The Florida City Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) presented some of its accomplishments and goals during a recent Commission meeting.
CRA Executive Director Jon Ward made the presentation.
Ward said the single most important economic maintenance effort of
Fiscal Year 2020-21 and continuing into 2022 is the struggle to deny the construction of the proposed flyover of the Florida Turnpike at Palm Drive and U.S. 1.
CRA and City officials have strongly campaigned to stop this flyover component. Most people in the public and private sectors view this as an existential threat to the continued viability of the commercial corridor.
Ward stated that the proposed Turnpike flyover would have been a major problem the business community of Florida City because millions of drivers would simply “fly over” the city and not be able to stop and buy from local
businesses. They might see a restaurant or a store as they drove on the Turnpike, but they would not turn around and drive back to visit the business.
Over the past ten years, the CRA has assembled 32 lots in a section of the city known as the “Snake Pit”, along Lucy Street and Seventh Ave. The CRA has had the goal of acquiring and assembling properties in this aera.
In 2021, $400,000 was budgeted for the acquisition and demolition of buildings in the “Snake Pit.” The CRA acquired three parcels, two which required the city to use the eminent domain process. This was complicated by the pandemic. An earlier contract to sell the property to an affordable housing developer fell through in late 2020 and now the City is in
negotiations with a new purchaser. City staff are cleaning up title issues with various lots in preparation for the sale. Two structures known as Ford and Jefferson were demolished after their acquisition.
The construction at Loren Roberts Park began in April 2021 and is mostly complete. The $848,000 bid from HG Construction was more than the 2017 $750,000 CDBG-NR grant secured for the removal of the debris from a former wastewater treatment plant and construction of parking and sidewalks to serve the park. CRA funding and other resources will make up the overage costs.
The CRA administrated the $8.4 million reconstruction of East Palm Drive. This included the culverting of the Florida City canal, from U.S. 1 eastward to NW 172nd Avenue.
Construction began in 2019 and was for the most part completed by April 2021.
In 2021, infrastructure funding became available from Federal pass-thru grants through the State and CRA staff coordinated the successful
application for at $16.8 million grant. This is the largest grant secured by the city for the purpose of Phase 2 construction of the Palm Drive project eastward to the city limits. Engineering, design, permitting and coordination will take most of 2022.
The CRA supported the city with the sale of the city-owned 14 acre RV Park in the heart of the CRA district to TREO Group. TREO will develop 8 acres of land for homes and 6 acres of land for commercial space. It will develop the adjacent linear park on 3rd Avenue.
The CRA held auctions and closings for various CRA-owned parcels land during the past year. This raised $1,794,000 for the CRA in proceeds at final closing.
This will allow for the construction of several scattered site and multi-family housing projects. When closed, the property will no longer be maintained by City Public Works and all the new developed properties will go back on the city’s tax roll.
The CRA is working with Miami-Dade County, the City of Homestead and Florida City for the widening of West Lucy Street. The County has agreed to fund the cost of expanding West Lucy Street to three lanes with curb and gutter, drainage, landscaping and sidewalks between Redland Road and U.S. 1.
All required right of way has been acquired and some underground utilities are being relocated. A date for the beginning of construction has not been set.
In 2020-21, the CRA budgeted $150,000 for the repair of substandard residences in the CRA in a partnership with the non-profit Rebuilding
The program has completed major renovations at the residences of nine local families for $121,000. The city also budgeted $50,000 for homes outside CRA boundaries and has expended $39,000 of of the budget.
Washington Park is a one square block recreational area in the Northwest
Neighborhood, meant to be a children’s park. The CRA hired Stantec to redevelop the facility and construction will begin in 2022, pending clearing up property ownership issues with the County.
The CRA provides City oversight of repairs and upgrades to the sanitary sewer system. Baljet Environmental is responsible for ongoing project engineering and construction and is underway with more than 20 force mains, pump stations and related upgrades having a construction value of over $7 million. Funding is provided by a State Department of Environmental
Protection revolving loan fund.
Along with City Engineer Baljet Environmental, the CRA is administering the City’s Florida Department of Emergency Management Hazard Mitigation Grant for a drainage project in the area bordered by NW 7th Avenue, Redland Road, NW 2nd Street and Palm Drive.
The $899,000 grant is in the engineering and environmental review stage. The project will provide flood relief in one of the lowest areas of the CRA
district and will include new street paving, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, drainage, parallel parking, and landscaping. The CRA will provide future grant match funding of $300,000.
The CRA budgeted $10,000 for general support at the city-owned Florida Pioneer Museum. Discussions were begun with the Museum Board in June 2020 to consider a potential relocation of the facility, but the pandemic forced the closing for most of 2020 and 2021 and discussions were put on hold.
The Florida East Coast Railroad is a reconstruction of the original depot building that served Florida City in the early 1900s. It is behind the Florida Pioneer Museum on Krome Avenue and can be rented for public events. If the Museum is relocated the Depot will be moved.
The CRA adopted a Commercial and Industrial Building Façade Program to help building owners within the CRA to upgrade the appearance of their buildings. The façade rehabilitation project was budgeted for $30,000 in FY 2020-21 but after some conversations, the CRA received no completed applications for funding. The CRA believed the pandemic distracted owners from these improvements.
CRA staff developed a grant program to existing businesses in Florida City, the “Fighting Chance” grants distributed over $750,000 worth of pass-through Federal funding to local business owners.
The CRA staff helped in the Miami-Dade County Transportation Planning
Organization’s (TPO) Florida City Hub Mobility and Accessibility Study. It was issued in January 2021 and identified short and long term-infrastructure improvement needs to the South Dade Bus Rapid Transitway.
Using information from this TPO study, CRA staff drafted an application for the 2021 Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Transportation Alternatives grant and was awarded $1 million for infrastructure
improvements to the transit corridor in Florida City. This money will be awarded when FDOT funding becomes available.
The CRA is involved in Community Policing. This program is designed to
enhance Florida City police patrols, over the normal service levels, for the CRA district. The cost of this program was $350,000 for FY 2020-21 and will
continue in the coming fiscal year at the same funding level. The CRA also budgeted $60,000 for more video cameras in appropriate locations in the district.