Homestead broke ground for a new city hall in 2007. Today, it’s still an empty lot.
But on Thursday, city officials will put shovels to the ground once again on the same land for the same project, with high hopes of finally accommodating the city’s staff and jump-starting the revitalization of historic downtown Homestead.
“The original concept was that if you put City Hall downtown, it would revitalize through a halo effect,” said Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley. “If people come to downtown, they’d stop and shop around.”
After the city bought the property where the building will stand, it demolished an operating shopping plaza. The city had poured $6 million into the project, but then the recession put the plans on hold.
“There was a little food store there, and a spa, and a doctor’s office,” said City Council member Judy Waldman. “We bulldozed everything, had the groundbreaking, and then all the excitement died flat.”
After tests revealed that the old City Hall building on Campbell Drive was contaminated with radon and mold, the city put the question back on the table.
Former Mayor Steven Bateman, who is awaiting trial on corruption charges, supported renovating the old building for an estimated $2 million. The commission ultimately decided to move City Hall to the new downtown location, an idea first proposed in the late 1990s.
The contractor is Munilla Construction Management, which offered to construct the building for $25 million.
For MCM, winning the bid also took two go-rounds. When the city requested proposals for the project in 2013, it did so with a Bateman-era clause that favored local firms.
Council members voted to seek new bids, and MCM, which had been ranked second the first time around, won the job.
“The process was longer than anybody wanted, but it was important at the end of the day to do it right,” Shelley said.
Construction is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2015.
City employees now work from a rented location that costs the city $29,727 a month. The old city hall remains mostly vacant, awaiting the council’s decision on its fate.
The property sits on a prime piece of land just off Florida’s Turnpike.
City officials said it was in the interest of the city to break ground for the new City Hall before deciding what to do with the old location.
“Now it’s right to talk about the old site,” Shelley said. “We have to figure out what we are going to do with it.”