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South Dade: Homestead, Florida City, Cutler Ridge

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... and all the places in between.


Homestead headed for major changes in 2005

By Lillian Delgado,

Public Information Officer

The City of Homestead has been experiencing some major changes in the past couple of years and 2005 promises to be no different. Following is some information on just some of the projects that are underway in Homestead for 2005.

Family-oriented communities are being developed around the city and residential development is booming. Approximately 1,900 homes are scheduled to be constructed in 2005 and a total of 12,000 are slated for completion by 2010.

Construction has begun on the new state-of-the-art Homestead Hospital. The $130 million Baptist Health facility will bring a new level of healthcare to the community and generate significant employment opportunities.

Homestead residents will also have several new businesses to frequent in 2005. Construction has commenced on the following:

Waterstone Plaza, which will be located on the corner of SW 288 Street and 137 Avenue, will house a Publix, Walgreen

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As originally posted by Tivo in South Florida Headlines...

This article appeared in El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language newspaper published by Miami Herald Publishing Company. It was an interesting article, but it didn't appear in the Miami Herald. The sprawl continues. Here's the article, translated below:


Homestead transforming itself at an unstoppable rate


El Nuevo Herald

Homestead, the second oldest city in South Florida after Miami, is currently undergoing the most radical transformation in its 92-year history, a place where the great phoenix is rising from the ashes with the most ambitious development in the county, twelve years after being practically devastated by the powerful Hurricane Andrew.

While an army of investors and builders continues non-stop through the ample open stretches of land in the southern part of the county, in an near war of occupation, thousands of acres of farmland that formerly grew tomatoes and corn are being taken over by a new "harvest," one that is forever changing the face of Homestead.

Like mushrooms that teem in the forest after a rainstorm, thousands of new dwellings are literally popping up on the last remaining swaths of undeveloped land in Miami-Dade, to try to quench the thirst for real estate that leaves the throats of new residents, investors, and vistors from three continents dry, attracted by Miami's real estate market.

"What is happening in Homestead is part of the structural transformation that that is occurring within the South Florida economy," asserts professor Antonio Jorge, an economist at Florida International University.

According to Jorge, the urban growth in Homestead is such that it's turning Miami-Dade County into a gigantic metropolis, a phenomenon known as "conurbation," which occurs when nearby cities and towns start to blend together, forming a continuous urban area.

"Now it's not a simple boom. This is mega-growth," says Oscar Ernand, a financial expert of the American Building Alliance, a homebuilder building in Homestead.

"Before, banks did not want to finance projects in Homestead; now they're all dying to get a piece of the action on loans from all the construction in the area," he adds, who was formerly vice president of Eastern National Bank, in Miami.

"People are buying in Homestead like crazy," says Xiomara Castillo, a residential property specialist with Keyes. "It has the greatest amount of development in Miami-Dade, and it has the lowest preconstruction prices in the county."

According to Castillo, "Some people don't care about the distance and some are doing it as an investment. Others simply want a property and have to buy it in Homestead, because it is more affordable."

"Basically I moved to Homestead because the prices were more attractive," says Jes

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Posted on Thu, Jan. 27, 2005


City's effort to annex land pushes ahead

Homestead's push to annex some land just outside the city cleared another hurdle recently, which angered some residents near the city's fringes.


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Homestead might be a step closer to expanding its city limits.

The Miami-Dade Boundaries Commission gave a thumbs up Jan. 19 to a farmer's request to have Homestead annex his property.

Before the city can call the land its own -- and the man can call himself a Homestead resident -- the request needs to be approved by the county Planning & Zoning Board, and finally the County Commission.

Landowner Larry Dunagan asked for his 60 acres of land -- located on the northwest corner of Southwest 296th Street and 189th Avenue -- to become part of Homestead.

Norman Powell, interim chair of the Boundaries Commission, said they voted 3-2 to recommend county commissioners' approval of Dunagan's request.

But the decision angered a group of people from Redland who opposed the annexation.

Some residents who live on the fringes of the city are concerned about losing their rural lifestyle. Others from an area called Redland's Edge -- who are pursuing a citizen-sponsored incorporation study -- said that if Homestead annexes Dunagan's land, it would create an enclave in their area.

''It's going to divide our study,'' said Pamela Gray of Redland's Edge, who added that Redland isn't ready for development.

The city and Redland's Edge -- which runs roughly between Southwest 184th and 328th streets and U.S. 1 west to Southwest 197th Avenue -- have been in a dispute for several months over the property.

Powell -- who said he voted in favor of the annexation -- said he saw nothing wrong with the application.

''Concerns that the area would become developed and that the county would lose an agricultural site were not convincing,'' Powell said.

In a letter that was part of the package boundaries commissioners used to make their decision, Dunagan wrote that he had requested annexation by Homestead to get more and better government services.

''I want to state for the record that I have no contracts on this property, nor do I have any intentions of developing this property in the near future,'' Dunagan wrote. ``I only wish to continue the agricultural practices that currently exist on this property.''

Redland's Edge residents have said for months that Homestead initiated the annexation, not Dunagan. Gray said she believes that if Homestead offers Dunagan a good deal to develop the land, ``Mr. Dunagan will do it. He can change his mind.''

Dunagan didn't return phone calls from The Herald.

Powell said that although the issue was difficult, a vote was necessary because Dunagan's request had been delayed since September.

He also said the Boundaries Commission's vote was only a recommendation to the full County Commission.

''It happened numerous times in the past that by the time it goes to [county commissioners], the issue has been tweaked many times,'' Powell said.

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Posted on Sat, Jan. 29, 2005

Base remains a vital resource

Homestead Air Reserve Base might have suffered a severe blow from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but officials say the base is more active than ever.


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Before Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, the Homestead Air Force Base was considered by many to be a small city.

There were close to 4,000 people living in homes at its perimeter.

There was a bowling alley, a dental clinic, a hospital, a theater, restaurants and an Olympic-size pool.

''It was enormous,'' said Mary Finlan, executive director of the Greater Homestead/ Florida City Chamber of Commerce. ``There was something for everybody.''

But those amenities are gone with Andrew's wind, and the size of the base is down from 2,938 acres to 2,200 acres.

Still, Finlan said the base -- now called Homestead Air Reserve Base -- is a central part of the community.

''The base might be smaller now, but there is a lot going on there,'' she said.

The 482nd Fighter Wing maintains and operates the base.

It is a combat-ready unit capable of providing F-16 multipurpose fighter aircraft, along with pilots and support personnel, for short-notice, worldwide deployment.

In prehurricane days, the base was considered active duty, so military personnel and their families lived on the base. Now, it is a reserve base so no one lives there -- but families do live nearby.

And, on any given day, the sound of planes taking off still pierces the air -- just as it did before 1992.

''We still have amenities that make the base city-like,'' said Lt. Col. Tom Davis, chief of public affairs. ``The only difference is that people don't live here.''

Military personnel can still take advantage of the sports and fitness center, retiree activities office, base chapel, base pass and I.D. office, outdoor recreation, Omega World Travel, military I.D. cards, lodging office (Homestead Inn), laundry/dry cleaning, family support, barbershop, Falcon Nest Club and BX Mart -- a mini-mart of sorts.

''It has scaled down quite a bit since Andrew,'' said Sybil Hamilton, a budget analyst who has worked at the base since 1980. ``But gradually, you can see the progression.''

The base employs 2,351 people, including 188 active duty, 1,316 traditional reservists, 34 active guard reservists, 257 full-time reservists and 556 civilian workers.

Davis explained that the Air Force, a U.S. Customs air group and the Air National Guard share the hangars, but operate independently. In addition, an elite U.S. military unit, Special Operations Command South, and the Coast Guard also operate out of the base.

Before Andrew hit, the base had four different squadrons, three active-duty and one reservist unit, flying about 90 F-16s.

The storm basically destroyed the base and shut its doors for almost two years.

But, contrary to what many in South Florida may think, the base is still there and open for business. Among the activities: the Florida Air National Guard has an alert facility at the base with four F-15 Eagles and the 93rd Squadron has 17 F-16 Fighting Falcons.

''It's the best-kept secret in the military,'' Davis said. The base was originally opened in 1942 and was the focal point of some famous Cold War encounters, including the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It reopened post-Andrew on March 31, 1994.

Davis said that on any given day during the week there are about 600 people on the base, mostly civilians.

The reservists normally come in on weekends for training missions.

Donna Stoddard, who has worked in the finance department at the base since 1972, said that, although things may be a little more laid back, there is still plenty of noise.

''It's just amazing to see these jets flying in the air,'' said Stoddard, who often sits in her backyard, which is about four miles away, to watch the planes. ``As soon as we see them, we know that they are there to take care of us.''

Even in its reduced form, the base still pumps more than $120 million into the South Miami-Dade economy.

''It is a huge economic engine,'' Finlan said. ``It is not the same as it was when there were 5,000 people there, but it is still a big chunk of economic impact.''

Finlan explained that the community is supportive of the base and has fought to keep it alive.

''It is very important to this community,'' Finlan said. ``We have always been a military community and have embraced our military base.''

Davis couldn't agree more.

''I don't know if the base would be alive today if it weren't for the support of the community,'' Davis said. ``I could not ask for a more supportive community than we have.''

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Posted on Sun, Feb. 06, 2005


Theater among mall's new looks

A South Dade shopping mall is making sweeping changes with hopes of drawing more shoppers.


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The new owners of Southland Mall are adding a state-of-the-art movie theater and designer shops, hoping to boost sagging sales and attract some of the thousands of people expected to move to South Miami-Dade County in the next few years.

Demolition of the old Dillard's department store -- which has been empty for years -- began Wednesday, paving the way for a 16-screen Regal Cinema that will house up to 3,500 moviegoers.

The theater is scheduled to open in the fall, said mall spokeswoman Nicole Greaves.

Also due to open later this month: DSW Shoe Warehouse, a carrier of low-priced designer brand shoes.

The mall's moves are in response to the 6,000-plus new homes that have been built in the area.

Nearly 20,000 more are expected, Greaves said, and that means more residents looking to shop.

''The south area is growing at an enormously quick rate, and we want to make it a prime location for locals to do their shopping,'' said James Schlesinger, executive officer of T/S Development, L.L.C.

Southland Mall, which sits off South Dixie Highway and Florida's Turnpike near Cutler Ridge, features 100 specialty stores, plus department stores such as Burdines-Macy's, Kmart and Ross Dress-for-Less.

Still, changes are on the way, Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger also said he plans to add new flooring and landscaping to attract more restaurants and stores to open shop there.

Schlesinger says he has already received offers from several casual-dining establishments, plus so-called ''big-box tenants'' such as Bally's Total Fitness.

''Some day this will be a Kendall, too,'' Schlesinger said. ``The future is in the South Dade area.''

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Factors in land annexation are below the surface


[email protected]

Three months after taking office, Barbara Jordan faces her first real test as a Miami-Dade County commissioner.

As a member of the Infrastructure and Land Use Committee, Jordan will vote this morning on Florida City's application to annex 4,292 acres of environmentally sensitive wetlands in South Miami-Dade.

The proposed annexation offers no benefit to her district or constituents in the northern half of the county.

The county's Planning Advisory Board voted against the annexation, concluding that it was ''inconsistent'' with the master development plan.

And county staff has warned the annexation could undermine Everglades restoration efforts and make the cost of the cleanup more expensive for taxpayers.

The very fact the county's professional staff has outlined numerous problems with the annexation should be of particular concern to Jordan, who until her election spent more than 30 years working for the county. She knows what it feels like to have politicians, for their own motives, dismiss staff's good work.

So why would Jordan even consider such a proposal?

One reason may be blood.

Her brother is Otis Wallace, the mayor of Florida City.

Jordan, who grew up in Florida City, said her brother being mayor will not play a part in her decision. ''When you are a big sister, your siblings are used to you not being on your side all the time,'' she said. ``They know I have a mind of my own. My decision will be based on what is in the best interest of the county.''

Then the decision is easy.

For his part, Mayor Wallace told me he doesn't understand ''what all the hullabaloo is about.'' He said all he wants is enough space so the city can offer residents the opportunity to build houses on five-acre lots. Higher density isn't possible, he said, because the land is outside the Urban Development Boundary, or UDB line, which was established to protect the environment and preserve the county's rural past.

Wallace, however, is hoping no one notices the 800-pound gorilla waiting in the wings.

Most of the land he wants to annex is owned by Steve Torcise Jr., who told me his goal is not to build homes on five-acre lots. Instead, he said, he wants to see the ''highest and best use'' possible for that land by moving the UDB.

He has known Wallace for 20 years and said the mayor was ''amenable'' to his desire to move the UDB. ''I don't think I would be going forward with it if he said no way,'' Torcise said.

By having Florida City annex the land, the city could then take the lead in pushing the county to move the UDB. Moving the UDB on behalf of a poor and struggling city could be more politically palatable for county commissioners than moving it for the sake of some private developer.

And who is that developer?

Torcise acknowledged, and county records confirmed, that in September megabuilder Lennar Homes signed an option to buy 981 acres of the land Florida City wants to annex.

Torcise would not disclose the sale price or its conditions. ''I'm not sure what's public,'' he said, ``so I'm not going to comment on [the terms].''

The sale, however, is likely to be contingent on several factors, including the land being annexed by Florida City and the UDB being moved, which would clear the way for as many as 4,000 homes to be built. Lennar's option to buy the land is for five years.

Why the interest in Florida City getting the land?

Besides being an ally in lifting the UDB, Florida City would be developer-friendly in other ways. Lennar's partners in the land deal, according to records, are South Miami-Dade businessmen Michael Latterner and Wayne Rosen.

Latterner and Rosen's paid lobbyist is former County Manager Steve Shiver. Shiver's father is a Florida City commissioner.

And if the UDB is moved, it is the Florida City Commission that would control zoning as well as negotiate infrastructure improvements, such as roads and utilities, with the developers.

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I'm not sure where I stand on this... I'm not a big fan of moving the UDB at all. It decreases the population density and encourages more sprawl. At the same time I would like to see it be able to increase its tax base... difficult indeed.

Miami-Dade County's Office of Strategic Business Management, Incorporation and Annexation Division has a map of the proposed annexation area:




The area they have the requested the County allow them to annex is entirely outside the UDB, the yellow line on this map.

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Posted on Wed, Feb. 09, 2005


A desire for land draws line in sand

A controversial plan to let Florida City annex several thousand acres of South Miami-Dade wetlands met with stiff opposition at a Tuesday hearing.


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Florida City's designs on a large swath of South Miami-Dade wetlands prompted an outpouring of concern Tuesday from environmental groups, neighboring Monroe County and two federal agencies who warned county commissioners that a boundary change could lead to damaging overdevelopment.

Otis Wallace, mayor of Florida City, accused the critics and county planners of unfairly entangling the city's annexation effort with a move by a private landowner to build a massive new neighborhood for as many as 18,000 people, roughly double the current population of Florida City.

But opponents said the annexation could ease the way for the proposed megadevelopment, raising flooding concerns, creating a dangerous bottleneck during hurricane evacuations from the Keys, threatening wildlife and wetlands and jeopardizing parts of the $8.4 billion Everglades restoration.

''The question is, is this a good idea for the county for this area? Your staff has told you in many compelling ways, no, it is not,'' said Richard Grosso, a land-use attorney representing the Sierra Club. ``Don't act with blinders on. Act with the reality of what is going on.''

The six members of the Infrastructure and Land Use Committee held off on formally weighing in on the annexation application, opting instead to forward the issue to the full commission for an additional public hearing.

''I think that this is an important issue that needs to be heard before the full board,'' Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler said, noting that the two commissioners who represent South Miami-Dade do not sit on the committee.

The 4,284-acre site is entirely outside the Urban Development Boundary line, created to shield agricultural and environmental resources from urban sprawl.


A private company currently owns a large section of the land eyed by Florida City and has floated preliminary plans to build 6,000 homes, a multiplex movie theater, a hotel and 300,000 square feet of retail space.

The company, Atlantic Civil, has yet to pull formal permits on the project, and has to overcome several major hurdles at the state and local levels. Atlantic Civil has until April to file its application for review by the South Florida Regional Advisory Council.

County records show that major builder Lennar Homes signed an option to buy 981 acres of Atlantic Civil property last year.

The County Commission would have to move the urban development boundary to allow for the megaproject -- a measure that environmentalists fear could become increasingly attractive as South Miami-Dade's booming housing market continues to grow.

Ed Swakon, a consulting engineering for Atlantic Civil, said critics were misleading commissioners about the ecological value of the land, much of which had been farmed for generations. Other sections already are permitted for rock mining.

''It's blown way out of proportion,'' he said.

Wallace said that his city is willing to annex the land even at the current restrictions: one house per five acres, which would allow a small enclave of ''ranchettes'' he said would help boost the local tax base.

But he concedes he's not necessarily opposed to the idea of a large-scale development, either.

''I'm not going to stick my head in the sand,'' said Wallace, who said he would wait for the planning council's verdict and the completion of several on-going studies of growth in the area, including a $3 million watershed study due for completion near year's end. ``I want to see the science behind it.''

Wallace says the annexation will save Florida City from being ''landlocked'' by neighboring Homestead, which is also seeking to annex land outside its city borders, and incorporation by the nearby Redland area.

County Manager George Burgess urged commissioners in a memo to deny Florida City's bid, noting a host of objections from county departments, including the Department of Environmental Resource Management.


Monroe County also sent an emissary to Tuesday's meeting. Marlene Conaway, director of planning and environmental resources, said Monroe officials are concerned over damage to the county's water supply and access to the mainland during storm evacuations.

Others in the chorus of disapproval included representatives from the state and local Audubon Society chapters and Everglades National Park.

Dan Kimball, the park's acting superintendent, urged the panel to postpone any decisions until the county completes several studies of growth in the area.

Kimball's sentiments were echoed by commissioners Carlos Gimenez and Jose ''Pepe'' Diaz, who was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Everglades Restoration and Eco-System Task Force.

The proposed development could be a significant obstacle to the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project, an ambitious plan for restoration of a 13,600-acre stretch of land from the Deering Estate south to the Turkey Point nuclear plant.


The goal of the plan, part of the Everglades restoration project but still years from reality, is to restore the natural flow of water from the Everglades to Biscayne Bay to revive the struggling sea grass beds, mangroves and wetlands in Biscayne National Park. While the project is still in planning stages, the Atlantic Civil site is in a broad swath scientists are studying for use.

Swakon said the company had already discussed with regional water managers how to incorporate any restoration projects into the development plans -- an offer he said should be attractive given the skyrocketing costs of land and construction.

Wallace also said environmental concerns were being largely overplayed, saying that the annexation request is at the behest of his city -- not on behalf of a private landowner.

The public fallout, he noted, has been significant.

Said Wallace: ``I went from the well-intentioned mayor of Florida City to the Dr. Doom of the environmental universe.''

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that is my understanding. Being outside the UDP means a home per 5 acres, but from what i remember density is even less than that, most of it is vacant land that the developers are buying up.

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Well, it's official: Homestead has become the Kendall of this decade -- the new frontier. More than 10 years after Hurricane Andrew, this place is hot and has the best bargains for housing that's affordable to the middle class.

Naturally, since this is South Florida, it may be sprawl, but it's some of the densest in the country (not to mention colorful):



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Lennar has brought in mediators to help come to a resolution with their Florida City Commons project (the one outside the UDB). I can't help but think that Lennar already has a nod from some council members or they wouldn't be going ahead in the face of such overwhelming opposition.

The project, which could bring up to 18,000 new residents to a development of condos, townhomes and single-family dwellings, also calls for 300,000 square feet of retail space, an 1,800-seat theater and a 240-room hotel.


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The Cutler Ridge area may be the next site of a future urban community center. A new charrette was recently held with county planners, local leaders, and citizens to help determine the area's future.


A previous charrette held in 2002 resulted in some ideas including the redevelopment of the Southland Mall (formerly known as the Cutler Ridge Mall)...

A pamphlet was created highlighting the results and can be viewed here

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Hopefully this charrette will yield fruitful results. I know the city of Delray Beach did a charette to improve their already vibrant downtown, but I've yet to see any results come from it...

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It always takes a long time to see these bear fruit, unless the right people get nudged/pushed/shoved... I think the fastest results I've ever seen is with the transformation of Kendall. Seems there was more impetus for that one. Nonetheless, the Cutler Ridge area will be ripe for TND/TOD growth, with the mall and the busway within immediate reach. Hopefully developers will get on the bandwagon with this one.

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