Donald Trump is once again looking toward Homestead to build a futuristic movie studio complex.
In fact, he had never written off the site in deep South Miami-Dade County — despite comments to the contrary made by a Trump representative just a month ago.
Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez on Tuesday sent commissioners a letter signed by The Donald himself in which the real estate tycoon wrote that he “steadfastly” stands by the project.
“I want to confirm my interest in the pursuit of creating this new industry in South Florida and I know it will be a spectacular success,” Trump wrote.
Martinez has championed the idea of building a sprawling movie complex on hundreds of acres abutting the Homestead Air Reserve Base — an idea that the chairman said he sold to Trump over dinner one night soon after Trump had bought a golf course in Doral.
“It’s about bringing a new industry, thousands of jobs and at the same time it will kick start construction, because people will buy homes there,” Martinez said Wednesday.
Plummeting home values have left a glut of empty houses in the Homestead area, which was the hardest hit by the real estate bust.
But after a county review of the proposed 800-acre site revealed that most of the land is restricted by deeds and leases, as well as endangered plant and snake habitat, Michael Cohen of the Trump empire told The Miami Herald in October that his boss was no longer interested.
“I just think it was a little bit of confusion, a misunderstanding,” said Ed Russo, who works for Trump as the movie studio project manager. “ But you saw the letter from Mr. Trump to the chairman, and we’re moving forward.”
Russo added: “Donald Trump has basically told me in very clear terms, ‘Get it done.’ ”
Despite the directive from The Donald, there are environmental and other issues to be addressed.
The area could be home to an endangered snake and plant. Other parcels are leased long-term by the federal government and another 200 acres are restricted for use as a park, among other restrictions. And the Homestead Air Reserve Base could try to stand in the way.
Russo said the Trump organization has begun a feasibility study to look into the issues. He’s even given the project a new name: Trump World Studios.
“So far, I have seen nothing that will get in the way of a Trump World Studio in Homestead,” Russo said.
Russo said the Trump organization has dealt with environmental challenges before. In New Jersey, the organization set aside 200 acres of a 500-acre parcel for the migratory bobolink bird, he said.
“When we started, there was one nesting bobolink,” Russo said. “Now they’re too numerous to count. And that’s a huge deal.”
He said the organization hopes to negotiate with all the stakeholders to make more land available, and chairman Martinez said the county could hand over to Trump the 200 acres currently set aside for park use, as long as the issue goes to a referendum.
The nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base could pose another problem. A spokeswoman there declined to comment on Wednesday. But in an August letter to county commissioners, base commander Col. Donald Lindberg wrote that the project could impose “several significant encroachment and compatibility issues.”
The Air Force Reserve flies fighter planes from the base, and has been asking Homestead to limit nearby development for safety reasons.
Martinez, who announced the movie studio plan while waging an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for mayor, said he knew it wouldn’t be easy to get the project going. The proposed site has been the subject of controversy before, when in 2001, a bid to build a private airport nearby failed amidst a nasty political and legal battle.
“This is a very political piece of property. It’s almost like the crusades, people have been fighting over it for thousands of years,” Martinez joked.
Though Martinez’s term on the dais finishes next week, he said he hopes the county will follow through on the project.
“It’s a good idea whether I’m the chairman, a commissioner, the mayor, a citizen,” he said.