New pharmaceutical campus in Liberty City could add 1,500 jobs
By Tom Harlan
A Boston developer plans to create an industrial campus in Miami that would include biopharmaceutical manufacturing, offices and educational facilities.
The site could add jobs for 1,500 low- and middle-income residents that could vary from pharmaceutical research to shipping positions, said Dennis Stackhouse, president of Town Center Properties.
His firm wants to build the campus at the Poinciana Industrial Center on 79th Street and 27th Avenue in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. The firm is redeveloping other properties in Opa-locka.
The campus' first phase will be 1.1 million square feet and will grow to 2.2 million square feet and house a consortium of drug manufacturers and a major training institute that would prepare workers for the pharmaceutical industry, said Mr. Stackhouse.
As part of a joint venture with the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, the company will use a portion of the trust's 30 acres at Poinciana, said Bryan Finnie, president and CEO of the trust.
The county owns the land, but the Office of Community and Economic Development transferred the land to the trust to begin a 75-year ground lease with the developer. All agreements have been reviewed and were executed this week, said Mr. Stackhouse.
"We fully expect to be under construction the end of this year," Mr. Stackhouse said, adding that tenants are to begin arriving in about a year.
As part of the agreement with the trust, the campus has an obligation to create training and employment within the zone. Residents in the area are to have the first shot at work, Mr. Stackhouse said, including more than 750 construction jobs needed to build the campus.
The Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust plans to enter a joint venture with Town Center Properties to create an industrial business campus that would bring jobs and education opportunities to a local empowerment zone.
Town Center Properties, a Boston developer that has done projects in Florida for the past five years - including several properties in downtown Opa-locka - expressed interest last year in building a consortium of drug manufacturers in Liberty City, an empowerment zone.
In empowerment zones, neighborhood assemblies decide how to use funding at the grassroots level. They approve micro-loans for businesses, equity investments in companies with the potential for job creation, investments in affordable housing projects, and funds for other projects, according to trust documents.
Empowerment zones feature economic designations, such as tax-exempt bond financing, qualified zone academy bonds, deductions, and work opportunity and welfare-to-work credits.
All parties were enthusiastic about the idea of building a park that would bring jobs and education to the area, said Dennis Stackhouse, president of Town Center Properties.
Through Commissioner Dorrin D. Rolle and the Office of Community and Economic Development, he said, Town Center Properties began a joint venture with the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust.
As part of the trust, the campus has an obligation to create training and employment within the zone. District 2 residents will have the first shot at jobs in the district, including more than 750 construction jobs that will open to build the center, Mr. Stackhouse said.
The overall campus could bring in jobs for 1,500 residents in jobs that vary from pharmaceutical research to package shippers, Mr. Stackhouse said.
In addition, the group is in discussions with a Florida based educational institution that has a pharmaceutical program to join the venture and open a program on the site, Mr. Finnie said.
"Drug manufacturing firms moving into the area are dependent upon qualified employment," Mr. Stackhouse said.
While the trust and the developer have a strong courtship, there are details to work out to form a marriage, Mr. Finnie said.
"As in any transaction, what you do in predevelopment will determine if you are successful," he said. "If you make a mistake in predevelopment, you could hurt the long time viability of the project."
However, Mr. Finnie doesn't see any obstacles that would prevent the joint venture from proceeding. The company was excited about opening the campus and had a strong preference to work in an empowerment zone community, he said.
And Liberty City is an attractive location because it is part of a dynamic metropolitan region with wonderful cultural amenities and a strong labor force, facilities and universities, he said.
"Environments stimulate workers," he said. "We have it all here."