Panel in town to weigh uses of Homestead base
By Victor Cruz
Eight real estate experts are to visit Miami-Dade County Sunday through Friday to assess the best use for 717 acres at Homestead Air Force Base that the federal government is poised to give the county with some restrictions.
The eight were chosen from a pool of topnotch market analysts, architects and engineers, land-use planners and urban design specialists from the Washington, DC-based Urban Land Institute, said Diana Gonzalez, Homestead Air Force Base reuse project coordinator for the Beacon Council.
In June, the county hired the Beacon Council to prepare a reuse plan for part of the base. In turn, the council turned to the nonpartisan institute, which for $110,000 will come up with a set of recommendations.
Last week, the council learned that the state will pay for the review with funds from the governor's Community Defense Grant Program, Ms. Gonzalez said.
The institute, a nonprofit group providing assistance to cities on land use and planning that has been around since 1936, opened an advisory services division in 1947 and provided consultation on at least three other federal base reuse plans, including Treasure Island in San Francisco, Fort Lowry in Colorado and Fort George in Maryland, Ms. Gonzalez said.
"We felt it was important to bring in an impartial group, not part of the local landscape in terms of previous decisions made about the airbase. Now we are getting a fresh outlook," she said.
The eight institute panelists - all screened experts from around the nation - have already received detailed briefing books on the air base compiled by the council, the county and other consultants, said John Codrey, senior vice president of research & strategic planing for the council.
After arriving in Miami, panelists will first be briefed by county officials. Then, over the course of their stay, they have interviews with a group of more than 50 people, including area residents and elected officials.
At 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14 at the South Miami-Dade Government Center, the panelists' recommendations for the land will be given in a meeting open to the public, Dr. Codrey said.
The panelists will then make recommendations to the county in a formal written presentation Sept. 28. Should the county commission approve the recommendations, the plan would be sent to the US Air Force, which would then transfer the land to the county.
The county must hire another consultant that would study the economic feasibility and funding sources for carrying out recommendations, Dr. Codrey said.
The two-volume booklet panelists are reviewing looks at the area of the county south of Southwest 184th Street. It has been divided into four sections, Ms. Gonzalez said.
A 400-page final supplemental environmental impact statement, she said, serves largely as background on the surrounding infrastructure of the air base. A market analysis of six sectors looks at industry, office, retail, housing, agriculture and tourism. A second supplement records the decision that the Defense Department issued. It limits development to mixed-use and prohibits commercial aviation,
Finally, public comments gleaned from public hearings held in August are listed. They range of recommendations for the site include requests for a movie studio and a tourism industry facility.
Restrictions apply before the federal government would turn over the land, Ms. Gonzalez said. She said those restrictions are outlined in the record of decision and include mitigation measures such as preservation of endangered plants, surface water management to reduce runoff into Biscayne Bay and other measures.