Rockefeller abandons deal to develop 280-acre industrial park in Homestead
By Sherri C. Ranta
Rockefeller Group Development will abandon a nearly $1 million investment in Homestead Park of Commerce this week when its contract with the city expires.
Rather than invest more, Rockefeller will walk away from the unfinished 280-acre project, said Edgar C. Jones, the developer's director of Florida operations.
"While we have a great deal of faith in the market in general," he said, "with the backdrop of a deteriorating economy, aggravated by 9-11 and exacerbated by the war, too many things were against the immediate success of the park."
According to the contract, Rockefeller was to prepare a master development plan and develop at least 200,000 square feet every two years at the site, renamed Rockefeller Group Foreign Trade Zone.
Homestead told Rockefeller that they would not renew the contract if the firm failed to meet obligations. Rockefeller also could buy the land to meet its requirements, but Mr. Jones said that would require almost doubling their investment.
"I don't think that was the first choice of the city. I think they wanted to have a development," he said. "We are still pursuing assisting the city with the development of the park, at least in some manner."
Rockefeller, Mr. Jones said, spent about $750,000 to market and develop the park - including a $15,000 annual fee to Vision Council for the foreign trade zone license. The company also paid $10,000 a year to Vision Council, he said, to support development.
"If the economy had remained as strong as it was at the time we entered into arrangements with the city - or anywhere close to it - we would still be developing the park," Mr. Jones said. "We had a number of deals that were under way that fell apart - some with large corporations."
Rockefeller, he said, approached the city last year with a proposal from Miami-based Douglas Development Group that would have included 250,000 square feet of speculative development for retail, office, flex and dock-height warehouse space. The city failed to vote on the project because it would have required a change in the park's master plan, city officials said.
Rockefeller continues to build elsewhere in South Florida, Mr. Jones said, including a trade zone in the Palm Beach Park of Commerce and in Miramar. The latter project, he said, includes a 250,000-square-foot headquarters for Lucent Technologies.
Rockefeller also operates foreign trade zones in New Jersey and Illinois.
Homestead City Manager Curt Ivy said earlier that they may reconsider the park's format.
"We have to respect the fact that Rockefeller is a pretty large player in the industry and that they were unable to develop the park. That should tell us something. Maybe we need to look at the format and consider what kinds of development to expect."
Officials are pursuing a new site appraisal, said spokesman Charles LaPradd. The contract with Rockefeller set a $4.04-per-square-foot price for land.
"We will set that in motion. We are contractually obligated with the set price with Rockefeller - established three years ago - but a lot of things have changed in regard to the property."