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Front Page » Top Stories » Current Camillus House Shelter Hits Market Garners Interest

Current Camillus House Shelter Hits Market Garners Interest

Written by on June 26, 2008

By Scott E. Pacheco
Now that Camillus House has wrapped up a deal to move its main homeless shelter operations, the focus has turned to what becomes of the organization’s current digs on Northeast First Avenue.

One thing is certain: developers are interested.

"I’ve talked to several people this week alone," said commercial real estate professional Ronald Kohn, who’s in charge of finding a new owner for the building.

"I don’t have a price on the land," said Mr. Kohn, a former member of Camillus’s board of directors and owner of Kohn Commercial Real Estate.

"We’re asking for interested parties to put in bids. It’s confidential at this point, and we’re just exploring what we can do with our partners."

According to an online data base on the City of Miami’s Web site, the 13,000-square-foot building is worth $416,905.

Camillus has claim to two buildings on Northeast First Avenue. It owns the 13,000-square-foot building on the northeast corner and leases the 12,484-square-foot building on the southeast corner for a $5,000-per-year flat rate.

The owned building is on a lot of 19,600 square feet and the leased building a lot of 13,500.

Both Mr. Kohn and Camillus President Paul R. Ahr said they most likely won’t sublease the smaller building and that the lease will be transferred when Camillus moves.

"Our plan is to vacate the site," Mr. Ahr said.

The owners of the larger parcel, the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, have pledged the proceeds of the sale of the existing shelter to the capital campaign for the new facility.

Mr. Kohn said a major "sticking point" in selling that land will be finding a buyer who may be entering into a contract in 2008 but won’t be able to close on the property until 2010.

"We need partners who are going to be able to work with us, we need assurances," he said, adding that he doesn’t want to get in a situation where "Camillus would be homeless."

The area near the shelter by the Miami Arena could see retail development, but condominiums and other housing might be a losing proposition, Mr. Kohn said. He said with all the residential units, current and future residents will continue to need places to shop and eat.

The property is zoned commercial-residential, according to city records.

And Camillus’s departure bodes well for the economic vitality of that area, said Tony Cho, president/broker with Metro 1 Properties, a Miami-based boutique commercial brokerage and investment firm focused around sustainable urban development.

Mr. Cho, who has a client that owns property in that neighborhood, said the presence of Camillus House and panhandling in that area scare off potential investors. He acknowledged that homelessness is a "very serious issue," but said strictly from the standpoint of attracting investors, the move of Camillus House will lead to economic gain.

"Having Camillus house in that neighborhood precludes a lot of restaurants and retailers," he said. "I see that as the more alternative retail and restaurants that would be linked to entertainment nearby."

Camillus House officials plan to move into their new $60 million facilities on Northwest Seventh Street between 15th and 17th streets in 2010.

As part of the land swap agreement, the University of Miami will take control of the land on Northwest Seventh Street between 17th and 20th streets and plans to build a biosciences center on it.

Camillus House’s move has been a long time coming.

In August 2006, the Miami City Commission approved the new facility amid some protests by residents in the area. The Florida Cabinet in September 2006 approved the land swap deal, which included a 60-year lease for Camillus on its new land.

But the deal took longer to consummate as the university did due-diligence on the land, which included taking care of "80 matters" on its new property, Mr. Ahr said, adding that Camillus took that time to raise money and make preparations for the project.

The new facility is to include a kennel for homeless clients to keep their pets while they are in the program. It also will include a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot courtyard for homeless who don’t want to sleep indoors.

Camillus House began in 1960 as a small soup kitchen to benefit newly arrived Cuban-Americans. It operates 16 facilities in the county, including emergency shelters, transitional housing and job training centers.

Camillus House officials have been trying since 1984 to move into a bigger facility than its shelters near Miami Arena and in Allapattah that also serves as a job training facility.