What is a CRA anyway?

I was excited to meet with Jorge Camejo of the Hollywood CRA. I know he is very respected in the city as a man who gets things done, but what I really wanted to know was, what does CRA stand for and what exactly do they do?

When I met with Jorge, the Executive Director of the Hollywood CRA, and Lisa Liotta, the Redevelopment & Operations Manager, I learned about that and a whole lot more.

CRA stands for Community Redevelopment Agency.

Under Florida law, the local government must survey the proposed redevelopment area to determine that the required conditions (slum and blight) exist. The local government may create a CRA to provide the tools needed to foster and support positive redevelopment of the targeted area.

The Downtown District was created in 1979 and the Beach District was created in 1997.

Slum and Blight? East of Dixie in Hollywood? The definition, said Jorge, is broad. For example, Hollywood Beach, before the Broadwalk was built, was the qualifier. The local governing body adopts a community redevelopment plan, and the CRA implements the plan for a turnaround with a financial structure. The district’s taxable value is identified in the base year – in our case, ’79 and ’97. While the property values grow, the difference in taxes collected is what funds the CRA.

“Many cities have them, and we had the forethought to apply and get them set up a long time ago,” said Jorge, “We’re now grandfathered in under existing financing structures which are favorable to the city.
“We are the poster child of a successful CRA,” he says proudly. “It’s a self–funding economic engine as long as you have continuity and the value keeps growing.”

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Camejo celebrating his daughter’s graduation

The CRAs in Hollywood have been around now for so long that it’s hard to find a program that they’ve NOT been a part of, from the protection of the sea turtle nests to the Hollywood Trolleys to the current $1.4 million Downtown lighting projects, including lighting the alleyways in the commercial areas, new street lighting in the residential areas and the new Festoon lights in the Hollywood beach core.

Currently Jorge and Lisa are working diligently with the Department of Transportation on a redesign of traffic patterns for Young Circle.

“We have an opportunity to significantly improve the traffic around the Circle, and make it more pedestrian friendly,” he stated, explaining the proposed new plan to remove all lights and make the circle a ground-breaking two-way, light-free roundabout. The evaluation and analysis alone are a 12-18 month project; execution would not be until at least 2022.

Jorge born in Cuba and grew up in West Palm Beach. He worked for the city of Boca Raton “for 28 ½ years” including for the CRA there, and was instrumental in the development of Mizner Park. He has four children in their teens and 20s.

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Liotta

Lisa, a mother of two sons, 8 and 14, and a native New Yorker, came to south Florida in 1990, with the intention of continuing her career in medical equipment sales. Instead she went to work for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and then for the City of Miami Beach as a community resource coordinator.

“Lisa is a truly dedicated member of our team,” said Jorge.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it,” she countered. She says of all the projects she’s worked on, she most proud, so far, of the progress made in the downtown corridor.

With all the progress, have the Hollywood CRAs finished their work here? There are those who think it’s time to let them expire at the end of their current runs, in 2025 for the Downtown branch, and in 2027 for the Beach. In response, Jorge has created a financial refund plan which he feels is one of his greatest contributions.

With the plan, 17% of all the money collected by the CRA would be refunded to the city outside of the CRA boundary. Based on projected income and cost expectations, that would amount to approximately $5 million.

“I am most proud of this plan to help the city of Hollywood and Broward county share the benefits of the success we’ve created, and create a positive impact beyond the boundaries of our CRA,” he stated.

For additional information on the Hollywood CRA mission, programs and plans, visit www.hollywoodcra.org.