Homestead’s new city hall, more than a decade in the making, opened on Monday in a celebration that was attended by hundreds of people who chanted along with a drum line: “We are Homestead.”
The new $26.5 million city hall, in the downtown core, has more than 83,000 square feet, was built to withstand a category 5 hurricane, and is LEED certified as energy efficient.
The old city hall was vacated in 2013 after tests found cancer-causing radon gas, pervasive mold and asbestos in the structure. At that time it was 54 years old and too small for a city whose population was more than seven times as many people as when it opened.
Officials hope the lavish, neoclassical structure— which sits steps away from the bare and dusty Krome Avenue— will bring in business. It’s part of the city’s plan to bring life to the desolate downtown area.
“This is more than just a big building,” Mayor Jeff Porter told the Miami Herald. “We’re the fifth largest city in the biggest county in the state of Florida. We should have something like this. We should be respected. We should be seen as a first-class city with a first-class city hall. We’re not a little backwoods country town. The people of Homestead deserve this place.”
The number of people choosing to live in Homestead keeps growing, Porter said, and the design of the new city hall took that into account. “We didn’t just build for today, we built for the future,” he said. “We built this building so we can grow into it.”
We didn’t just build for today, we built for the future. We built this building so we can grow into it.
Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter
On Monday, that growth became tangible. Almost a thousand members of the community came together for a massive group photo. Many sat on the floor, others in chairs, and the rest on bleachers. On the balcony stood city council and staff members.
“We are Homestead!” people shouted as the camera passed their way. Later, dozens of local organizations paraded around the new property in colorful costumes and carrying bright signs. A drum line was also in the same spirit, chanting “We are Homestead,” and constituents sang along.
Thick navy ribbons adorned tall royal palms. When the time came to cut the ribbon and ceremonially open the doors to the new building, residents found out that they were the ones who would do the unveiling.
Hundreds of hands clenched the ribbon, and at the count of three, they pulled. The enormous bow that sat atop the doors was unraveled, and people rushed inside for their first tour.
City officials hope the lavish, neoclassical structure— which sits steps away from the bare and dusty Krome Avenue— will be a community centerpiece that will bring in business. It’s part of the city’s continuous effort to bring life to the desolate downtown area.
The classical yet contemporary building, boasting external columns similar to the much smaller Coral Gables City Hall, features towering ceilings and peach marble floors. One side of the building is dome-like, the other is flat and square. Balconies and large windows encompass the dome's circumference.
Within the last year, Homestead broke ground on its new police headquarters and restored its historic Seminole Theatre. One of the council’s next goals is to redesign Losner Park, which sits next to the Seminole, bring in prominent retail stores, a parking garage, a library, bowling alley and a movie theater.
The ivory-colored 83,841-square-foot facility, designed by Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered of Coral Gables, has been in the works since 2005. Back then, the council was in another city hall, just blocks from the new building on Campbell Drive and US-1. For years, city officials had contemplated moving out.
$26.5 million Cost of Homestead’s new city hall
“There were two schools of thought. That piece of property was prime real estate; it wasn’t in the best interest of the taxpayers for us to be sitting on it. It was too valuable. We thought of moving for years,” Porter said. “But then we started having problems with air quality, we did some testing and found out we had radon, mold and asbestos. We absolutely couldn’t stay there.”
The city vacated city hall in 2013 and leased office space in Portofino Plaza at 650 NE 22nd Ter., where city business was conducted.
Council meetings were held at the William F. Dickinson Community Center on North Krome Avenue. That’s where the previous city council voted unanimously to revive plans to build an entirely new city hall.
In Homestead’s early days, a leased office on Flagler Avenue served as city hall until 1917, when Homestead built its first city hall. It was a tiny two-story unit that also housed the police and fire departments on Krome Avenue — it also was blocks from the new city center. Today it is a museum.
“A few years ago, we celebrated 100 years as a city. So our concept was, we want to go into the next 100 years with a first-class building that would build pride in our community,” Porter said. “This is also a revitalization project. The intent was to start with a government component in the historic downtown; you know, move back to where we came from and plant a flag.”
Between building and planning, the project cost approximately$26.5 million. Built to withstand a category 5 hurricane, it will function as an emergency operations center during a crisis. It is LEED certified as energy efficient. The building features a 225-seat council chamber to accommodate more residents at public meetings.
Most of the money for the new structure came from the sale of city land in the Park of Commerce for $17 million. The city then took out a $9 million loan, which is to be paid off when the city sells the old city hall property.
“We built this with Homestead’s growing population in mind,” Porter said. According to the U.S. Census, Homestead’s population in 2014 was about 65,000. In 2010, the population was about 60,000.
Homestead’s city halls
▪ 1913: Rental building in downtown Homestead on Flagler Avenue near the Redland Hotel (building no longer exists). Population: 300
▪ 1917: The first building built by the city for city business on Krome Avenue in downtown Homestead. Today it’s the Old Town Hall Museum. It served as a city hall, police station, and fire station. Population: 1,800
▪ 1975: The city built the ‘old city hall’ on Campbell Drive and US-1. Population: 13,674
▪ 2013: The city moved to the rental offices at Portofino Plaza on Northeast 22nd Terrace after finding that the building had radon, mold and asbestos. The space was too small for the growing community. Population: 64,000
▪ 2016: City debuts its new city hall at 100 Civic Ct. Population: 65,500