Last month, the property owner rejected the county’s final offer of $1.85 million for that corner of the lot.
Brigham, the attorney for the shopping center owner, said the county could put a sidewalk along the western side of U.S. 1, extending it to a point directly across from Gables One Tower, a UM-owned building just south of the mall. A bridge could be constructed from the end of the sidewalk, across the highway, to the Gables One Tower, Brigham suggested.
Albert Hernandez, assistant director of engineering, planning and development for Miami-Dade Transit, said placing the bridge at Gables One Tower would require a circuitous walk to get there.
“It’s a possibility as an alternative, but not as convenient or as effective as the one there at the intersection,” Hernandez said. The Mariposa intersection is “the natural crossing,’’ he said.
Hernandez said the county is working with UM to consider other options, including moving the bridge farther south, upgrading the pavement marking and adjusting the lights to allow more time to cross the road.
Another option would be for the county to acquire the property under eminent domain, the process by which a municipality can take over private property for a public good, for a price.
“The county has a statutory procedure for the acquisition of private property for public purpose if they believe they are correct. They know how to do it. The rapid transit system was acquired through eminent domain,” Brigham said.
Hernandez said the county does not want to go that route.
“We prefer not to exercise it because of the potential for business damages and we don’t know what that would entail. Right now our budget is our budget and we wouldn’t have additional monies to pay for business damages if we took it for eminent domain.”
The window of opportunity has an expiration date. The $1 million state grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which is partially funding the project, expires June 30.
“To get an extension they would need to see something in play from us as an alternative. Right now we’re moving forward on looking for options unless the owner has a change of mind in the next couple weeks,” Hernandez said.
Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs at the University of Miami, said the project has taken way too long.
“The eighth anniversary of Ashley’s death will be in April. Eight years is a long time for this project,” she said. “We have made a commitment to Mrs. Kelly that the bridge would be named after Ashley. Since that time, we’ve had a serious injury in the same location in August 2010. My perspective? I’ve had to be the staff member responding to parents at the hospital dealing with a student’s death. Awful work. That’s my perspective.”
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.