When Neisen Kasdin pitched David Beckham’s proposed soccer stadium to an Overtown audience, he invoked one of the most celebrated success stories in the history of South Florida real estate.
“South Beach had the cheapest real estate in Miami-Dade County. It was one of the least safe neighborhoods. It had a lot of vacancies. Very few businesses. And people basically wrote that neighborhood off,” said Kasdin, a former Miami Beach mayor representing Beckham as a lawyer and lobbyist.
“This is very much a neighborhood that has that potential,” Kasdin told about 40 people gathered at the Overtown YWCA Thursday night to hear a presentation on Beckham’s proposal for a 25,000-seat stadium a few blocks away. “We’re beginning to see it in Overtown and on the river already. This could be a catalyst for making this happen better and faster.”
As the Beckham group prepares for a crucial vote next week to complete the purchase of its nine-acre stadium site, it is offering more details on its pitch that an Overtown stadium will boost the neighborhood’s economy without disrupting daily life.
You could put a Home Depot there. Or 1,000 residential units.
Neisen Kasdin, lawyer and lobbyist for David Beckham, on proposed stadium site
The Miami-Dade County Commission is set to vote Tuesday on Miami Beckham United paying $9 million for a three-acre county truck depot next to six acres the partnership already owns in Overtown. After that, the Beckham group needs zoning approval from Miami to build its proposed home for Major League Soccer.
In proposing a 25,000-seat stadium on nine acres in an area devoid of shops, restaurants and parking garages, Beckham and his partners have faced skeptical residents — particularly from Spring Garden, the small neighborhood that is joined by a bridge with Overtown.
“I want to know what impact studies have been done to make sure that this is going to work,” said Daeja O’Donoghue, a Spring Garden resident. “My front door is 500 feet from your stadium.”
Kasdin said a detailed traffic study would come during the application process with Miami, but he argued that having the Culmer Metrorail station a few blocks to the north and I-95 a few blocks to the east will make it “easy to handle traffic.” He also suggested the current mix of a county truck depot and privately owned parking lots could be better off as a soccer stadium than more traditional uses.
“You could put a Home Depot there,” said Kasdin, a land-use lawyer. “Or 1,000 residential units.”
O’Donoghue said both of those alternatives sounded “great.”
I’m here to tell you we need to reach more people in Overtown.
Resident Irving McKnight
The Beckham group negotiated the proposed county land sale without Miami-Dade putting the parcel out for bids in exchange for the stadium group agreeing to some economic benefits for the area. That includes creating 50 full-time jobs within five years after buying the land, a process that could take up to 17 months. Irving McKnight, an Overtown resident, urged the Beckham group to expand the benefits package to include 10 scholarships for Overtown students.
“I like the community-benefits agreement,” he said. “But I’m here to tell you we need to reach more people in Overtown.”
Beckham’s land sits less than two miles from Marlins Park in Little Havana, a $630 million county-owned stadium with about 37,000 seats and parking garages with more than 4,000 spaces. The team contributed about $155 million to construction, with most of the rest coming from borrowed county dollars expected to cost more than $2 billion to pay back over 30 years.
Polls show the deal remains deeply unpopular in Miami, and the backlash grew with an under-performing team and promises of economic revival around the ballpark that has yet to arrive. The Beckham partnership hasn’t requested local dollars for its stadium, which would sit on private land and pay property taxes. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a leading critic of the Marlins deal as a county commissioner, led the negotiations with Beckham and said the plan will give residents another entertainment venue without public cost.
“I was opposed to the Marlins stadium because it was the worst financial deal that a city or a county ever got into with a major-league sport,” Gimenez said. “This is totally different.”
With Major League Soccer playing just 17 home games a year, residents opposed to the stadium plan warn the open-air Overtown stadium will become a noisy, late-night venue for concerts. The Beckham team said it will agree to event restrictions as it pursues Miami approval, and Beckham partner Tim Leiweke last month pledged the stadium wouldn’t hold “raves” — an apparent reference to downtown Miami’s Ultra festival.
On Thursday, Kasdin said live music would also be rare. “There will be maybe a handful of concerts,” Kasdin said. “But it’s not going to be a music venue.”