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Miami Herald - Apr. 30, 2004

Midtown Miami to get fat subsidy

By Oscar Corral

Miami city commissioners Thursday unanimously approved what could be the biggest public subsidy the city has ever given a developer.

The 56-acre Midtown Miami project, built on a one-time rail yard on the outskirts of Wynwood, will get about $100 million over 30 years for roads, sewers, parking and a plaza on the site.

The money for the subsidy will come from property taxes that will be generated by the future development.

Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, who represents the district, said Midtown Miami is a landmark project that promises to turn around one of the city's traditionally poor areas. Winton and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz supported the deal.

''Only 18 months ago, this project was a dream,'' Winton said.

Dan Pfeffer, the president of Midtown Equities LLC, said the development team will break ground on the project May 6.

''The city isn't giving away anything,'' Pfeffer said. ``The city winds up with a huge windfall from property taxes.''

Top city finance executive Linda Haskins met privately with commissioners before the meeting to brief them on the deal.

City administrators say the $1.2 billion development on the former Buena Vista rail yard will help create jobs, reduce crime in the area and lift property values.

In what city officials say is among the largest incentive packages in Miami history, the city would put up about $100 million over 30 years, while Miami-Dade County puts in about $70 million.

The deal would allow the developers to use property taxes generated by the development to pay off loans and bonds that would finance more than $77 million in infrastructure construction.

''This is a coup for the city and for the developers,'' Pfeffer said. ``It's the best example of a public-private partnership I've ever seen.''