What's new

Glitzy plans often pushed with funds for renewal

BasesLoadedWalk

Muckdog
Joined
Jan 4, 2004
Messages
582
Reaction score
0
http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/16504218.htm

Glitzy plans often pushed with funds for renewal

A proposal to use money set aside for neighborhood revitalization as a funding source for major public projects like a baseball stadium is controversial, but it's not an unprecedented idea in Miami -- or Broward County.

BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ
mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

AND TODD WRIGHT

Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency, in its mission statement, pledges to improve quality of life in some of the city's downtrodden neighborhoods, "thereby achieving the complete eradication of slums and blight.''

And maybe helping to build a baseball stadium along the way.

Last week, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz told reporters that the city's inner-city redevelopment strategy may include spending CRA money on a new stadium for the Florida Marlins. CRA Chairwoman and City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said other community needs must be addressed first. Having a stadium jump to the front for CRA funding would be ''shameful,'' she said.

Other South Florida CRAs, such as Hollywood's, are finding that urban renewal spending can be controversial. One example: Last year, Hollywood commissioners were close to writing a $100,000 CRA check to bring a Starbucks to downtown. Protesters thwarted the move.

Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of big-ticket construction projects are vying for South Florida's CRA money, prompting worries that the agencies -- flush with cash from the building boom -- will spend on concrete monuments to the detriment of small businesses or affordable housing.

Miami's CRA is charged with benefiting the Overtown, Omni and Park West areas. The agency could have roughly $340 million to spend over the next two decades, but current suggestions total more than $700 million.

Aside from the stadium, city leaders have discussed spending CRA funds to help finance:

? A $1.2 billion tunnel to the Port of Miami-Dade

? A $200 million Streetcar project

? Museum Park -- a plan to add two museums to underutilized Bicentennial Park, at a cost of up to $615 million.

? Increased contributions to construction costs for Miami's $446.3 million Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. The CRA already chips in $1.43 million yearly to help pay for bonds that built the facility. That contribution may now more than double.

None of those spending suggestions have been approved. The CRA would likely only foot a portion of any total bill. Its contribution to the Streetcar -- if it happens -- likely would be about $30 million.

NO BENEFIT TO POOR

Bernadette Armand, an organizer with Overtown activist group Power U Center for Social Change, claims the CRA is being used as a ''slush fund'' for projects that do little to uplift residents of Overtown, Miami's poorest neighborhood.

''The people in the Overtown area don't have use for the Streetcar,'' Armand said. "They're not being invited to the performing arts center, won't be able to afford tickets to the games at the stadium.''

In Hollywood, some city commissioners have questioned the generosity of CRA spending.

CRA money there serves mainly as conduits for high-priced developments. On Hollywood Beach, the CRA is in the midst of a $100 million infrastructure improvement project to accommodate large developments expected to be built in the next 10 years.

Hollywood commissioners are on the verge of giving away downtown land for which the city CRA paid $6.3 million to state Rep. Ken Gottlieb, who plans to build town houses and condos on the property. The CRA also is considering giving all of the tax money that would be generated by the project back to Gottlieb.

On Hollywood Beach, the CRA might spend as much as $25 million to build a parking garage and outdoor performance stage for a new Marriott hotel, along with other financial incentives.

In both Miami and Hollywood, city commissioners, acting as the CRA board, decide how to spend the agency's money.

The guiding principle behind a CRA is to take property taxes from a struggling neighborhood and keep them there -- in hopes of spurring development. Both city and county property tax money, above a certain threshold, stays within CRA boundaries.

As developers flock to a CRA area, the amount of tax money produced there grows, and the CRA piggy bank grows with it.

But South Florida's recent development boom, while good for CRA coffers, has also contributed to an affordable housing crisis -- which CRAs are expected to help solve.

Miami Mayor Diaz calls affordable housing an important city goal but said a CRA's purpose is more than just that.

''It's a whole combination of things that go into revitalizing a neighborhood,'' Diaz said. Transportation and infrastructure upgrades, improved retail offerings, and new public venues -- such as a Marlins stadium -- can play an important role, he said.

Diaz has predicted a downtown baseball stadium would bring jobs and "substantial economic activity.''

The still-sketchy stadium plans call for the city to deed property to Miami-Dade County so the Marlins -- which would lease the stadium -- could receive a tax break. And it requires money from the state Legislature.

FAILED PROJECTS

The track record for such public venues and Miami's CRA is decidedly mixed. The city's Carnival Center for the Performing Arts is credited with attracting redevelopment to the Omni neighborhood. But Overtown's CRA-subsidized Miami Arena, built in 1988, is derided by many as a ''pink elephant'' -- abandoned by the two professional sports teams that once called it home, incapable of delivering the neighborhood turnaround its boosters promised.

Spence-Jones, while an ally of the mayor, holds a somewhat different vision than Diaz about CRA spending.

In October, Spence-Jones pledged $30 million in CRA funds toward bringing affordable and middle-income housing to Overtown. She says the CRA has so far failed to provide adequate housing or needed water and sewer repairs to the neighborhood -- things promised years ago that must take top priority.

''People have a wish list that's, you know, humongous,'' Spence-Jones said. "But the reality is until we deal with the things that are needs first, and not the wants, I can't even hear it.''
 

babaru

Muckdog
Joined
Mar 16, 2004
Messages
795
Reaction score
0
In October, Spence-Jones pledged $30 million in CRA funds toward bringing affordable and middle-income housing to Overtown. She says the CRA has so far failed to provide adequate housing or needed water and sewer repairs to the neighborhood -- things promised years ago that must take top priority.

''People have a wish list that's, you know, humongous,'' Spence-Jones said. "But the reality is until we deal with the things that are needs first, and not the wants, I can't even hear it.''

I gotta agree with her on this subject. if the money does directly go to improving the lives of people in Overtown, etc. then it has to take priority, but it will piss me off if the money does end up getting used for other things... the kind of things we can all think of ( Miami Arena ).
 

freedrinks23

Muckdog
Joined
Aug 25, 2006
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
I gotta agree with her on this subject. if the money does directly go to improving the lives of people in Overtown, etc. then it has to take priority, but it will piss me off if the money does end up getting used for other things... the kind of things we can all think of ( Miami Arena ).
I don't agree with her at all. Putting CRA money towards a stadium is an investment. That money (and way more) will come back in tax revenue from the bars, restaurants, and hotels that will get built around the stadium. Using CRA money for affordable housing is also a nice idea, but it's not an investment; affordable housing does little to nothing to spawn surrounding development, so it's more like a donation. Why not invest in a stadium so that you have more money down the road for donations to affordable housing? It's a win-win.
 

Top Bottom