What is a CRA?
Downtown areas across America began to decline after WWII as suburbs developed and peopled moved from the City and into the outskirts and countryside. Construction of retail complexes, office buildings and service providers sprang up in these outlying areas pulling the businesses out of what once was a vibrant urban core of downtown areas. Historic buildings stood vacant and private investments were insufficient to maintain America's downtowns active. Property values dropped significantly resulting in a decline in property taxes.
In the mid 1970's the State legislatures created a mechanism whereby communities could designate areas "blighted" - areas that are in need of redevelopment because certain conditions exist. Cities (later Counties) were given the power to create Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) as Dependent Special Districts to eliminate slum and blighted conditions, restore economic vitality and the standard of living of residents in specific areas.
CRAs are a specifically focused financing tool for redevelopment. CRA Boards do not establish policy for the city or county - they develop and administer a plan to implement that policy. The CRA acts officially as body distinct and separate from the governing body, even when it is the same group of people. The CRA has certain powers that the city or county be itself may not have, such as establish tax increment financing and leverage local public funds with private dollars to make redevelopment happen. The term of a CRA is limited to 20 years, 40 years if extended.