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bobliocatt

$150 million development project eyed for Overtown

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MIAMI

$150 million development project eyed for Overtown

A pending deal to develop a swath of Overtown, mostly with private money, promises to turn the impoverished neighborhood around -- but critics say it could change the area's character.

BY OSCAR CORRAL

[email protected]

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is on the verge of announcing what may be the biggest private redevelopment project in Overtown history, an effort that could have a widespread impact on the perpetually downtrodden neighborhood and its surroundings.

But the $150 million Crosswinds deal is still winding its way through Miami's complex politics, with the area's city commissioner, Arthur Teele Jr., saying it could threaten Overtown's character and history as a predominantly black community.

The Collins Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit research organization in Miami, introduced Michigan-based Crosswinds Communities to Diaz and Commissioner Johnny Winton a year ago so it could propose its project.

Crosswinds wants to build 1,000 housing units, more than have been built in Overtown in several decades. Part of the deal calls for Crosswinds to make 200 of the units available for affordable housing. Fifty of them would be for current Overtown residents.

The project would also include tens of thousands of feet of mixed-use space at street level for shops, restaurants and perhaps even nightclubs. Crosswinds has hired Miami-based Arquitectonica, a prestigious architectural firm, for the design.

Diaz says the project will likely usher in a wave of redevelopment.

''My philosophy is that no real estate developer likes to be the pioneer, but once the first guy steps up and succeeds, you open the floodgates,'' Diaz said. ``I think this is a landmark project that will bring Overtown back.''

While it's not the first time a politician has proclaimed the beginning of an Overtown turnaround, the Crosswinds project is unlike any other proposed in that area -- the poorest part of Miami, according to the U.S. Census.

`ECONOMIC ENGINE'

''This is not another tower in the sky where units start at $500,000,'' said Steve Feldman, the Miami-based president of Crosswinds. ``It becomes an economic engine for all of Overtown.''

Private financing for the bulk of this deal would likely come from Coral Gables-based American Ventures Realty Investors, which was founded by Philip Blumberg.

Crosswinds wants the first phase of the project to be on 5

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Blood should get spilled? That's a bit extreme.

As an African-American it's amazing how we (blacks) set up these agencies that never seem to get much accomplished. Then "outsiders" (white developers) come in with the resources and knowledge to get something done, and we get upset and try to block them from building. Well, all of these years, they could've long ago partnered up with a developer to accomplish something in the area. If it had to be someone black, I believe that HJ Russell, Inc., the largest black-owned development firm, has an office in Miami. (They also have extensive experience in public-private ventures building affordable housing developments.) These agencies could've partnered with HJ Russell and the Housing Authority to get some new developments built in the area.

I don't know the whole story, but it seems as if the agencies set up to redevelop the area weren't aggressive enough in their efforts, and now want to keep this developer from building. I agree that this might not be the best way to improve the area as far as maintaining the affordability and character of the area as an African-American community; however, instead of outright opposing the idea, work with the developers to make sure it will be of the greatest benefit to the neighborhood and city as a whole.

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