City takes wait-and-see approach on police training center
By Susan Stabley
Miami city commissioners want to see how two proposed neighboring projects - a Camillus House homeless facility and a police training center - would work together before taking action on either one.
The commission last week put off accepting two parcels of surplus land from the Florida Department of Transportation - one of which could be the new home for a police center. The properties surround a site where Camillus House is considering building a new shelter.
Commissioner Angel Gonzalez called for city administrators to show the commission how the two projects would interact. The properties are in commission chairman Arthur Teele Jr.'s district, but Allapattah residents, represented by Commissioner Gonzalez, are concerned about the shelter's plans.
"I'd like to see a complete package," Commissioner Gonzalez said at Thursday's commission meeting at City Hall.
All three parcels are on a strip that runs west of Interstate 95 from Northwest 20th Street to where an interstate off-ramp bends into State Road 836 near the Civic Center.
The state transportation department gave a chunk of property in the middle of the strip to the state's Department of Environmental Protection and trustees of a public land trust, which passed it on to the Department of Children and Families. The latter agency would lease the land, at Northwest Seventh Avenue from about 18th Street to north of 19th Street, to Camillus House, a non-profit agency serving Miami-Dade County's homeless and indigent.
The transportation department has offered the city 1.7 acres at Northwest 20th Street near I-95 that could be used for the police training station and a 2.31-acre parcel between 15th and 17th streets that would be used for a Wagner Creek dredging project. Although the city wouldn't pay for the land, commissioners must decide whether to pay $16,000 in closing costs and $22,000 in other expenses.
Commissioners deferred the issue until July 8 and decided to vote separately on accepting the two parcels.
The Miami Police Department has $10 million from the $255 million 2001 Homeland Defense-Neighborhood Improvement bond to finance construction of a center that could be used to train law officers from Latin American and Caribbean agencies as well as local ones. The department will start planning a center once a site is secured.
Initial concepts call for classrooms, a small auditorium, a gym area, locker rooms, a small kitchen and perhaps laboratories and an indoor shooting range. Police have three classrooms at downtown headquarters, built in 1975, and two rooms at an area fire station and uses shooting ranges at Miami-Dade County law facilities and in Medley.
The donated site might not be big enough for a training center, City Manager Joe Arriola has said. But the city could make a land-swap deal with Camillus House to add about an acre to the police site.
Commissioner Gonzalez said Thursday that if the police center goes elsewhere, "then I end up with you-know-what." He didn't mention the Camillus House project by name, calling it "the other operation," and hinted that the agency could build a homeless shelter elsewhere.
If plans for a new shelter muster approval from the city, Camillus House 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 on five acres. The current facility contains 29,000 square feet and just more than 100 beds, according to Camillus House.
Camillus House spokesman Sam Gil said Friday that the agency has not determined how many beds would be in a new shelter but has shrunk plans from earlier estimates of as many as 550. Cost estimates for the new construction have been $30 million to $40 million, Mr. Gil said.
The site, which lies to the west of I-95, is close to Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Veteran's Medical Center as well as two corrections facilities.
Sale of the land at the existing Camillus House could be used to cover costs of the new center, Mr. Gil said. A move would open its current site to commercial redevelopment.