Artists rendering of Homestead's Cybrary

Homestead City Council agreed to several changes to the City’s Cybrary project at its regular meeting on April 17. Council spent the first four hours discussing a new development on Kingman Road (SEE related story).

City Manager George Gretsas presented an overview of the Homestead Station project currently under construction. He said the 1100-space parking garage is expected to top out in May while the ten movie theatres scheduled to open at the end of October.

Construction for the new transit center featuring the train-like BRT buses at Mowry Street and Krome Avenue is to start in one year according to the County. Construction is due to finish within two years. Manager Gretsas said this would combat “hellish conditions for transportation outside the City.”

“By October, four to six hundred thousand people are expected to come to our downtown,” said Gretsas.

For the Cybrary project, Manager Gretsas summarized the public/private partnership with Landmark Entertainment costing eighteen million dollars each to reinvent the 45-year-old existing library. “This is something special that capitalizes on new technologies and makes the library an attraction,” he said.

Because City financing sources are time-sensitive, the Cybrary is now planned to be built in phases.

Phase 1 builds the entire four-story structure and finishes the first floor and mezzanine (larger than the present City library) with a new collection. It retains several design attractions such as the virtual reality cube, a book mountain, the children’s theatre and the steam punk teen lounge. Phase 1 is expected to be completed in fourteen to sixteen months.

The building’s third and fourth floors would be a cold dark shell waiting a designated use.

Manager Gretsas said value engineering and tilt-wall construction saved several million in building costs over the initial design.

Current funding strategy for the City’s $18 million share are $4.83 million in federal grants, $2.52 million from the CRA; $1.5 million from Art in Public Places fund; $1 million from library systems, $500,000 from state grants, $2.3

million from the old bowling alley, $1.9 million from the downtown project surplus and $3.45 million from “fund balance backstop”.

Gretsas said negotiations with the County over the old library have failed. “It’s been three or four years but discussions are ongoing,” he said.

“Homestead’s library tax is $850,000 but the tax is also collect from Florida City and the area.

The County can either build another facility for millions of dollars or send people to Naranja for service which doesn’t make sense,” Gretsas added.

Councilmember Patricia Fairclough confirmed the loss of almost $2 million of market tax credit funding for the Cybrary over delay in County library management decisions and also questioned the County’s negotiating position. There are two current appraisals of the existing building which is restricted to library use. The County says it’s worth $3.5 million while the City says it will cost $88,000 to tear it down.

Councilmember Jenifer Bailey asked to see the correspondence with the County over the library. “We prepared a binder of all correspondence for Mayor Shelley’s meeting with the County Mayor on this,” said Gretsas. “When you read it, you’ll scratch your head (over the County’s position).”

Moving swiftly, Council voted unanimous approval for five agenda items concerning the Cybrary.

Budget amendments added a general fund assignment of $6.9 million to the Cybrary project with $1.72 million to be reimbursed as advances from designated City funds.

Despite the late hour, Council decided several other City issues.

Based on County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s presentation to Council last week, a resolution of support for a new County expressway authority was prepared. The resolution did not endorse either Gimenez’s or the Legislature’s plans.

Councilmember Fairclough said “I saw on social media that Mayor Gimenez was thanking Homestead for its support of his plan. I’m concerned with the timing of this and sense of urgency.”

Councilmember Larry Roth agreed. “When we needed something, we couldn’t get any answers,” he said.

Council approved a motion to defer the item to the May COW meeting despite being reminded legislative session ends in less than three weeks.

Council approved a certificate of use for the Homestead Shrine club to consume alcohol on premises. Although next to a residential area,

Councilmember Bailey noted the club is only a block from the City’s

entertainment district.

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