City Commission wary of new Jackson community redevelopment agency
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami city commissioners are concerned about Miami-Dade County's decision to look into establishing a community redevelopment agency on property in and around Jackson Memorial Hospital.
County Commissioner Javier Souto sponsored the resolution, passed two weeks ago, to study making Miami's Civic Center area that includes Jackson its own redevelopment district.
State law allows community redevelopment districts to be established as a way to alleviate blight and to create economic opportunities for businesses and residents within the district.
The Civic Center area is not in Mr. Souto's district but is commission representative and board member on the county's Jackson Public Health Trust, the county-funded hospital system's governing board.
The redevelopment district would include I-95 to the east, Northwest 22nd Avenue to the west, Northwest 28th Street to the north and State Road 836 and the Miami River to the South. It would also include University of Miami Hospital, formerly Cedars.
At last week's city commission meeting, Commissioner Tomás Regalado voiced concerns about the county's resolution to conduct a feasibility study of the Civic Center district, a major economic engine in the city.
Mr. Regalado said he fears if an agency is set up, funds collected would be used to help Jackson Memorial Hospital fill budget shortfalls with money that would otherwise be going into city coffers.
"Everyone supports Jackson Memorial Hospital. But the thing is we cannot keep letting the county government use the city and the city CRA to pay for their problems or mistakes," Mr. Regalado said in an apparent reference to the county having recently persuaded the city to use Omni Community Redevelopment District funds to pay off the county's construction debt on the Performing Arts Center.
The study is to examine whether money generated in the district may be used for expanding health care services that Jackson provides.
Jeanette Nuñez, vice president of government relations at Jackson, said the community redevelopment agency is in its infancy stage. It is too early to say how funds would be used, she said.
"We will be close in monitoring how we (Jackson Memorial) will fall under those (agency) parameters," Ms. Nuñez said.
She added the hospital would support any initiative to bring dollars its way.
Bernardo Escobar, Commissioner Souto's chief of staff, said ways to stimulate growth and development in the proposed community redevelopment area include building affordable housing so that hospital and court employees can live in the area, improving medical facilities and luring in residential and retail development.
City Manager Pete Hernandez said the city plans to reach out to the county and stay informed on the study because the district is in the city and any action to be taken would require both county and city approval. He said he expects the county would govern the development district.
But Mr. Escobar said it is too early to determine who would serve as governing body of the agency, the county or the city.