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Front Page » Top Stories » Umcamillus Landswap Deal Expected In September

Umcamillus Landswap Deal Expected In September

Written by on June 29, 2006

By Eric Kalis
After securing the first round of approval from the Miami City Commission, the president of Camillus House said he expects to complete its land-swap deal with the University of Miami in September.

The commission voted to accept a zoning reclassification from industrial to liberal commercial, bringing both sides closer to swapping adjoining parcels on Northwest Seventh Avenue so Camillus House can build a complex for up to 340 homeless people on a lot between Northwest 17th and 20th streets.

Camillus officials are working on a development agreement with the city, said President Paul Ahr, and will have to get special exemptions for certain services such as a kennel for pets. All hurdles should be cleared by mid-September, he said.

"Many homeless people are reluctant to utilize the services if they have to abandon their pets," Mr. Ahr said. "The pets are very important to them – in some cases, that is their best friend."

The charity is working with Miami architectural firm Rodriguez and Quiroga to design the complex, which will cost about $30 million to construct.

"We envision a three-part facility," he said. "There will be services for people who live on the street – like shelter and case management assistance. We will also run the same treatment activities we currently offer. The third element is 80 units of permanent housing, which we need to raise money for through tax-credit funding."

The complex will be designed to include a movie theater and medical clinic, Mr. Ahr said. Unlike at the facility at 726 NE First Ave., the necessary services will be in place once the new building opens. "The building we are in now started as a lighting store and restaurant," Mr. Ahr said. "It did not have the built-in amenities this building will."

The nonprofit agency will hold off on campaigning for donations until all levels of bureaucracy are completed, Mr. Ahr said.

"We are talking to people about donating, and we already have some pledges," Mr. Ahr said. "The fact that this is not our first time trying to move has caused some reticence to come on board until we cross all hurdles. Once we complete all the special exemptions and meet the city’s criteria, that will trigger the public stage of fundraising."

Sergio Rodriguez, vice president of business and finance at UM, said the land it acquires will house a 1.4 million-square-foot biosciences research center. The university plans to work with Camillus House, he said, by offering treatment for patrons at nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital and developing a program for education students to volunteer at the facility. Advertisement