Development District buying land to get housing project going
By Risa Polansky
Anxious to get a project out of the ground in Overtown, Community Redevelopment Agency board members have agreed to buy property they were supposed to get for free.
They plan to acquire land that developer Alberto Milo said he needs to get going on his long-planned, mixed-use project, Jazz Village.
The property is appraised at $962,000.
Miami commissioners, sitting as agency board members, were asked this week to approve a resolution authorizing the agency to spend up to $2 million to acquire land within the district "in furtherance of the board's commitment to providing low income, affordable and workforce housing."
Mr. Milo, president of the Urban Development Group, decried the "blanket" resolution, insisting he needs one parcel specifically to make Jazz Village viable.
Part of the complex is to be built on an agency-owned parking lot at 345 NW 10th St.
"You need to focus your efforts in one area," he told board members. "Get one project built, get it out of the ground, so you can have one success story in Overtown."
But the project's proposal, selected through a public bidding process in July of last year, stipulated the developer would acquire the additional land.
Still, Commissioner Angel Gonzalez moved to "specifically buy whatever land we need to buy to get this project off the ground."
The board agreed unanimously to buy the property needed for Jazz Village, leaving leftover funds to buy other parcels for different projects.
The lack of progress on Jazz Village and other endeavors infuriated Mr. Gonzalez, who berated the board and staff for "fooling around."
A rare attendee of the board meetings, he told fellow commissioners his low attendance is a result of agency inaction.
After seven years on the board, he said, he's seen nothing "substantial done in Overtown."
The stalled Jazz Village project has faced hurdles in the past.
It was approved as an unsolicited proposal in 2006, but developers proposed pricey changes — such as a $4 million parking garage — during the planning stages.
The agency board put the parking lot land out to bid formally the next time around, and Mr. Milo resubmitted an altered Jazz Village proposal.
The affordable and workforce housing complex, designed also to include retail and office space, was again selected.
Now, Mr. Gonzalez insisted, "It's time to get this project done."