Miami to consider acquisition of seven parcels as part of Little Haiti park
By Susan Stabley
The City of Miami is poised to make its first land acquisitions toward creating a park for Little Haiti, with seven parcels scheduled to come up for consideration at today's Miami City Commission meeting.
A crowd is expected, as most of the business owners within the boundaries of the proposed park plan to protest. The issue is scheduled to go before the commission at 4:30 p.m.
The properties under consideration are:
nThree parcels totaling 27,352 square feet offered by Miami-Dade County at no cost at 299 and 303 NE 59th Terrace and 6150 NE Fourth Ave.
nA 9,375-square-foot parcel for $150,000 at 263 NE 59th Terrace.
nTwo parcels totaling 11,000 square feet for a combined $103,500 at 253 and 255 NE 59th Terrace.
nOne parcel of undetermined size for $205,000 at 265 to 271 NE 59th Terrace.
"These are all the initial steps," said city spokesman Carlos McDonald. A major obstacle to the plan is a group of unwilling sellers in the area.
At risk of displacement are 262 residents and at least 112 businesses that support about 800 jobs with an estimated total payroll of $25 million and pump about $75 million into the local economy, according to a survey by the Tampa office of Post Buckley Schuh & Jernigan and estimates from a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce committee pushing for an alternate site.
The location for the park was determined through a community process, said Keith Carswell, the city's director of economic development. "Those are our marching orders. Any deviation would have to come from the commission."
The area marked for acquisition is from Northeast 59th to Northeast 67th streets and from Northeast Second Avenue to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The Little Haiti Park Working Group determined the borders, which encompass 60 acres.
"The general area is there," said city spokesman Carlos McDonald. "The question is how big?"
The cost for the park has become an issue. A land-acquisition survey has estimated that the properties could cost the city $53 million to $75 million, according to Post Buckley's Jan. 16 memo to the City of Miami. The city has earmarked only $25 million for a Little Haiti park.
Financing for the park was approved Nov. 13, 2001, as part of a $225 million bond to enhance neighborhoods and improve safety. The biggest chunk of the bond money - $127 million - was set aside for 11 parks and recreation projects, including a 30-acre park in Little Haiti, an expansion of Jose Marti/East Little Havana Park and improvements to Virginia Key Park, Bicentennial Park, Margaret Pace Park and others, according to a city fact sheet.
Since then, the proposed size of the Little Haiti park has doubled.
Recent reports have tagged the park at about 60 acres. But that's not what was planned, said a member of the Little Haiti Park Working Group, which met in 2001 to develop concepts for the recreational area.
"The park is not a 60-acre park. We came up with 26 acres," said Hattie Willis, president of a five-neighborhood grassroots group called Communities United.
Mr. McDonald said the size of the park was never detailed in the ballot question. A fact sheet produced by the city before the vote detailed that funding for the Little Haiti park would be used for the "acquisition and construction of an approximately 30-acre park with a community center and full facilities."
Mr. Carswell, who joined the city administration early this year, said he wasn't sure how the size changed from 30 acres to 60. His directives have been to acquire land within boundaries established through a community process, he said, and that constitutes 60 acres.