County aid is in fashion for NY couturier Khan
New York couturier Naeem Khan, who already is getting county riverfront land at a cut rate to bring in his eveningwear designing and headquarters and create 50 jobs, is now on the ladder to receive $1.5 million for site work as well.
The county’s Economic Prosperity Committee voted last week to waive rules and put Mr. Khan on the list to share in $75 million designed to lure jobs. He had already agreed last year to bring those jobs when the county commission allowed him to rent the site below market rates for up to 90 years and build a 30,000-square-foot building.
The committee agreed to add $1.5 million to the funding list to repair the seawall at the vacant county-owned site, 1175 NW South River Drive. But Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the lone no vote, recalled that part of last year’s deal with Mr. Khan was that he would do the repairs and seawall construction. What, she asked, has changed?
Part of the deal “was the requirement that Mr. Khan fix the seawall and the riverwalk,” Leland Salomon, deputy director of the county’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, agreed. But, he said, there was no restriction in the deal about whether Mr. Khan could use public funds to do the job.
The vote puts Mr. Khan in line for a $1.5 million share of the economic development funds to do that work, but the line is long. If the full commission now approves, he must await dealings with 10 firms that are already chosen to split the $75 million. If some deals fail, others are approved to take their places. Mr. Khan, as last one in, would be last in line for money.
Negotiations with the first 10 are going very slowly. Mr. Salomon told the committee. While his office is contacting them all, he said, “we are having a lot of difficulty getting a lot of the people in. I’ve set aside basically three negotiating sessions every Thursday and Friday and I can tell you, tomorrow being Friday, I only have one taker.”
Commissioner Audrey Edmonson interjected that “I have one that has been waiting as of yesterday to be contacted.” Moments later, she said that applicant “just informed me that after she called your office you scheduled.”
In negotiations, many on the funding list have sought to alter their pledges, sometimes cutting the number of jobs they would create. Miami Ocean Studios, which had vowed to create 2,684 permanent fulltime jobs, in negotiations sought to slash the number to 50. As of last month, none of the 10 had met all commission-set funding criteria.
In applying for $1.5 million for infrastructure, Mr. Khan’s firm listed a project budget of $9.05 million in hard costs, with construction to take three years; $1.34 million in infrastructure, and $920,000 in soft costs.
His application says 11 fulltime jobs will begin in 2018, 35 more in 2019 and four more in 2020. Three workers would get $110,000, the rest $65,000 or below. The company now has no Florida employees.
A list of Mr. Khan’s customers in his application includes First Lady Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Penelope Cruz, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker and Queen Noor of Jordan.