CRA keeps on giving it away

The city's Community Redevelopment Agency awarded two more subsidies last week even as the agency's advisory board considers a change to its incentive policy so that more retail businesses receive the handouts.

The CRA board voted 5-0 to give a $79,500 subsidy to Shanghai Tom's Chinese Restaurant, which is expected to take over a spot on West Church Street. The board also awarded $75,000 to Sam Filippelli, who has owned Vivaldi's Ristorante for 20 years. Filippelli plans to open an Argentine steakhouse.

The CRA board is considering whether to devote the remainder of the $1.5 million subsidy program to retail. Since enacting the program last year, seven restaurants have nabbed CRA handouts, totaling more than $600,000 [Your tax dollars at work, May 24]. But only two retail businesses participated.

According to Tom Kohler, the CRA's executive director, "Either there's no demand for retail or the incentive isn't high enough. That is something we need to revisit." CRA members will discuss the subsidies at a meeting with county commissioners scheduled for mid-June.

Kohler, meanwhile, is resisting the notion to open up the CRA by listing the subsidies on the agency's website. When told some taxpayers would want to see the expenditures on the Internet, Kohler responded, "That's your position."

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