New Plan Sought To Buy Relocate Camillus House Homeless Shelter
By Candi Calkins
Community Redevelopment Agency officials say they will try to salvage a plan to purchase Camillus House, a downtown homeless shelter, following a city commission decision last week to scuttle funding for the project.
"We’re restructuring our budget. We’ll present something probably in the next 60 days," said Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele, who chairs the Community Redevelopment Agency.
"The sale is going to go on," Mr. Teele said, "perhaps not as scheduled. But the details will continue to be ironed out and the mechanism will be identified."
The Community Redevelopment Agency in June approved a letter of intent to buy Camillus House for $2.4 million.
Last week, city commissioners rejected a plan to tap $3 million in Community Development Block Grant funds earmarked for Overtown redevelopment projects to cover the purchase. Activist protested the fund transfer, citing concerns about the future of a Third Avenue corridor plan for Overtown.
Dale Simpson, executive director of Camillus House, said delays could hamper efforts to buy land for a new shelter.
Camillus, he said, would use $2 million from the sale of the existing homeless shelter to finance the land.
Mr. Simpson said the 30,000-square-foot shelter at 726 NE First Ave. is overcrowded. Larger quarters, he said, are needed to accommodate expanded programs.
Mr. Simpson said if the property appraisal of $2.4 million expires in 60 days, the deal would have to be renegotiated.
"The market has changed dramatically since the first of the year," he said. "There’s a lot of both speculation and escalation of prices."
However, he said, the city agency charged with redevelopment of Overtown, Park West and Omni neighborhoods may eventually buy the homeless shelter.
"We’re still quite optimistic," Mr. Simpson said. "The intention is still the same. We want to work with the CRA."
Commissioner Joe Sanchez, who opposes the purchase of Camillus House, said a new funding mechanism will not persuade him to approve a deal that allows Camillus House to buy back the site in two years at the same price if relocation plans fall through.
"I will still oppose it because I still think it’s a bad deal," Mr. Sanchez said. "These are the same gravy deals that put the city on the verge of bankruptcy."
Mr. Sanchez said he opposes letting Camillus House continue operating the shelter rent free for up to five years.
"We don’t need to buy it," he said. "The private sector will buy it the next day."
Mr. Teele said he believes purchase of Camillus House falls in line with the Community Redevelopment Agency’s goal of boosting property values.
"The removal of the Camillus House from Park West is the single most important long-term activity that can be undertaken for the redevelopment of Overtown," he said.
Although a private developer offered $1.8 million last year for the location, Mr. Teele said the Community Redevelopment Agency, in addition to offering $2.4 million this year, also has committed to help raise $6 million for the relocation.
Mr. Teele said he plans to visit with charitable groups in Washington, DC, to solicit donations for the project.
"The existing location is neither dignified nor state of the art," Mr. Teele said. "We’re going to use every resource at the disposal of the City of Miami to assist in providing a quality, dignified Camillus House in a location that’s appropriate for their mission."
Commissioner Tom s Regalado said he would support a new funding mechanism to buy Camillus House.
"I think that Camillus House needs help in moving their facilities," he said. "If we find the funds, I will favor any kind of action to move Camillus House.
"This is not a deal. It’s an investment in the future. If we don’t do anything, then it’s going to be there," Mr. Regalado said. "They are not in a hurry to move. They can wait two or three years more but we can’t