County to bid out mixed-use development in South Dade
By Suzy Valentine
Miami-Dade County officials will solicit bids for construction of hundreds of mixed-income housing units and retail shops connecting South Dade Government Center to a cultural center, a project that could expand to include an artists village and an amusement park.
County Manager George Burgess is preparing requests for proposals to build a mixed-use residential community as part of a cultural arts village after commissioners approved a resolution last week by Dennis Moss, who represents the area.
"I envision hundreds of mixed-use and mixed-income units," Mr. Moss said. "It's part of the Destination South Dade project, giving people reason to come to the area.
"We're seen as something of a backwater," he said. "We want to cast off the image of sleepy farm town and enjoy some structured economic development."
He said it's too early to talk about exact numbers of units or price ranges. But an area Realtor said single-family homes are selling for $150 to $200 per square foot.
"That's the rate for new construction," said George Cadman III, president of ERA South Dade Realty. "It can be as high as $200 per square foot if the appointments are right. Properties are selling in 45 to 90 days at the moment. There is a lot of development going on."
Though the county commission had a 30-page study on the plan, it concentrated on conceptual issues, said Diane O'Quinn Willimas, the county's director of the planning and zoning.
"The intent is that the development will involve some multiple-family units," she said. "Who will live there, what they'll pay, how they'll pay - that hasn't been finalized.
"We have a lot of retail and commercial planned for the project also," she said. "A hotel is proposed, as is another children's museum."
Specialty retail would be included, said Mr. Moss, but wouldn't directly compete with Southland Mall, which covers more than 1 million square feet and is 87% occupied.
"We want it to thrive," he said. "It could help the mall. We have half a million people and growing. Adding to the rooftops is critical to the area's survival."
"There are 22,000 homes planned for the area," said mall marketing manager Anabel Llopis, "6,000 of them already built. The mall has turned round a bit of traffic in recent months.
"Any additional growth in population will help us," she said. "The area's booming. It is a case of right place, right time."
The mall would be unlikely to face direct competition, Ms. Llopis said. "I assume they're planning a strip center. It's a different retail format."
A landscaped canal walk could figure in the development, said Mr. Moss, together with an artists village.
"South Dade Government Center will be nearest on the eastern portion, while we're furthest west," said Marie Denis, the county's project manager for cultural affairs. "The commissioner sees the project not only of itself but as spearheading development in the area."
A mixed-use, mixed-income development county commissioners approved last week is likely to bring financial support to the South Dade Cultural Center when it opens in 2007.
"Some of the payments to the county could support the cultural center," said Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose district includes the area. "That way, we could bring quality events to South Dade."
The land close to Southwest 211th Street is the site of a large parking lot and other facilities that could be relocated, Mr. Moss said.
"There are some parcels within the section which are just used for parking or not at all," said Marie Denis, project manager for cultural affairs. "Mr. Moss's vision is to make the whole area cultural."
Adding to services would boost the economy, he said. "It will encourage hotels and retail to come," said Mr. Moss, "and that adds jobs."
Development in South Dade would complement a planned expansion of MetroZoo and surrounding areas, he said.
"We're hoping we can have a compatible development," said Mr. Moss. "The University of Miami plans an academic village in the area. It's a live, work, play and educate model.
"I also foresee an amusement park," he said, "maybe a Six Flags, Cedar Park or Paramount. The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is being expanded and there are plans for a Military Museum."
The county received three bids for construction of the South Dade Cultural Center by a Feb. 2 deadline, said Ms. Denis, but two of the bidders did not submit required affidavits. She said the county won't declare the third bidder a winner by default. The county attorney's office was reviewing the matter, she said, and was to decide this week. Until then, she said, the county won't know the value of the bids.