retreat in Tallahassee.

During that retreat the group of 20 was introduced to the Big Bend CDC officials as well as success stories from their 20 years of work, including the Frenchtown area of Tallahassee and more recently in Gadsden County.

The NPSJ-PAC contigent came away endorsing the concept of creating a CDC as well as enlisting the Big Bend group to assist and guide the process.

“Could the expertise, fundraising experience and reputation of the Big Bend CDC be brought to bear on North Port St. Joe and, in particular, the creation of a CDC?,” the MOU announcement read in part.

The NPSJ-PAC is currently undertaking a detailed plan for the rezoning of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. for presentation to and action by the Port St. Joe City Commission.

MLK, the artery through the heart of North Port St. Joe, is seen as a linchpin to redevelopment of the area.

The NPSJ-PAC will hold a meeting Saturday, Aug. 26 during which three principal officers of the Big Bend CDC will be on hand to explain the organization’s role with the local PAC.

The PAC executive committee will also take those officials on a tour of Port St. Joe with a visit slated with various local owners of property along MLK Blvd.