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Front Page » Top Stories » Hernandez Says Overtown Cra Money Earmarked For Stadium

Hernandez Says Overtown Cra Money Earmarked For Stadium

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Written by on March 8, 2007

By Dan Dolan
Only minutes after County Manager George Burgess publicly insisted Tuesday that community development funds would not be used to finance a $500 million baseball stadium, Miami City Manager Pedro "Pete" Hernandez said at least $15 million from the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency has been earmarked for the project.

After Mr. Hernandez disclosed that Miami wants to use community development money to fund a portion of its $108 million contribution to a ballpark for the Florida Marlins, Mr. Burgess conceded that the county and the city are considering extending the Overtown agency’s boundary to generate additional tax revenues.

However just minutes earlier, Mr. Burgess told the Miami-Dade County Commission "there was never any intention" to use community development funds for the stadium project. He said reports that money from the Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency would be used for stadium construction are "simply not accurate."

But Mr. Hernandez told the county commission that community development taxes are indeed a part of the city’s fiscal plan for the downtown stadium, which would be built on 9 acres of government-owned land near the county’s Stephen P. Clark Center on Northwest Third Street.

"We want the flexibility to consider the CRA as a funding source," Mr. Hernandez said. "The CRA component of the city’s contribution would be very small over 20 years when compared to the overall revenues it generates."

But the plan to use community development dollars could doom Mr. Burgess’ proposal for a downtown stadium. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz triggered a firestorm last month when he publicly floated the idea.

The Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency, which is made up of the Miami City Commission, rejected the plan. A majority of the county commission — Audrey Edmonson, Dennis Moss, Barbara Jordan, Dorrin Rolle, Joe Martinez, Carlos Gimenez, Natacha Seijas and Katy Sorenson — also oppose using the tax money for a stadium.

Officials who oppose the Northwest Third Street site used the community development issue to push for having a stadium built at the Orange Bowl.

"We continue to put sports, arts and cultural centers above people," Ms. Edmonson said. "If we can go with the Orange Bowl, I’m fine. But I’m not convinced that CRA money won’t be used for this project. CRA money should be used for affordable housing. Overtown needs revitalization, not gentrification."

Building a stadium at the Orange Bowl would eliminate the need for community development cash, Mr. Martinez said. The city and the county could use $100 million set aside to rehabilitate the Orange Bowl to help build a new baseball park.

But for that plan to work, Mr. Gimenez said, the University of Miami would have to move its football team to Dolphin Stadium. Mr. Hernandez said the university is considering making the move. But the school is always considering the best way to pay its share of the cost to improve the Orange Bowl, he said.

Mr. Hernandez said the university’s future at the Orange Bowl should be resolved in two months.

Miami city commissioners are to vote to today on a resolution accepting Mr. Hernandez’ broad outline of a binding agreement with the county and the Marlins on stadium construction.