Family Entertainment Center and Parking Garage has full support from both Homestead and Florida City officials, after questionable proposal
Homestead City Council met in special session on Friday March 10 about the parking garage/family entertainment project planned for Krome Avenue.
City Manager George Gretsas said he spoke with each Councilperson individually to make them aware of the issues.
“Mayor, the purpose of this meeting is to get your approval for the City Attorney’s office to take steps necessary to protect the integrity of our procurement process,” said Gretsas.
Councilman Jon Burgess then moved, “… to authorize the City Attorneys to take action to protect the integrity of the City’s procurement process including if necessary to initiate litigation,”
There were no public comments. Without further discussion, Council passed the motion unanimously. It then adjourned to executive session to consider other legal matters.
Homestead’s project includes more than the bus transportation component. It includes a family entertainment center with bowling, a movie theater, retail shopping and a parking garage. It is planned for the corner of Krome Avenue and Mowry Drive, site of the old police station and several downtown bars.
On Monday March 13 at 11:27 am, Homestead city attorneys filed suit in Miami Circuit Court against Bleu Network for deceptive and unfair trade practices.
Bleu Network bid on developing the Homestead project in October 2016. According to the lawsuit, Bleu’s proposal was rated third of three bids, so Bleu approached Florida City around January 11, 2017 with a proposal for a similar project.
Florida law does not permit a company to withdraw its proposal until a winning bidder is selected. Because Bleu’s alternate development would compete economically with the Homestead project, about one mile away, and could interfere with financing options, Homestead sought damages plus attorney’s fees. In addition, Homestead wants injunctive relief to stop Bleu from advancing its competing project with Florida City.
Bleu’s proposal to Florida City was to build a 1500 space parking garage, 65,000 feet of retail space, a movie theater and family entertainment center with bowling on a site in Florida City. Homestead’s project includes the same, plus a pending proposal to add a cyber-library, next to a new County bus transfer center. Bleu’s project was also planned to be next to the busway route.
Homestead’s lawsuit asserts that except for its work on their project, Bleu would not have had the idea or the plans to construct its venture.
The competing site selected is a trailer park at 601 NW Third Avenue owned by Florida City. The 14.6 acre site is appraised by Miami-Dade County for $52.5 million. Florida City sources say the site provides $400,000 in annual revenue.
Bleu’s website states it is dedicated to Public Private Partnership development and management. The company boasts the ability to “secure project financing in excess of $5 billion USD debt and equity financing”. The website lists partners in India, Europe, Australia and Qatar. Its local address is listed as 381 N. Krome Avenue Suite 206 in Homestead. The President and CEO is Janet Legrand, according to the website.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment left at Bleu’s listed phone number.
At Florida City’s
Council meeting the evening of March 14, Mayor Otis Wallace quickly moved to dispel rumors of a rift with Homestead.
The City Clerk first asked to change the minutes of Florida City’s February 14 meeting, stating that the Commission did not “accept” Bleu’s unsolicited offer, but rather that the proposal be “advertised” as the notice required by Florida Public Private Partnership law. The change was approved unanimously.
“It’s been stated that the two cities are in substantial conflict, that Florida City is trying to take on Homestead’s project,” said Mayor Wallace. “For the record, that has never been the case. I met with Mayor Porter and the City Manager last week and again pledged my support for their projects.”
“It’s troubling the way people have interpreted the word unsolicited,” the Mayor continued. “Where I come from the word unsolicited means we didn’t ask for it. We did not solicit this proposal, we are not committed to it, in fact I look forward to cutting the ribbon with Homestead when they get their project done. That’s as clear as I can be.”
“I’d like a vote of affirmation by this Commission that we are not pursuing any project that the City of Homestead is pursuing,” Mayor Wallace said. Commissioner R.S. Shiver made that motion seconded by Commissioner Sharon Butler. It was approved by the Commission unanimously.
“I hope the people in Homestead get the message,” the Mayor said. “I’ve had a rough week answering questions about the project that never was. Good luck to the City of Homestead.”
Florida City’s advertisement in the News Leader states Bleu’s proposal must come back to the Commission on March 20 for consideration. The ad further states Florida City reserves the right under the statute to reject any and all proposals.