Too often, new investments into distressed communities are āhere today, gone tomorrow.ā By offering incentives that encourage investors to think in terms of decades instead of days, Opportunity Zones ensure that development is āhere today, here to stay.ā The Opportunity Zones incentive, created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was designed to spur economic development and job creation by encouraging long-term investments in low-income communities nationwide.
In Central Florida, the interest in creating viable communities within designated Opportunity Zones is immense. On May 20 and 21, Scott Turner, Executive Director of White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, and Mary Walker, Deputy Region IV Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined the HUD team for roundtables and tours in both Orlando and Tampa to explore such possibilities.
EPAās representative discussed the utilization of the Brownfields Program, which provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties.
Alesia Scott-Ford, HUD Field Office Director in Jacksonville hosted a series of events to connect stakeholders with the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council representatives to increase awareness about the new program and council. The objective of the council is to implement administrative reforms and initiatives that will target, streamline, coordinate, and optimize federal resources in economically distressed communities to stimulate economic development, encourage entrepreneurship, expand educational and workforce development opportunities, and promote safe neighborhoods.
In Orlando, Turner, EPA and HUD teams joined Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and LIFT President Eddie Mortain for a tour of Pendana at West Lakes properties. Pendana is in one of Orlandoās designated Opportunity Zones; it offers mixed income housing, education, wellness services, and economic partnerships to promote viability through investments in employment, entrepreneurship and economic development. The group also visited historic establishment Foodies CafĆ©, located on Parramore Avenue; in one of Orlandoās most distresses communities.
The team also visited Creative Village near Livingston Street in downtown to learn about the redevelopment vision for the area, currently under construction. Upon completion (expected for 2021), the area will have within a 15-minute walk radius, a campus for the University of Central Florida with 640 purpose-built student housing, 256 mixed-income residential housing, 701 market rate apartments, commercial space, a hotel, access to public transportation, and outdoor amenities.
An engaging roundtable discussion followed, with the participation of representatives from State of Florida, the City of Orlando, Orange County Florida elected officials, community leaders, stakeholders and business partners. The session included information on the implementation of the Opportunity Zones initiative, potential projects in the Central Florida area, a Q&A about what is needed for the community and next steps.
Tampaās activities on May 21st included a tour and roundtable with Tampa Mayor Jane Castro and President/CEO of Tampa Housing Authority Jerome Ryan. The group visited the revitalization efforts currently being implemented by the housing authority in Tampa Opportunity Zones. Participants to the roundtable included also City of Tampa staff, Hillsborough County community leaders, stakeholders and business partners.