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- Miami Herald
action inches Florida Marlins stadium forward
BY CHARLES RABIN
The Florida Marlins inched closer to the permanent home they crave --
and a needy community is headed toward a long-awaited financial jolt --
after a unanimous Miami commission vote Thursday to expand the life of
an Overtown special taxing district.
On the surface, the expansion of the Southeast Overtown/Park West
Community Redevelopment Agency district and construction of a Little
Havana baseball stadium have little in common.
In fact, commissioners barely mentioned baseball Thursday during a
90-minute discussion on the inner-city neighborhood.
But the redevelopment evolved into an unexpected stumbling block for
the proposed stadium after Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones emerged
from a month long maternity leave with the struggling neighborhood on
Spence-Jones said that in order for the Marlins to get her vote, her
district would have to receive millions of dollars that an expansion
could bring. Because she is a potential swing vote when the stadium
comes before the city for final approval March 19, her words carried
The commissioner said she was merely asking for what had been promised
in December 2007, when Miami and Miami-Dade leaders announced plans for
$3 billion worth of downtown Miami public works projects and a ballpark
for the Marlins. That blueprint included improvements for Overtown.
''We want to make sure we leave a legacy to the Overtown residents,''
Spence-Jones said Thursday, to muted applause from those in attendance.
The legacy will not be as large as originally envisioned.
Miami Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring had projected that growing
the district would create more than $600 million in new money.
Of that, $326 million would remain in the CRA boundary to help with
affordable housing, infrastructure upgrades, historic preservation and
The economy has brought that number down. Now city leaders expect $106
million to $140 million would stay in the district, Spring reported
''For me to sit here and tell you you're going to get $500 million, I'd
be lying,'' said Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez.
Said Spring: ``I tried to make it crystal clear that those were
forecasts that needed to be updated. . . . We continue to work on the
forecast. It's an onerous task.''
Commissioners agreed to grow the special taxing district and extend its
life span by 13 years, to 2030. The new boundaries would run roughly
from Northwest Fifth to 22nd Streets on the south and north, and
Northwest Third and Seventh Avenues on the east and west.
With Thursday's vote, the issue now heads to a series of planning
boards and ultimately Miami-Dade commissioners, who must accept the
city's finding of blight before any money is seen. Winding through that
maze could take up to a year.
Now the looming question is whether approval of the Overtown expansion
will affect final votes on the stadium.
Spence-Jones' demand last month threw a wrench into already strained
ballpark negotiations. A few days later, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos
Alvarez lashed out at elected leaders for playing politics over issues
that he said were unrelated to the ballpark.
Spence-Jones later met with Alvarez and County Commission Chairman
Dennis Moss, both stadium backers. She said they agreed to push the CRA
expansion through at the county level.
Now Spence-Jones is a likely ''yes'' vote on the stadium when city
commissioners take up the final contract and parking issues next week.
The Miami-Dade Commission could then cement the deal March 23.