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Miami Herald - 1/27/05 -

In Overtown, Community given a larger stake


City Hall's push to revive Overtown with a $200 million private development deal hinges on its ability to persuade the community that the project serves its best interest.

So, Miami has ordered the developers to give Overtown a larger stake in the project.

Under the current deal, Crosswinds must set aside 20 percent of the units for poorer families, such as a family of four that earns $40,000 to $63,000 a year. Of those 200 or so units, the city will get 50 as compensation for its land, a deal worth about $8 million. The developers and Miami plan to offer current and former Overtown residents first dibs on these units.

''The deal as it is being planned right now is far better than when we first discussed it,'' said David Alexander, president and CEO of St. John Community Development Corp., one of Overtown's oldest redevelopment groups. ``The city has extracted from this developer some really meaningful commitments, and I'm glad to see that they are backed up by dollar penalties if they don't meet them.''

But not everyone thinks residents will benefit.

''The average income in that area is less than $10,000 a year, so when they talk about affordable units at that price range, those people are excluded,'' said Anthony Cutler, an Overtown activist and former resident.

The city has required Crosswinds to make affordability and black participation mandatory, said Matthew Schwartz, Crosswinds' urban development director.

Black construction workers hired by Crosswinds will go up from 21 percent to 28 percent, as will the number of blacks in property management and the sales and marketing team.

''It's about time we got some development going,'' said Overtown Advisory Board Chairman Irby McKnight. ``Let's do it.''