Homestead City Council listened to two development presentations for two and a half hours on Wednesday, November 17, as part of its regular Council meeting session.

Related Urban and Housing Trust Group (HTG) repeated the framework from their initial Council presentations on October 12, with changes responsive to questions from Council.

Council agreed the sixteen acre old city hall site is a premier location as the gateway to Homestead.

When an unsolicited party offered to develop the property, it triggered a legally required public notice of possible sale or development of government property.

Five companies answered the City’s notice of possible development in July.

A subsequent ‘request for more information’ in August brought responses from only Related and HTG.

Those companies made extensive October presentations to Council and staff prepared comparison charts of the plan details for both proposals.

The companies were asked through the City Manager to return at the next Council meeting on November 17 – a date falling after local election for Council.

Matthew Rieger, President of HTG, emphasized the mixed use development proposed was “a special place for Homestead” and “in synergy with the downtown”.

Council was very positive toward plans to create nightlife for Homestead at this site.

Related’s President Albert Milo said his company had “established working relationships with top of the line retailers” and proposed "a market rate homeownership component” for the planned residences.

HTG proposes 200 condo units in a five- and a six-story building at the rear of the site.

Commercial space toward Campbell and US 1 would total 70,000 SF in one- and two- story buildings fronted by a shallow lake with a theater stage on it.

Parking with 352 commercial spaces would be on the edges with 287 residential parking spaces between the two condo buildings.

Related plans 50,000 SF of commercial space, a 104 room hotel with meeting rooms, 328 condos (half at market-rate, half affordable) in three five-story buildings with ground floor retail space, and 642 total parking spaces.

Ten percent of the commercial space would be set-aside for local non-profits and ten percent for micro-retailers at reduced rates.

Homestead still has a loan on the property of over $8 million, costing the City $662,000 every year in debt interest. Both developers promise to pay off the loan at closing on the property.

Councilmember Larry Roth and Mayor Steve Losner first suggested a ninety-nine year ground lease for the site, rather than selling it outright, so the City could maintain control. Both developers plan for that scenario.

A redeveloper would have difficulty flipping the property under the long-term lease deed.

Related’s Milo talked about creating art spaces to connect with the town and display local art.

The company is a “green building standards” contractor, applying those standards at this site too.

The company proposes moving the lake further back on the property to enhance the residential landscaping and provide separation from the retail units.

HTG proposed a wellness link at its lake, a marketplace incubator, 20,000 SF of meeting space, an art loop jogging path, a dog park and playground.

All its 280 residential units would be market rate with “resort-style amenities.”

The company is also a green builder.

HTG would pay-off the City’s debt. Revenue terms at 15% of net cash would generate about $1.3 million annually in payments to the City. Property closing would be in 2023.

Related also would extinguish the City’s debt but promised $1.63 million in revenue from the market/mixed-use project, rates expected to grow annually reaching about $3.23 million in ten years.

Both developers emphasized retaining the property’s mature trees that dictated the placement of the new buildings.

Council members were generally in praise of the proposed plans offered by both developers.

At this point, Councilmember Julio Guzman asked to defer a decision on the property for a month to give him time to review both company plans.

Despite the push by the Mayor to move forward, Council voted 5 to 2 to defer, Losner and Fletcher voting no.

It is expected Council could make a final decision on which developer to work with at its meeting on December 15.

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