Jan. 25, 2020 — The first Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA) meeting of 2020 took place on Jan 22 at Florence City Hall with all directors present. The meeting’s two action items were centered around requests from city staff for direction on two different, but related fronts.
City Manager Erin Reynolds welcomed directors to the meeting and set the stage for the first presentation of the evening, given by City Project Manager Megan Messmer regarding FURA grant procedures.
“Megan is going to be walking through with you a proposed idea from staff. This is something that we had as kind of a concept, or idea, as we went through the budget process and this is putting some meat to the bones of that idea,” Reynolds said.
Messmer then spoke to councilors regarding the possible establishment of an additional element to the city’s FURA toolbox. The new program, the FURA Development Assistance Program, would provide the opportunity for business and property owners to apply for grant funding to make improvements to industrial and commercial properties in the FURA District.
In the materials provided at the meeting, Messmer included a memorandum which detailed the two elements currently available for grant consideration by applicants, the Predevelopment Service Grant Program and the Preservation and Rehabilitation Program, often referred to as the Façade Improvement Program.
“Staff is requesting direction on a Development Assistance Program for proposals and requests that do not fit into either of the programs,” she said. “This program would be for projects that are shovel-ready, provide larger improvements than addressed in façade improvements, and meet the goals and priorities of the agency. As a guiding principle, when the agency invests resources into projects, FURA is looking for at least a 5:1 match of private to public funding.”
Messmer indicated that the eligibility and application process in place for the two existing programs would serve as a template for any new program. She also suggested a number of details that would be provided if she was tasked by the agency to move forward with the staff recommendation.
After a short period of discussion, FURA Directors approved the request.
The second action item before FURA was approval to move ahead with a staff proposal to continue recent momentum in the redevelopment of underused areas of Florence.
In this instance, City Economic Development Coordinator Kelli Weese approached the directors with a recommendation to supplement the efforts being made to sell the city’s property on Quince Street. The parcel has been for sale utilizing commercial brokers for years and there has been minimal interest in developing the location.
There is a proposed strategy for development of the Quince Street site, which was approved in November 2019, and envisions a large-scale hotel or lodging facility on the site. The proximity to Historic Old Town Florence and the Port of Siuslaw should be particularly compelling if packaged properly, according to the materials provided to directors. The site is also across the street from the Florence Events Center.
Weese suggested that a less involved process to elicit interest in the site might prove helpful in selling the parcel. To that end, the idea of creating a Request for Expressions of Interest process was discussed, as was the establishment of a Selection Advisory Committee to review future interest in the property.
The concepts were drawn from similar successful programs in other cities, according to Weese.
After some brief clarifications of the proposal, a motion to move forward with staff recommendations was approved unanimously.
In addition, members of a FURA Ad-Hoc Committee agreed to the dissolution of that committee and agreed to join the newly formed Selection Advisory Committee.
During her city manager report, Reynolds reminded directors of the upcoming State of the City Address, held Thursday, Jan. 30, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Florence Events Center, and explained the rationale for the addition of city departments to the evening’s presentations.
Reynolds also updated the directors on the status of a previously approved FURA project, the steps at the Siuslaw Bridge. Reynolds reported the challenges of working with ODOT had delayed the completion of an agreement between the city and the state agency in charge of Oregon’s highways. This delay caused the completion date in the original contract to be passed, which invalidated the agreement, essentially cancelling the project.
Reynolds and Florence Mayor Joe Henry also thanked outgoing FURA Director Patricia Riley, recognizing her contributions to the agency and wishing her well in her future endeavors.
FURA’s next scheduled meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 at Florence City Hall.