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Federal grant to help Overtown build hotel


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Federal grant to help Overtown build hotel

By Yeleny Suarez

The Black Archives, History and Research Foundation plans to use a $500,000 grant to start construction of a $15.8 million hotel and garage in Miami's Overtown neighborhood.

The property where the hotel is to be built, called Block 36, is bounded by Northwest Second Avenue to the west, Eighth Street to the south, First Avenue to the east and Ninth Street to the north.

Requests for proposals for construction from five bidders have been submitted to the Community Redevelopment Agency and will be reviewed by city officials, said John Hall, Black Archives co-developer.

The foundation is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1997 by Dorothy Jenkins Fields, a Miami-Dade Public Schools librarian. Memberships, donations and grants finance the foundation.

The grant came from the Office of Community Services, a US Department of Health and Human Services branch that is part of a collaboration of major financial institutions, federal agencies and national foundations such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is a key partner in Living Cities, which has a mission to increase the vitality of US cities and improve the lives of people in distressed urban neighborhoods.

"With headquarters in Miami and as citizens of this community, it is logical we invest here," said Hodding Carter III, CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Overtown project is one of four Living Cities pilot sites, each the home base of a foundation member - Annie E. Casey in Baltimore, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur in Chicago, John S. and James L. Knight in Miami and McKnight in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Community Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Frank Rollason will evaluate the five bids and submit them to consultants and city staff to make sure the plan is consistent with planning and zoning.

Other improvements planned for the area include expansion of the historic Lyric Theater, which began in June 2003. Miami-Dade County provided $4.3 million and the state $1 million in funds for the project that will add 9,000 square feet, new restrooms, a lobby, an elevator, wheelchair accessibility, two concession stands and two ticket booths.

Black Archives project manager Ted Bachan said the current theater project is to completed in January, with the addition of a banquet facility, a loading dock and stage expansion to follow.

"We have the opportunity and responsibility to help transform this once-vibrant business and cultural community into a cultural destination," Ms. Fields said.

"It is exciting to see something specific, something tangible and something that will speak to the opportunity for the residents of this community," Living Cities CEO Reese Fayde said last week.

Mr. Hall said Black Archives is one of five bidders for Block 36. Other bids have come from CEI of Connecticut, Crosswinds of Fort Lauderdale, Royal Palm Communities of Boca Raton and Jair Lynch of Washington, DC.

"The project in combination with the parking garage will cost an estimated $15.75 million. The rest of the money will come from public and privates sources," Mr. Hall said.

The hotel would feature 149 rooms, a fitness and business center and a pool and provide an estimated 76 jobs.

The Community Redevelopment Authority will discuss the hotel plans at a meeting scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Ice Palace, 59 NW 14th St., said administrator Chelsa Arscott.

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