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Miami Herald - February 9, 2002
New development projects being undertaken in the "Black
By Elaine Walker
While many developers prefer to take the easy route, building on raw land in South
Miami-Dade County or West Broward, Debra Sinkle-Kolsky relishes the challenge of
revitalizing an urban or inner-city community.
It's been a little over a year since Sinkle-Kolsky's firm Redevco celebrated the
grand opening of the Shoppes of Liberty City. Now she's hoping to breathe new life
into another of Miami-Dade's predominantly black neighborhoods.
Redevco has joined forces with the Lola B. Walker Homeowners' Foundation of Coral
Gables to redevelop a 1.6-acre lot at U.S. 1 and Grand Avenue, now owned by Miami-Dade
The partnership plans to build a mixed-use retail and residential development with
a Bahamian village adjacent to the McFarlane Homestead Historic district. That area
was originally settled during the 1920s by Bahamian immigrants.
''We've put a lot of years into identifying neighborhoods in need of economic stimulus,''
said Sinkle-Kolsky, an owner of the Lauderhill-based Redevco. ``They take a lot
of time to put together, but personally they're very rewarding and they make economic
The project will provide jobs and services for area residents, as well as a source
of future income that the foundation could use for projects.
Some of that money could go to restoring the shotgun houses and tin-roofed bungalows
that in 1995 were placed on the National Register for Historic Preservation.
The Redevco project will pay homage to that heritage through the design. The exact
format will be decided in the next several months, but preliminary discussions call
for a mix of neighborhood retail shops, professional offices and single-family homes
or apartments. Sinkle-Kolsky hopes to begin construction before the end of the year.
The prospect excites residents, who are tired of the land being used as a parking
lot for Carver Elementary School across the street. They want service-oriented businesses
like a dry cleaner, doctor, dentist or beauty parlor.
''Hopefully this will encourage other people to stop and do business here,''' said
William Cooper, president of the foundation. ``We don't want to be known as a downtrodden
neighborhood. This is about progress.''
Before any development can move forward, the Miami-Dade County Commission will hold
a public hearing Feb. 26 to approve the donation of the property and a $230,000
grant to the foundation.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales, who facilitated the partnership between Redevco
and the residents, has been trying for years to find a use for the land that would
have the community support. Other projects have never gotten off the ground because
residents feared they would be forced out by developers.
Redevco's track record helped. The Liberty City shopping center was the area's first
major commercial development in about a decade, providing the community with desperately
needed retail services like Winn-Dixie, Wendy's and Hollywood Video.
The developer also built the Promenade Plaza in Richmond Heights in 1979 and then
redeveloped it as part of a community partnership after Hurricane Andrew. In a format
similar to the one planned for Coral Gables, Redevco formed a joint venture with
the Richmond Heights United Pastors Community Development Corp. Ultimately, the
community bought out Redevco.
''That kind of partnership is exactly what we should be promoting in these neighborhoods,''
There are already signs that the redevelopment tide is starting to turn along Grand
Avenue, particularly in the Coconut Grove section that is part of the city of Miami.
Developer Michael Comras just bought property to build Grand Avenue Plaza, a 17,500-square-foot,
pedestrian-oriented center at Grand Avenue and Douglas Road that will be anchored
by a CVS drugstore.
Developer Andy Parrish is finishing a renovation of the Royal Poinciana on Grand
Avenue, which will convert the landmark bar just a stone's throw from the Redevco
project into a law office for attorney Tucker Gibbs. Parrish also plans to redevelop
another former bar, Gil's Spot, and he's trying to finalize a deal to land People's
Bar-B-Que as the tenant for the building near the Comras project.
As one of the first developers to recognize the area's potential, Parrish hopes
the projects will be ''sensitive to the community,'' catering to those who live
''Development is inevitable in this community because of where it's located,'' said
Parrish, whose company Wind & Rain has built 15 homes and its own office
building in the area. ``You can make money and still do it right.''