County working on clearing way for biopharmaceutical park
By Tom Harlan
Miami-Dade County officials are working to approve a long-term lease in the next few days that would bring a biopharmaceutical park and up to 1,500 jobs to Liberty City.
Town Center Properties is to develop Poinciana Park, a $120 million park on a county Empowerment Trust site near Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue.
The county manager's office must approve an undisclosed 75-year ground-lease agreement with the trust. The county, which owns the site, transferred the land to the trust in 2004 to begin the lease with the developer.
"The empowerment has signed off on the transaction," said Bryan Finnie, president and CEO of the trust. "The county manager's office is reviewing the signing-off on the agreement. We expect an agreement to be completed shortly."
Signing a long-term lease in the next month is critical for developer Town Center Properties to obtain financing to break ground on the first phase of the project, Mr. Finnie said, and begin setting up operations by May 2006.
Interest rates are rising, Mr. Finnie said Friday, so the longer Town Center has to wait to borrow money, the thinner their profit margins become.
"The window is closing on development," he said. "What's easy to do now will be harder to do in future."
The trust and Town Center agreed to the lease in November, and it was sent to the county manager's office for approval. While negotiating terms, county officials have discussed balancing the return on investment for the land and public policy issues.
There is a high premium on county land, Mr. Finnie said, but the cost of development and property issues must be taken into account in return for a private partner to build a facility and create hundreds of jobs.
"It forces a type of financial relationship where you have to be liberal, in the beginning, on your return as landlord leasing property," he said. "I think we've done a good job working with private sector to keep their costs down as much as we possibly can to get this dynamic and exciting project started."
Phase one of the park would include 1.1 million square feet of space, with 600,000 square feet of office industrial and manufacturing space, 60,000 square feet of retail space and 100 apartment units. The site will also have an outpatient clinic and a training center for biotech industry jobs.
MediVector, a Massachusetts based company that has partnered with pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Merck, is to lead an effort to spin off companies from drugs discovered by South Florida biotech companies.
The campus is to grow to 2.2 million square feet and house a consortium of drug manufacturers and a training institute that would prepare workers for the pharmaceutical industry.
The site could add jobs for 1,500 low- and middle-income residents that could vary from pharmaceutical research to shipping positions, Town Center Properties president Dennis Stackhouse said in a November 2004 interview.
As part of the agreement with the trust, Town Center and MediVector have an obligation to create training and employment within the zone that lead to jobs that pay a livable wage.
Residents in the area are to have the first shot at work, company officials said, including more than 750 construction jobs needed to build the campus.
Poinciana is to be a catalytic project that is to bring other developers to Liberty City, Mr. Finnie said, to invest in projects that will have an economic multiplier effect on the area.
"We just look forward to this thing getting started," he said. "For this neighborhood, this type of investment is catalytic. It's a proper role for the county to start it and get out of the way."