Maduro Stadium nearer demolition for apartment complex.
By Paola Iuspa
Bobby Maduro Stadium, built in 1949 for baseball spring training, appears to be nearing demolition.
Ruby Swezy, a principal with St. Martin Affordable Housing Inc., owner of the stadium, said she planned to have the structure torn down within 90 days to start building an affordable rental housing project.
"We are in the process of getting bids to demolish it," Ms. Swezy said. "The city would like to see it demolished as soon as possible."
Ms. Swezy, who bought the 12.6-acre property from the City of Miami for $2.1 million in 1999, said things are not moving as fast as she had expected.
"We are negotiating a lot of things right now. So everything is up in the air," she said. "We have nothing in concrete. We have been trying to get the financing, but it is very hard. We applied for a tax credit but did not get it. We went for local bonds."
Although there is a demand for affordable housing in the area - of four new developments some have been sold and others have a waiting list - financing is not easy to get for those projects, said Miami Commissioner Wilfredo Gort, who lives few blocks from the stadium.
"They are having some problem finding financing. For affordable housing it takes three years to put a financing package together. Produce people wanted to expand the market so they held a meeting with the lady who owns the place and proposed to do a mixed-use type of project, but I don't think anything came out it."
If all goes as planned, the site at 2301 NW 10th Ave. will become the Miami Bobby Maduro Stadium Apartments, with 336 apartments, 480 parking spaces, a swimming pool, volleyball and tennis courts, a playground and a small baseball museum as a memorial to the ballpark.
Miami has declared the 52-year-old stadium unsafe, in part because a chain-link fence that surrounds the property was partially down, said Cedric Mar, city chief of unsafe structures.
The old infield lies beneath what resembles a jungle engulfed with abandoned appliances and mattresses and has been neglected for almost 10 years, said Eddie Borges, administrator at the Allapattah Neighborhood Enhancement Team, an office in charge of enforcing building codes and acting as a liaison between neighbors and the city administration.
Mr. Mar said the owner had been asked to "secure the property immediately" to avoid a city hearing on the matter in May. A city board could issue a final notice pressing for an earlier demolition date if the fence is not fixed within 10 days, he said.
The city has asked the owners to fence the area in November to prevent vagrants from using the dilapidated building as a refuge, he said.
"Our inspectors found the property to be an unsafe structure," Mr. Mar said. "We sent the case to the hearing board in November. They issued a final notice to repair or demolish the property.
"We never issued a demolition order. Then, the owner fixed the problem right away. This time, they may do the same. They always work with us."
He said his inspector would visit the stadium this week to make sure the building had been secured. Mr. Mar said he had been told that the owner was planning to request a demolition permit by the end of this month.
Since the Baltimore Orioles left the ballpark, used for summer training, in 1990, the site became a spot for homeless people, although, Mr. Borges said, "the city was able to get rid of that problem."
Mr. Gort said that through the '90s the stadium had not hosted any events.
St. Martin is responsible for maintaining the property, which includes cutting the grass in visible areas and removing debris, Mr. Borges said.
"When the city goes in to clean, it charges the owner," he said. "The city has put a lien on the property to make sure it gets the money back."
Although many neighbors say they would like to see a condominium complex rather than a rental building they are glad the ballpark will be replaced, Mr. Borges said.
Development means expanding the city's tax base, now about $16 billion, city officials said. Because many governmental institutions, which are tax exempt, are in Miami, about 40% of the properties in the city do not generate property taxes, Mr. Borges said. About 60% of those tax-exempt properties were in Allapattah.
"That means less money to maintain the streets, sidewalks, parks and so on," he said. "New development in this area is very important. This is the second-largest industrial area in Miami after downtown and there is a big demand for affordable housing.
"If we had more housing, more of those people who come to work here could also live here, and the city would collect more taxes."
The stadium was built in 1949 and used as a spring training home for the Brooklyn Dodgers, later the Baltimore Orioles, for 30 years until 1990. In 1988, the stadium was used as a temporary shelter for Nicaraguan immigrants escaping political turmoil.
The city, which owned the site until St. Martin bought it, in May 1998 changed the zoning to accommodate affordable housing in. Before that, officials had proposed razing the stadium and selling the property for warehouses. But a sale price of $1.6 million at that time, plus demolition cost of $725,000, scared away would-be developers.