Expansion of CRA boundaries may be considered
By Deserae del Campo
As Miami-Dade County commissioners consider extending the lives of both the Omni and Southeast Overtown/Parkwest Redevelopment Agencies to 2027, discussions may arise on whether to expand the boundaries of the Omni agency to help fund a $50 million to $100 million gap for the Port of Miami tunnel project on Watson Island.
The state has allocated $850 million to fund the project and Miami-Dade has allocated $500 million. The project, planned as a tunnel running from Watson Island to the Port of Miami that would allow traffic to flow into Interstate 395 and bypass downtown, is estimated to cost more than $1 billion.
Also a part of the negotiations, initiated by Miami officials, is a proposal to extend the Omni agency's boundaries into Bicentennial Park in downtown Miami to fund the landscaping for Museum Park, a 29-acre project that is to include parks and greenspace along with art and science museum buildings.
The county is requesting $10 million from the Omni Redevelopment Agency to fund the landscaping.
In a discussion of a resolution that county commissioners passed in July on extending the redevelopment agency's boundaries, Commissioner Carlos Gimenez brought up questions regarding funding sources for the Port Tunnel.
According to county documents, County Manager George Burgess said he would return with recommendations "to make further adjustments to the redevelopment districts as they would be good alternative funding sources for the Port Tunnel at the local levels."
The idea of including Bicentennial Park within the Omni CRA's boundaries came from city officials, according to Cynthia Curry, senior advisor to Mr. Burgess. She said "that the City of Miami had notified the county and had made a request to consider as part of the negotiation process" to expand to expand the Omni CRA boundaries to include Museum Park.
Whether the Omni Redevelopment Agency would receive any tax increment funds from the tunnel would depend on how the tunnel project itself was funded. The CRA would gain tax money from the tunnel if it were built and owned by private investors. But if the county owned it, the CRA would see no tax dollars from it, said Frank Rollason, former executive director of the Community Redevelopment Agencies. "It all depends on how the county will handle the tunnel project."
If the boundaries of the Omni agency were expanded to Museum Park, the agency would receive see any taxes because the land would be used as a park, which is exempt from paying property taxes to the city.
During a Community Redevelopment Agency committee meeting last week, city commissioners addressed the current negotiations between the county and the city over extending the lives of the redevelopment agencies to 2027 since the agencies are tied to a $340 million tax-increment projection that would be used to fund projects focused on affordable housing, historic preservation and infrastructure needs.
As of yet, no resolutions have come before redevelopment agency board members on whether to extend the Omni agency boundaries to include Watson Island for the Port of Miami Tunnel project.
City Manager Pete Hernandez, who was present during the county commission meeting in July, stated that the proposed expansion of the Omni agency was "only in the consideration stage."
According to county records, as part of the negotiations to extend the lives of both agencies, the county is also asking the Omni agency to increase its financial support to the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts with 35% of its tax increment funds to be used for paying off the debt service on the art center bonds "and any excess will be used to release Convention Development Tax dollars to fund a trust for payment of operating, maintenance and capital renovation and repair expenses for the center."