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Week of 10/19/01 - Miami News Today

Homestead Air Force Base land recommended for eco-tourism
By Victor Cruz

The best use for Homestead Air Force Base is as an eco-tourism complex, according to a plan prepared by the Urban Land Institute for county and Beacon Council officials.

The plan calls for creation of a 'destination Everglades,' said John Cordrey, senior vice president of research & development for the Beacon Council, the county's economic development body. It would serve as an introduction into the Everglades and could include a conference center, hotel, park offices, an educational center and a base for tours.

The county has until Dec. 12 to present a plan to the Defense Department to win rights to 717 acres of the base.

The county hired the Beacon Council in June to prepare a re-use plan. In turn, the council hired the Urban Land Institute, which for $110,000 came up with this concept, now in draft form.

The non-profit Urban Land Institute has aided cities on land use since 1936.

According to the plan, the site could be "a clearinghouse for all work on restoration of the Everglades" and a university research facility focusing on environmentally sensitive land, Dr. Cordrey said.

During debate on use of the site, proposals included an airport and a mixed-use development. The hired experts chose a different route.

"There is no retail component expected, outside of a shop in the hotel," that may be a part of the final plan, said Dr. Cordrey. Consultants from Goodkin Consulting & Research and PricewaterhouseCoopers are working on the plan's feasibility and preparing a presentation to the Defense Department and the county commission in November, said Diana Gonzalez, project coordinator for the Beacon Council.

The plan will be ready for distribution in two weeks, she said. Defense and land institute officials are to discuss the plan by month's end.