A closed bowling alley will remain in the city’s hands, at least for now, after the investment firm that had proposed to buy the property dropped its offer.
The firm, represented by former Homestead Mayor Steve Shiver, had offered $500,000 for a property appraised at $2.6 million. The offer came with a promise to keep the property functioning as a 32-lane bowling alley for at least 8 years, at the request of city officials.
“After seven months of waiting, after giving the City Council in their direction what you actually asked for, unfortunately my client has just informed me that we’re going to go with another site that is in Florida City,” Shiver said at a council meeting Wednesday. “There is too much circus surrounding this property.”
Commissioners were about to vote to defer discussion on the item when Shiver got up to speak.
A group of roughly 30 people showed to support the re-opening of a bowling alley, wearing red to show unity. Shiver was also wearing red.
Bowling alleys continue to decline in popularity — between 1998 and 2012, a quarter of bowling alleys had closed their doors, according to the U.S. census as reported by Businessweek. Still, those who came to support it say there is a demand in Homestead and the surrounding area.
“We want our bowling alley back,” said Jackie Forest, who was the secretary for the Homestead Rollers, a bowling league, for the time that the alley was open. “The only bowling alley is Bird Bowl. If we had somewhere local to go, we could get our league back together.”
The president of the Greater Miami United States Bowling Congress Association said, “there is no doubt in my mind there is a demand for it.”
The bowling alley shuttered in the early 2000s, and has been deteriorating since.
Shiver has been involved in other contentious deals with the city. In 2007, an agency within the city — the Community Redevelopment Agency — bought 4.2 acres of rundown homes for $2 million through Shiver.
The agency didn’t have the funds then, so in an effort to bring more development, the city lent the CRA the funds, hoping to get them back through the sale of the bowling alley. The property was never developed and the $500,000 offer on the bowling alley made by Elite Real Estate Investments would leave the city in debt for roughly $1.5 million.
The offer came as the result of an request for proposal. Elite was the only firm to bid on the property.
Commissioner Patricia Fairclough-McCormick, who had initially supported the proposal from Elite, later withdrew her support.
“Initially I supported the proposal because I was excited about the product. In Homestead, we are lacking family oriented entertainment,” Fairclough-McCormick said. “When I took a step back, I feel that the price they were offering should trump the product. When it comes to protecting the public, I had to withdraw my support.”
She said she supports removing the restriction that the property be used as a bowling alley for at least 8 years.
“We can’t have that property sitting vacant,” she said. “I’m in favor of removing the restriction. It would have been very unfortunate if we would have given away that property.”
Shiver blasted unnamed members of the commission for changing positions and told a crowd that gathered outside that he doubts somebody will pay $2.5 million for the property.
“We may still bid on that property again if it comes up ... I’m not going anywhere.”