Camillus House close to deal that would secure move
By Susan Stabley
Camillus House operators are close to signing a land lease as part of a long-awaited move that would open its current site near Miami Arena to commercial redevelopment
The relocation deal would involve a series of land swaps between the Florida Department of Transportation and the Department of Children & Families. The non-profit agency that serves Miami-Dade County's homeless and indigent plans to relocate on 5 acres at Northwest 17th Street and Seventh Avenue.
"Politically, this is the best time for this to happen," Camillus House spokesman Sam Gil said. "We're probably closer today than we have ever been."
Camillus House has been trying for more than a decade to replace its 43-year-old facility at Northeast Eighth Street and First Avenue. Officials have been eyeing the 17th Street property for two years.
That site would be leased to Camillus House by the Department of Children & Families, said spokesman Peter Coates. The land was owned by the Florida Department of Transportation, which donated the site to the state's Internal Improvement Trust Fund, he said.
The fund manages leasing of public land by state agencies. It would lease the land to the Department of Children & Families, which would then sublease it to Camillus House, said spokesman Peter Coates.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Aymee Ruiz said the land, once used as a railroad cargo station, was acquired for possible transit uses but was later deemed as surplus.
Camillus House does not currently have enough room to serve the county's homeless, Mr. Gil said. As many 8,000 people are without shelter every night, he said, and the building, which Camillus has owned since 1960, was "not meant to be used for what it is today."
The proposed building would be about 200,000 square feet in size, compared with the current facility's 29,000 square feet.
Mr. Gil said the new location is ideal because of its proximity to Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Veteran's Medical Center as well as two corrections facilities. It is bounded on the east by Interstate 95.
Camillus House would need a special zoning exception to build on the new site, Mr. Gil said. A date has not been set for the proposal to be discussed by Miami city commissioners but if their approval is gained, he said, construction would take 18 to 24 months.
The move has been met with controversy from residents near the new location but it has the support of city commissioners Johnny Winton and Arthur Teele Jr. And, the proposal could get a boost if officials decide to replace downtown's Miami Arena with a new baseball stadium.
The area already is part of Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency, a tax-increment district, said Otto Boudet-Murias, senior economic-development adviser for Mayor Manny Diaz. But he also said purchasing the shelter's current property along Northeast Eighth Street would likely be up to the private sector, not the city.