say Homestead needs coordinator to turn former military land into successful
the US Air Force likely to OK the transfer of surplus land at Homestead Air
Reserve Base to Miami-Dade County, the next hurdles in using it to rejuvenate
South Dade's economy appear to be the need for a unifying redevelopment agency
the disjointed nature of the tracts.
Lynch, a military land reuse consultant with Spectrum Group in Alexandria, VA,
compared three other realigned bases he has worked with to Homestead.
three had huge success for two reasons. One, the community organized a nonprofit,
community-oriented real estate management entity," said Mr. Lynch, a member
of an Urban Land Institute panel commissioned by the county and the Beacon Council
to analyze potential for the land. "Two, the Air Force provided adequate
land suitable for redevelopment."
Dade, doubly hit by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the closing and subsequent
realignment of Homestead Air Force Base in 1993, has long been awaiting an "economic
shot in the arm," said Mary Finlan, executive director for the Homestead-Florida
City Chamber of Commerce.
community leaders and land experts stressed the importance an oversight agency
would be to coordinate the proposed redevelopment project, at the center of
which is an eco-tourism hub called "Destination Everglades." The Urban
Land Institute report cited the lack of such an agency as a major detriment.
was very clear to the panel that there was a lot of mistrust in the community,"
said Peter Smirniotopoulos, chairman of the Urban Land Institute panel and founder
of national real estate consulting firm Peter's Group/Consulting. "The
best way to make an endeavor like this work is to bring all the stakeholders
together and provide a mechanism by which they can have confidence in the process.
creation of a redevelopment agency," he said, "is fundamental to a
Commissioner Katy Sorenson, who represents southern Miami-Dade, said a redevelopment
agency would likely be formed in the next two months.
conference to gauge the interest of various investors and developers could be
held in mid-March, said Assistant County Manager Bill Johnson, who submitted
the county's application for the land transfer in Washington, DC.
of the panel's recommendations related to the non-cohesiveness of the land that
would be transferred to the county.
surplus land from the former Homestead Air Base has limited value in today's
market, especially given its current condition," the panel wrote. "The
acreage consists of a hodge-podge of non-contiguous parcels. The site has limited
access and very poor visibility from both major north-south corridors: US1 and
The success of the Destination Everglades project, the panel wrote, " is
dependent on securing 30 acres of land more favorably situated... to capture
existing and future tourist traffic. The panel hopes to secure this acreage
by offering 300 acres of Homestead Air Reserve Base surplus property in exchange."
Mr. Johnson said the Air Force's general counsel told him such a swap will be
the "death knell" of the proposal.
"They're giving us 717 acres," Mr. Johnson said. "The jobs have
to be created on those acres, not off-site."
because of the undesirability of this land, Ms. Finlan said, she remains skeptical
of how effective the county's plans - which are likely to get the go-ahead from
Washington, DC, according to a Department of Defense representative - are going
I just don't know," she said. "It's been so long. It's very hard to
get to feel like something will work. It's hard to picture, but it feels so
good to move at all."
plan submitted by the county for development of the Air Force property, which
narrowly gained approval from commissioners on Dec. 6, pinpoints five separate
- but co-existing - uses for the land.
five major projects proposed in the county's application for the land transfer
interactive visitor and information center, dubbed "Destination Everglades"
by an Urban Land Institute panel that analyzed potential uses for the property.
The county's proposal, the final version of which was compiled by Goodkin Consulting,
in alliance with PricewaterhouseCoopers, calls for a center operated by the
National Park Service. It would target the 1.5 million travelers who annually
drive down US 1 and Florida's Turnpike into the Keys or Everglades National
center for environmental and ecological research and training that would work
with local colleges, universities, environmental groups and government agencies
to provide teaching and research opportunities.
100-room hotel and conference center to cater to the visitor center and the
amateur sports activity and training center that would be adjacent to a 213-acre
site that the county has already designated as a park space. "Sports tourism
and sports businesses are good, clean growth activities," the county's
retiree housing. The proposal suggests building about 250 units that would target
non-commissioned military retirees who could "take advantage of the existing
military amenities" on the site.
proposal's guidelines are loose and need not be followed exactly. To that end,
other possibilities already have been suggested, such as a movie studio proposed
by County Commissioner Joe Martinez. The idea met with support from commissioners
who heard a presentation by Water's Edge Productions, which expressed interest
in building a studio in the area.
gauge developer and investor interest in the area, the county is planning a
developers'conference for mid-March. If the plan is approved by the federal
government - which Assistant County Manager Johnson said he expects to happen
by the end of January - county officials say they will issue a request for proposals
in the next several months, soon after a redevelopment agency is established.