County Gives Ultimatum On Opalocka Development
Written by Dan Dolan on February 22, 2007
By Dan Dolan
Citing decades of broken promises, bungled negotiations and missed deadlines, Miami-Dade County commissioners last week gave a community development company 90 days to get a deal for Opa-locka Executive Airport or get lost.
Led by Vice Chairman Barbara Jordan, commissioners voted to initiate formal proceedings to revoke Opa-locka Community Development Corp.’s rights to build on 121 acres of county land next to the airport.
Normally, proceedings take 30 days. But after corporation officials revealed they’ve just started talks with Chicago giant Higgins Development Partners, commissioners gave them 90 days to seal the deal.
If the agency doesn’t have a binding contract with Higgins or another company by then, building rights will revert to the county. Then the county will be free to develop the land itself or find someone else for the project.
Ms. Jordan wants a foundation headed by former US Rep. Carrie Meek to be awarded the development rights. Backed by New Boston’s Urban Strategy America Fund, the foundation is pitching a plan for $200 million in industrial and retail development it says would bring 4,000 jobs to the economically distressed area around Northwest 27th Avenue.
Officials of the community development agency would not provide details of a last-ditch effort to retain control of the land. Higgins declined to reveal the specifics of its development proposal.
Ms. Jordan said the agency has had 20 years to find an investor for an airport project. She said the county inked its first deal with the company in 1986. When that agreement lapsed after the firm failed to deliver a developer, Ms. Jordan said the company was given another chance in 1997.
Under the terms of the 1997 pact, the company had 18 months to find a builder and start construction, Ms. Jordan said. The company missed that deadline and all the others spelled out in the contract, she said.
Ms. Jordan said the company found Higgins about two weeks ago after the county aviation department, which controls the airport, revealed it wanted to revoke the development contract.
"The bottom line is that we’re here 20 years later and not a single thing has been built," Ms. Jordan said. "There have been opportunities to develop this site, but we’ve lost every one because of the CDC’s demands. We need to move on."
Over the past five years, the agency has bungled talks that could have brought a Dunkin’ Donuts distribution center, a national medical supply company, an airline supply firm and Sysco Food wholesale operations to the parcel, Ms. Jordan said.
An attorney for Opa-locka Development said finding a developer for the parcel wasn’t easy. The airport area presents severe economic obstacles for any development, he said. But Higgins should deliver a project that’s good for the county and the neighborhood, the lawyer said.