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Miami Herald - May. 16, 2004

Planned transit center seen as boost for area

Government officials and community leaders unveiled plans for a transit center they hope will help revive economically depressed Overtown.


The demands of private transportation -- building highways, carving up neighborhoods -- are often cited as a reason for the depressed state of once-thriving Overtown.

Now, county and city officials hope the need for transportation -- this time public -- will help return one of Miami's poorest neighborhoods to its former glory of swinging clubs and economic boom.

The vision started four years ago when Father Richard Marquess-Barry approached the county. He wanted to build a transit-related project in Overtown that would help its residents.

''Overtown is downtown north,'' Marquess-Barry, rector of the Overtown-based St. Agnes Episcopal Church, told an audience at a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. ``And if Overtown continues to be a blight, we can never achieve the kind of urbanization in this county that includes all of its people, irrespective of their origin of birth. So I'm happy today that this project will soon get underway and it is my prayer that it will be an impetus for greater things.''

Marquess-Barry was referring to Miami-Dade's Overtown Transit Village, a site of a spacious county office building, retail space and a large parking garage that is expected to open in 2006. Construction will begin in August.

The center will be housed in a 341,000-square-foot building for county offices such as the Department of Environmental Resources Management, a transit credit union, retail space and a nine-story parking garage. Nearly 1,800 employees are expected to be accommodated in the building. The project has an estimated cost of $45 million, with the county footing the bill.

The structure -- to be sandwiched between Northwest Sixth and Eighth streets -- will have a light-gray and standard-white facade made of stucco, meant to complement the contemporary architecture of surrounding buildings, architect Victor Yue said in an interview. The 17-story structure will look down on the Overtown/Miami Arena stop on the Metrorail.

Barbara Carey-Shuler, chairwoman of Miami-Dade County Commission, said at the ceremony that the project was ``conceived by people who live and worship in the area.''.

''This project is important to this community,'' she said.

City and county officials and community leaders hope that, like many revitalization-oriented programs in Overtown, this one will inject new life into the community by attracting people who wouldn't ordinarily visit the area. They were confident the Village would not be another half-hearted attempt that didn't quite get Overtown back on its feet.

''The project is not going to directly benefit the residents but it will be the catalyst for more development -- the complete urbanization of Overtown,'' said Marquess-Barry, who also runs St. Agnes' Rainbow Village Community Development Corporation. ``I think this project will bring in other investors to bring in jobs.''

''Two or three years [for completion] will not be soon enough,'' said Roosevelt Bradley, director of Miami-Dade Transit. ``And we hope that it gets built on time, on schedule, before time.