Car dealer hits resistance in effort to build auto mall
By Suzy Valentine
It could be several years before a car dealer develops an auto mall on 27 Liberty City acres he might have to acquire through eminent domain.
The Miami-Dade County Commission recommended waiving some requirements of a request for proposals for the 150,000- to 180,000-square-foot site Sept. 8 but stopped short of approving it. Sole bidder Alan Potamkin - whose job it would be to lure dealerships to the mall - went before the commission.
The request for proposals recommends six dealerships of 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. There is a Lincoln Mercury garage on 5 acres next to the site.
The stretch of Northwest Seventh Avenue between Northwest 84th and 91st streets, in Commissioner Dorrin Rolle's district, is part of the Community Redevelopment Area.
Assistant County Attorney Robert Cuevas told Mr. Potamkin the area, in which 16 businesses operate, could be the subject of a "quick taking."
"But a quick taking could be challenged?" queried Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.
"Yes," said Mr. Cuevas, at which point County Attorney Murray Greenberg interjected, "but it is a much expedited procedure."
The request for proposals estimates 400 jobs could be created at the mall with average salaries of $49,000 and projected tax roll contributions of $60 million. It says there could be up to $20 million in public funding available.
But a representative of the Greater Seventh Avenue Improvement Association warned that the development could result in a large number of jobs lost.
"We're going to lose a lot of small businesses," said Roger Langer of Langer Electric Services, the organization's vice president. "Here's one of them right here, over 100 and something jobs we're going to lose there. When you look at statistics for jobs, please look deeply. They don't tell you they lose the bank of more than 60 people. They don't tell you you lose the Burger King with 20. And there are various small businesses with 50 to 75 - they are not included. When Mr. Potamkin comes in, there will be a negative 41 jobs."
Mr. Langer queried a U-turn by the commission in relation to the auto mall.
"Why the rush?" he asked. "If you ask me, you voted to reject the current request for proposals by Mr. Potamkin. Now we have a resolution to waive the request for proposals requirements and go ahead with this plan when his plan was deemed non-responsive."
He said any claim to the land in eminent domain would be fiercely contested.
"I know that I speak for at least two other significant landowners in this proposed site," Mr. Langer said. "We will never voluntarily sell our property to a developer for this purpose. I can't be clearer than that. This thing will eventually wind up in eminent domain, which our attorneys, who're some of the best in the state, tell us could be another two or three years down the line before there's a resolution."
Moving on from debate on the timescale for land acquisition, commissioners urged Mr. Potamkin to be mindful of the area's population.
"I'd hope that Mr. Potamkin would be sensitive to the community he's going to," said Commissioner Barbara Jordan.
"The county cannot make its approval contingent upon race," said Mr. Cuevas, a position endorsed by Ms. Carey-Shuler.
"It's inappropriate," she said, "to introduce race-specific conditions."
Mr. Rolle moved to waive request for proposal requirements with a direction that Mr. Potamkin be sensitive to the community.
In a separate venture in Harlem in New York, Mr. Potamkin appointed African American Craig Lee an equity partner in his dealership.
In March 2004, the county commission found that the area known as the Northwest Seventh Avenue Corridor, between Northwest 79th and 119th streets, constituted a slum or blight. In January, it approved as its primary redevelopment project an auto mall.