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LIMBO: Crosswinds project for Overtown

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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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I think that this project will greatly help, not hurt the area. I know cultural heritage is important, but I don't see why fixing up vacant land is considered offensive or bad. Perhaps some African-American cultural buildings could be included in the project, to rectify any problems.

And what's up with that lady who said "the African-American community should set the buildings on fire"? She really needs to calm down...

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Yes, I agree. She deserves to get the bloat. I can't believe she would still be employed after saying something like that. Unfortunately, Teele and his cronies are the type that don't want to see the black community move forward, because he controls the purse strings and wants to stay in power. He's afraid of losing the election. He was in charge of cleaning up overtown, and it turned into a boondogle. If I'm not mistaken, after 5 years and millions of dollars, his agency added 1 parking lot.

Also, saying you need the land for parking for the lyric theater and the longshoremans office is a complete joke. They Lyrica was fenced off last I passed it. There's plenty of parking in the area, but no one would be crazy enough to park there.

The fact that this is being done on currently vacant land is great. There are great buildings and houses still left in the neighborhood. I think they should be saved, but nothing will happen there without gentrification.

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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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Yeah, if it was a cooperative project between the black community and the white developers, it would look/sound better to everyone. I think the key is more public involvement. Important black leaders that live IN Overtown should be involved, not just the councilmen and government figures. I think that if this project goes forward, other historic homes/buildings in the area will also begin revamping.

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A federal lawsuit has been filed against the City of Miami, attempting to stop the development of the Crosswinds project in Overtown, citing gentrification, lack of affordable housing and pricing. Local officials and the developer of the project say that an adequate number of affordable housing units have been set aside.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/12192619.htm

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I would hate to see this project go away. With enough litigation they'll scare the developers away, and no one will want to build there at all. Given that there's nothing there right now, I just can't see the displacement right now. Unfortunately this type of demagoguery will only become more common.

One idea that has come across my mind is to find a way to make homeowners out of the people who currently rent. Ideally their monthly mortgage payment would be locked at their current rent rate. And in making each individual a homeowner, the property becomes eligible for homestead exemption and the 3% cap on assessed value for property tax purposes provided by the Save Our Homes amendment. For those concerned that gentrification will outprice the people that live there, this seems like it would mitigate the impact to a certain extent.

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