Meek Foundation seeking partners to develop 121 acres at Opa-locka Executive Airport
By Risa Polansky
To make the most of the economic potential of land at Opa-locka Executive Airport, the Carrie Meek Foundation is preparing for takeoff on a nine-year development project on 121 acres.
The not-for-profit, which promotes education, affordable housing, economic development and other causes, is leasing from Miami-Dade County two parcels at the airport's Southwest corner, one with direct access to the runways.
The hope there is to develop an aviation-related project, such as aircraft manufacturing or repair, said foundation Executive Director Anthony Williams.
Across the street, the foundation is open to industrial or office project ideas, he said.
Local or national companies interested in partnering to develop the parcels can express interest through Dec. 15.
These efforts mark the Meek Foundation's first venture into industrial development after focusing largely on affordable housing projects.
"Our interest is not specific to aviation, our interest is in economic development and job creation," Mr. Williams said. "We see ourselves as managing this project on behalf of the residents of the surrounding community to make sure they are benefited by the project as it develops."
Plans include offering area residents job training specific to positions needed at the new developments.
The foundation expects the projects to create 1,500 to 3,000 jobs, Mr. Williams said.
To ensure the developments take off without a hitch, one key is to partner with stable, experienced companies, he said — "large-scale industrial developers with a track record for developing these types of properties and the financial wherewithal to get this done on schedule."
The timetable includes beginning the first phase within two years, developing the first 20 acres within four years, and scaling the remainder from there to develop 2.5 million square feet within nine years, he said.
Interested companies must verify financial stability, development expertise, commitment to sustainable development and their history of including local small businesses.
Despite past job-creation promises, the airport land has sat undeveloped for decades.
Miami-Dade commissioners last year stripped the Opa-locka Community Development Corp. of control after the company for 20 years failed to develop it.
They unanimously approved a 55-year lease with the Meek Foundation in July. It requires the foundation to pay annual rent and invest a minimum $110 million within nine years.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan led the effort to turn the land over to the foundation, but all 13 commissioners asked to be named co-sponsors, illustrating widespread support for the planned developments.