Miami OKs second environmental study for Overtown project
By Deserae del Campo
Miami commissioners voted unanimously last week to allow a second environmental assessment on Overtown land where the Crosswinds residential project is to rise.
The vote, held during a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting after regular commission proceedings, allows a $163,000 environmental study on land bounded by Northwest First and Second avenues and Northwest Eighth and Ninth streets.
The city and Miami-Dade County conducted an environmental study there in 1982 when the land shifted from county to city hands, said Frank Rollason, executive director of the Southeast Overtown Parkwest/Omni Community Redevelopment Agency.
According to the legislative package, the city's capital improvements department "has agreed to perform the supplemental environmental assessment and has selected Gannet Fleming Inc. from its list of approved consultants to carry out the study at a cost not to exceed $163,000."
The $200 million mixed-use Crosswinds project is to include 1,050 workforce- and affordable-housing units - 20% affordable housing and 80% workforce housing. The site is to have four buildings, including 63,000 square feet of commercial space.
Most of the housing units are to be sold at market rate, but 160 are to be reserved for people with 80% to 120% of the county median income and 50 are to be given to the city for use by Overtown residents with 50% to 80% of the median income.
In January 2005, city commissioners approved a settlement allowing Michigan developer Crosswinds Communities to take over unfinished work on the site after Indian River Investments failed to construct the second phase of its 269 NW Seventh St. Poinciana Village project.
But the land is under litigation involving the department of community redevelopment; Miami Arena owner Glenn Straub, who is suing the city for not putting the land out to bid for development; and Power U, a grassroots non-profit organization in Overtown that says the land was promised to benefit local Overtown businesses, residents and developers.
The environmental study will be an updated version of the 1982 study, said Mr. Rollason. "In the 1982 study, there were buildings there at the time
that were eventually demolished, and now we have flat land where we are still looking to build a mix of workforce and affordable housing."
There was some debate over the funding source to finance the environmental study since the $163,000 would come from tax increment funds from the agency.
Eileen Ma and Beatrice Gilbert, members of Power U, asked commissioners if they could find alternative funds to pay for the assessment study and if the study would be an "open and public process" for Overtown residents.
Commissioners voted to amend the resolution requesting City Manager Joe Arriola to seek other means to finance the study without using the agency's tax increment funds, which could be used to fund other projects in the Overtown and Omni areas.
"Really, the environmental assessment was a suggestion from our attorney to the city," said Mathew Schwartz, director of urban development for Crosswinds.
The land must be returned to the county if nothing is built by August 2007.
Mr. Schwartz said he has submitted a request for the major use special building permit for the project.
"The first impact study in 1982 found the area good for 670 units, 200,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 retail space and the impacts are the same," Mr. Schwartz said. "The truth of the matter is this study is cleaning up the process so that the project can move forward."
The environmental study is to include socio-economic conditions in the area, alternatives for development and analysis, public participation processes and data collection.