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Guest donaltopablo

Miami getting a Midtown?

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Sounds like a really cool redevelopment for an already dense Miami.

Developers seek city help for new Midtown Miami

Paola Iuspa-Abbott

Developers of the 56-acre Buena Vista Yard in Miami are seeking the city's help in finding money to pay for some of the estimated $70 million needed for infrastructure.

The former rail yard and container storage area is expected to be developed into Midtown Miami, which will have 3,000 homes and more than 1 million square feet of retail space, but currently lacks water and sewer pipes, an electrical system, natural gas lines, roads, parking and sidewalks, said Daniel Pfeffer, president of MidtownEquitites of New York, which joined Michael Samuel to develop the site.

The developers are talking with the city about applying for $22 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a city official said.

The site is 12 blocks deep and five blocks wide. Development is expected to cost about $600 million, based on preliminary figures.

"We are exploring all the possibilities," Pfeffer said.

Getting government help on blighted urban redevelopment sites is not unusual.

"The federal government has grants available for environmental remediation and other infrastructure work in depressed areas," he said. "The money won't come from the city. You apply for grants as a developer with the city. Then, the federal government allocates some money for specific projects."

Subsidizing construction costs often helps reduce the price of the homes, making them affordable to a larger group, said former Miami City Manager Carlos Gimenez, now a consultant with law firm Steel Hector & Davis in Miami. For example, he said, the city has allocated funds to build a public waterfront walkway on Biscayne Bay for One Miami, The Related Group of South Florida's residential project in downtown Miami.

Midtown Miami would offer homes priced between $150,000 and $275,000, the development partners said early this year.

The infrastructure work is scheduled to start in the first half of 2004, Samuel said.

In the meantime, the group has to change the zoning of the yard and amend the city's comprehensive plan. Because the area is larger than 10 acres, it needs state approval, sources said.

About 17 acres are under contract by Developers Diversified Realty of Cleveland, which wants to build an open-air shopping center. Because it already has tenants committed, Diversified will need to get the infrastructure in place soon, Samuel said.

"Construction of the retail space has to begin in the first or second quarter of 2004," he said.

The proposed lifestyle retail center would also include office and residential uses.

Some retail chains are keeping an eye on the leasing activity of the town center-type project.

Some want to see other retailers sign up before making a decision, said George Kleier III, Eckerd Drug Corp. senior director of real estate.

"We would have an interest only if they [Developers Diversified] would be able to follow through in the critical mass they are proposing," he said.

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This project is located near the Design District, which is just north of downtown. If built, it would be a great addition to the city of Miami and hopefully spur redevelopment in the historically depressed Overtown neighborhood.

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