Commercial Projects Seen Aiding Homestead Recovery Path
By Jennifer Miller
A series of commercial real estate developments are catalysts to get South Dade back on its feet eight years after Hurricane Andrew ransacked the area, developers, financiers and real estate professionals say.
"I think we’re in the mode where you’re going to see accelerated growth," says Dick Bauer, outgoing president of the Vision Council, South Dade’s economic development arm"
"Between all the developments going on," he said, "I’m very bullish on commercial and residential expansion in the region down here."
Mr. Bauer said projects such as a Wal-Mart opening last November and a Home Depot that broke ground a month ago are stimulants for activity and labor, producing at least 840 jobs.
A theme park, to be open May 2001 on 210 acres in Florida City, he said, will also bring about 620 jobs. It would become a second major leg of tourist activity, complementing the Miami Homestead Motorsports Complex a third considering Biscayne and Everglades national parks said Mr. Bauer, who becomes vice president and regional development officer for TIB Bank of the Keys on Aug. 1.
"We are beginning to experience a boom," says Alicia Schreiber, assistant city manager for Homestead. "We are focusing on building and preserving our culture as we do it, not just building for the sake of building."
Ms. Schreiber said developments are a mix between cultural and technological ventures. On the cultural side, a slew of businesses, including hotels, movie theaters, restaurants and shops, will revitalize downtown Homestead.
City Hall, at US 1 and Campbell Drive, will be redeveloped and relocated, she said.
Efforts are also being made to restore the Seminole Theatre in the historic district, she said, and the city has raised half of $3.2 million needed to revitalize the art deco theater.
Ms. Schreiber said cultural projects complement the new arts undertaking on Krome Avenue a 3-acre campus to include an arts center, church and motel. That project was spearheaded by attorney I. Stanley Levine, who helped revitalize Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
Homestead, Ms. Schreiber says, will also profit from a technological base with an incubator funded by a $1 million National Aeronautics & Space Administration grant.
Cutler Ridge and Perrine have yet to ride "the South Dade wave of prosperity," said Carla Bernabei Talarico, executive director of the Perrine-Cutler Ridge Council.
"Things seem to be picking up, except for the US 1 corridor," she said. "One of the problems we have in the area is a significant amount of vacant properties."
Ms. Talarico said basics such as water and sewer need to be put in place to spur commercial growth on US 1 from Southwest 164th Street south to 184th Street. "We are currently working with Miami-Dade County to plan for an infrastructure increase in the area."
Ms. Talarico said some properties have been sold in an industrial park off Marlin Road that have long been empty. She said the park will accommodate a new warehousing project with bays from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet for small businesses.
Edward Lett, president & CEO of TIB Bank in the Keys, says the South Dade economy has been stagnant for four or five years and has not rebounded noticeably since Hurricane Andrew.
Mr. Lett said the area is coming out of its slumber with current projects and is starting to pick up momentum.
"Resources in the area, in terms of land and the labor force, are attractive to commercial industries on the verge of doing something significant in the area," he said. "Things in our favor include the commute from Miami toward the south, which goes against the traffic flow, and the new Keysgate residential community."
Mr. Lett said TIB is making significant investments in the area to contribute to growth and TIB executives are excited about the entry of the New York-based Rockefeller Group as a leasing agent for the Homestead Park of Commerce.
It is a matter of time and educating market brokers, promoters say, before the 270-acre industrial park begins to fill. The village, situated in a foreign trade zone, can still support 2.7 million square feet of build-out, sources say, and will target light manufacturing.
Mr. Bauer says the federal government’s decision on the future of Homestead Air Force Base expected this year remains a key to what happens next. The base could become a hub for space launch operations.
"The decree," he said, "could stimulate relatively near-term, substantial activity in the South Dade commercial market."