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Front Page » Top Stories » Lyric Theater Is Central Pin In Overtown Rehab Plan

Lyric Theater Is Central Pin In Overtown Rehab Plan


Written by on January 18, 2001

By Paola Iuspa
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A mixed-use development called Folklife Village in a long-neglected portion of the Overtown Park West neighborhood near the historic Lyric theater is going forward, say community leaders.

After listening to community leaders, officials from the nonprofit Collins Center for Public Policy Inc. have decided to help find public and private funds to develop a "traditional neighborhood with a center square," said Bernice Butler, who is leading the effort.

The $60 million project would have about 400 residential units and 150,000 square feet for retail, offices and a school on three parcels in two blocks, a Collins Center document says.

The now-vacant lots are partially owned by the county and the city. Ms. Butler said the organization would start raising $5 million needed to obtain the land in about a year.

"To get the financing we hope to get, you need to own the land," she said.

She said as envisioned, units would sell from $90,000-$300,000.

The site is bounded by Northwest First Court on the east, Sixth Street on the south, Third Avenue and Interstate 95 on the west and Eighth Street and the 155-unit Poinciana Village on the north.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields, a historian and founder of Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida Inc., said the group is going to develop a concept that came out of a 1999 charrette sponsored in part by Black Archives, which she called a grass-roots group.

"We have had this vision for a long time," Ms. Fields said, "but doing something and having the resources are two different things."

After studying urban cores nationally, Ms. Butler said, members of her organization realized Overtown had a tremendous potential for growth. As a result, they decided to focus on redevelopment of the neighborhood, she said.

"It has the Lyric theater on one side; the Technological Center of the Americas, which will house by mid-year the fifth network access point in the US, two blocks away, and the new performing arts center, now in its planning stages, a mile away," Ms. Butler said.

"The project will be economic, environmental friendly and equity, which means everybody in the community will benefit from it equally," she said.

Collins Center, Ms. Butler said, is conducting a feasibility study to learn "how buildings should be located for best use and determine the number of units" that may fit in the parcels.

The organization is searching for developers locally and nationwide to become the master or joint developers, she said.

"Our group is a think-tank," she said. "We put together the project, but it has to be done by developers."

Current participants, she said, are Indian River Investment Communities and Sawyer’s Walk, which have the city’s development rights for the parcels and are headed by Overtown resident Ted Weitzel.

"This is a great project for the area," Mr. Weitzel said. "The concept will come true in five years."

Lisa Maxwell with Lennar Corp., a Miami-based developer that has a similar program to redevelop neglected areas in California, praised the Collins Center’s commitment.

"What they are doing is incredibly important," she said. "The philosophy behind this is that the good of a whole community is taken into consideration. It will have a positive impact for everyone."