Housing has been a growing issue in Hardee County for some time, so much so that local government felt it was time to take action. In January a joint workshop between the IDA and BOCC was held specifically for that discussion on January 15th and was continued on February 12th. The BOCC revisited the discussion at their regular meeting on March 3rd. Each meeting carried the same four themes:
In February of 2015, the CRA placed a sign on the vacant lot of 231 W. Main Street in hopes of attracting a developer and creating a public/private partnership. Recognizing the benefits provided by the existing downtown apartments, the CRA took another step that September and drafted several concepts for a mixed use development. It wasn’t until after hearing the comments from the IDA, BOCC, builders, property owners, and citizens at the aforementioned three public meetings, that the CRA knew they were heading in the right direction.
On April 12, 2016, the CRA issued two separate RFPs; RFP CRA 16-02 Mixed Use Development 231 W. Main Street and RFP CRA 16-03 HC-1 Mixed Use Development. The RFP CRA 16-02 was geared toward the vacant property at 231 W. Main Street owned by the CRA while 16-03 was geared to renovating and retrofitting existing buildings within the downtown to include a residential element.
Both RFPs were posted online with the City of Wauchula, Florida Redevelopment Agency, Demand Star and shared through Prime Vendor, Inc. Print publications included the Herald Advocate and the Tampa Tribune. RFP CRA 16-02 was also posted to the Brownfield Listings, LLC website and RFP CRA 16-03 was mailed to each property owner in HC-1 as listed on record with the Hardee County Property Appraisers Office. The CRA received one submittal for each.
The CRA Board reviewed both submittals at their June 6, 2016 workshop which included draft plans/concepts, bank references, past project experience, rental rates, and construction cost estimates. They also interviewed Clay Cobb of L. Cobb Development, LLC, developer and builder for the proposed 231 W. Main Street project, and Rick Hayes of Orangewood Builders Inc., builder for the proposed 131 W. Main Street project. Together the projects will provide 15 to 17 apartments targeted at the “workforce/median income household”. The CRA Board determined that both projects met the needs of the community and were worth trying to accomplish.
On June 14, 2016, the CRA presented both projects and requested a partnership from the Hardee County Industrial Development Authority. After review and agreement that it met a housing need, the IDA approved to partner with the CRA.