County starting over on Douglas Road plan
By Charlotte Libov
A pair of county parcels totaling slightly more than 5 acres near the Douglas Road Metrorail station will probably be put up for sale after a plan to build 600 housing units and a retail-office complex fell through.
The Miami-Dade County Commission last week approved a recommendation to end negotiations over the property after the county and developer Raul Masvidal and partners failed to agree on a price for the property, a report to the board said.
Mr. Masvidal said in an interview this week that the board "was in La La Land" and has an unrealistic idea of the value of the property, which the county has appraised at around $30 million.
Frank Talleda, chief of joint development and leasing for Miami-Dade Transit, said the county initially planned to lease the property but selling it seems more likely now. A proposal will go once more to the commission for final approval next month, he said.
According to the latest appraisal, the property would fetch $150 per square foot. But a softening in the real estate market has probably caused the price to drop slightly, Mr. Talleda said.
"We spent roughly over three years negotiating it, and we couldn't come to terms. So the board asked to terminate the negotiations. At this point, we are either going out for another RFP (request for proposals) or we will sell the property outright," he said.
Miami-Dade Transit's restrictions on the parcels make them worth less than the appraisal, Mr. Masvidal said. "They put a lot of limitations on what you can build and how you can build on it. You need to maintain a certain distance from the Metrorail, you need to provide access and egress for the buses, and you need to build a parking garage for the use of the Metrorail users. That costs a lot of money, and you are not reimbursed for it.
"There are federal guidelines that say the appraisers should take into consideration the use for transit of the property, and we feel they did not take that into consideration," Mr. Masvidal said.
Mr. Masvidal said he stuck by his initial offer of $300,000 annual rent "plus 5% of the gross, which is significant," even though the land value increased because it was the only way the project would be profitable. The recent appraisal projected the site could net $135 to $150 per square foot, about $1 million more than Mr. Masvidal's final offer, the report to commissioners said.
Mr. Masvidal's partners in the project were to be Pinnacle Housing and Royal Group Investments.
Also, according to the report, the developer over the years significantly changed the plan he submitted in response to a request for proposals in November 2001 to eliminate a hotel and theater.
"The developer's original proposal offered to build the following: parking garage, retail, hotel, pedestrian plaza, theater and residential," the report said. "However, the developer's best and final offer calls for building 600 residential units and 25,000 square feet of retail/office space."
Mr. Masvidal said county officials decided they did not want a hotel or theater.
Mr. Talleda said the property is classified as a special transit zone. It is designed to create residential units without zoning to foster high-density development near mass-transit stations.
Even if the land is sold, the transit department would retain "continuing control," he said, which would enable the department "to have some say" in its development.
There are 150 commuter parking spaces on the property, so the county needs to figure out how to retain the parking facilities so drivers are not displaced, said Mr. Talleda. "It's going to take a little time before we go out to bid."