Community Redevelopment Agency to ask Miami commissioners for boundary expansion, lifespan extension — day before Marlins vote
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency is asking city commissioners to — a day before the city's Marlins stadium vote — approve expansion of its boundaries and extension of its lifespan.
The expanded boundaries and extended life are a prelude to issuing up to $500 million in bonds to finance redevelopment projects in Overtown — a condition board Chairwoman Michelle Spence-Jones has set for giving the Marlins stadium contracts a favorable vote on Friday.
The redevelopment agency's board is made up of the five city commissioners. Ms. Spence-Jones is seen as a swing vote on the stadium issue.
Ms. Spence-Jones, who called the meeting today (3/5) at the Overtown Youth Center, said in a press statement last week she couldn't vote on the Marlins stadium unless her conditions were met.
The global agreement, approved by city commissioners in 2007, promised expansion of the Overtown and Omni district boundaries and the extension of the agency's lifespan until 2030 — now set at 2017.
Expanding the taxing district, designed to generate dollars to improve blighted areas and slums, would allow the agency to use redevelopment revenue generated there to fund developments within the new bounds.
In last Friday's press statement, Ms. Spence-Jones also demanded an amendment to the global agreement that would guarantee all tax increment dollars generated in Overtown stay there.
The global agreement currently states that after 2017, 50% of tax increment dollars generated by the Overtown district would return to the city and county.
Her statement said: "The commissioner strongly recommends that the city and county take the following actions before she can make any decisions on funding a new baseball stadium or the Marlins will strike out."
She also asks that Major League Baseball fund a "mini" baseball youth academy in her district.
She implied that the conditions in her press statement would have to be met in order for her to back the plans of the city, county and Marlins to build a baseball stadium in Little Havana.
Commissioners deadlocked on the stadium vote on Feb. 13 with all except Ms. Spence-Jones present for the vote — making her vote decisive.
Commissioners Marc Sarnoff and Tomás Regalado voted against approving the stadium contracts.
In the statement, Ms. Spence-Jones says the financial climate has worsened since the global agreement was voted on with foreclosures and unemployment reaching record levels. She was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday, a staffer said.
With property values expected to decrease this year and the district's expansion on the horizon, the redevelopment agency could find itself with a bigger district but fewer dollars to reinvest in it.
"The existing funding for the CRA will be spread over a larger area," said Executive Director Jim Villacorta on Tuesday.
Mr. Villacorta pointed out that the agency doesn't collect money from properties in the district until those properties' values go up. Overtown's district generated about $7 million in tax increment dollars this past year.
"It's unlikely the new areas will contribute this upcoming year," he said
Property values in Overtown didn't start rising until 2000, he added, and a portion of the district has never contributed because values haven't risen.
Mr. Villacorta said the city hired an engineering firm to review infrastructure needs in Overtown's existing boundaries and the expansion area, finding $300 million worth of needs.
He added the bond issuance would allow the agency to invest more to redevelop the district. And it's not the first time the city has issued bonds on behalf of the redevelopment agency, he said, noting the city issued bonds in 1990.
But to issue the bonds, the agency needs the county's approval and the city to do the actual issuance of the tax-increment-backed instruments.
Mr. Villacorta said no date has been set to issue the bonds once the city and county commissioners approve it.
"It depends how quickly bond counsel can prepare the documents and the economic studies can be done."