The pre-app was incomplete, onto the application



One swing does not a strikeout make.

The North Port St. Joe Project Area Committee (NPSJ-PAC) will move ahead with a full application to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. despite a pre-application being deemed not eligible for funding.

The PAC is seeking $5.750 million to undertake the overhaul of infrastructure as well as the rezoning of property along Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.

John Hendry, a consultant who has been working with the NPSJ-PAC on a new master plan for the area, said the pre-application was indeed incomplete due to the initial outline of the process from the Triumph Gulf Coast board.

“When the PAC submitted its initial (pre-application) in November, it was doing so with very little guidance provided by the information that had been published by (Triumph),” Hendry said in an email.

“At that stage, I had not even presented the detailed Plan for the Redevelopment of Martin Luther King Boulevard to the PAC and the (Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency).”

Hendry presented the plan to both boards during the month of November.

The plan and several critical pieces of documentation have been completed since and forwarded to the PSJRA in hopes the board will take up and approve the plan during its March meeting.

More critically, the criteria Triumph will consider for projects is now better understood, Hendry said.

“We now have an infrastructure plan for MLK, crucial to our applications,” Hendry said, adding that PAC members have been regulars at Triumph board meetings and have had informal discussions with board members.

“The PAC is also working to obtain the formal support from the City and County,” Hendry said. “We know that will not happen until we have convinced the elected officials of our seriousnesss to proceed all the way down the field.

“So that is what we are doing.”

The Board of County Commissioners made clear that the county’s priority for Triumph funding was a dry dock facility for Eastern Shipbuilding, Hendry noted, a reason the PAC did not seek BOCC support for its Triumph application.

The PAC is also working along paths not dependent on Triumph funding which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, Hendry said.

Triumph Gulf Coast is charged with disbursing some $1.2 billion over 15 years to projects in eight Northwest Florida coastal counties impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill eight years ago.

The PAC application evolved from work that began in 2016 to update the master plan for the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe, which was originally drafted after the area was part of an expansion of the city’s redevelopment agency boundaries.

The PSJRA and city have approved the master plan update, pending formal presentation of a final document, which is en route for the March meeting of the PSJRA.

The updating of that plan, which included three public meetings, focused in particular on MLK Blvd. as the highest priority for restoration without displacing residents.

“The effective redevelopment of Martin Luther King Boulevard will change the face of this community, restore the pride of its citizens and attract newcomers and former residents to make their home here,” an introduction to the plan update reads.

“Current residents have waited too long to see change come about and they are impatient for redevelopment to become visible,”

With empty lots predominate along the roadway, Hendry’s research has shown that, conservatively, the lost tax revenue to the county is over $77,000 a year, $15,000 to the city.

With development at the Port of Port St. Joe, a neighbor to North Port St. Joe, a focus for the county, the time is right for redevelopment of Martin Luther King Blvd. in order to bolster real estate and business development.

The detailed plan for rezoning includes updated mapping and options for redevelopment as well as incentives to help drive redevelopment and attract outside funding.

The plan also includes methods to rebuild infrastructure, including wider sidewalks, tree planters, improvement of alley surfaces and creation of open spaces.

The plan outlines a mixed-use approach, with retail, residential and transitional zones, safe sidewalks and distinctive corners, such as that at MLK and Avenue A.

“Without the right tools and support in place, the physical restoration of the community will be piecemeal, inconsistent in quality, almost impossible to finance effectively and, ultimately, another false start and disappointment for those who have waited so long for the revival of their community,” a passage in the plan reads.