Miami could get land from state for police training facility
By Susan Stabley
A training center for Miami's Police Department could be built on surplus land the Florida Department of Transportation would give to the city.
Miami officials have been negotiating with the Department of Transportation, said Laura Billberry, the city's assistant director for economic development. Surveys are being performed to determine the size of three parcels under consideration.
"We hope to have by February or March actual possession," Ms. Billberry said last week.
The parcels are on a strip of property once used to store railroad cargo that runs west of Interstate 95 from Northwest 20th Street to where an interstate off-ramp bends into State Road 836. The Department of Transportation acquired the property for possible transit uses but later deemed the land as surplus.
A chunk of property in the middle of the strip was given to the state's Department of Environmental Protection and trustees of the Internal Trust Fund, which passed the land to the Department of Children and Families. A deal is in the works to lease that land, at Northwest Seventh Avenue from about 18th Street to north of 19th Street, to Camillus House for a new homeless shelter.
If plans for a new shelter muster approval from the city, the non-profit agency serving Miami-Dade County's homeless and indigent could move out of its 43-year-old facility at Northeast Eighth Street and First Avenue, near Miami Arena. A new building would be about 200,000 square feet, compared with the current facility's 29,000 square feet, according to Camillus House.
Meanwhile, the city is eyeing properties to the north and south of the proposed Camillus site.
The Department of Transportation sent a letter Oct. 22 to the city offering first right of refusal on several parcels it owns. The city replied Nov. 20 that it was interested.
The city would not have to pay for the land being considered for the police training center. A Florida statute allows property to be conveyed for no consideration if used for a public purpose, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Aymee Ruiz.
Ms. Ruiz estimated the available land is 4 acres.
The Miami Police Department has $10 million in its budget for a new training center. The money came from a 2001 Homeland Defense-Neighborhood Improvement bond, said project manager Joseph T. Longueira.
The department will start planning a new training center once a site is secured, he said, but initial concepts call for classrooms, a small auditorium, a gym area, locker rooms, a small kitchen and perhaps laboratories.
Police have three classrooms at downtown headquarters, built in 1975, and two rooms at an area fire station.
The department also needs its own indoor shooting range, Mr. Longueira said. It now uses facilities of Miami-Dade County law enforcement or a range in Medley.
"This is a dire need for us," he said.
A new training center could be used to teach law enforcement from Central and South America and the Caribbean, an idea proposed in public speeches by Chief John Timoney.