Miami-Dade County

Push to renegotiate contract that funded Marlins Park could open ‘Pandora’s Box’

Miami Commissioner Ken Russell wants to renegotiate the Global Agreement in order to end an annual $2 million obligation owed by an anti-blight agency to a waterfront park.
Miami Commissioner Ken Russell wants to renegotiate the Global Agreement in order to end an annual $2 million obligation owed by an anti-blight agency to a waterfront park. Miami Herald staff

Pressure is building to revisit the sprawling contract that Miami-Dade County and city of Miami politicians controversially created a decade ago in order to fund billions in attractions and public works projects.

Miami Commissioners became the latest group Wednesday to broach the idea of reopening the “Global Agreement,” a consequential compact that paved the way for the construction of the PortMiami Tunnel and Marlins Park, when they told the head of a city redevelopment agency to “explore” negotiations.

Sitting as the board of the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency — a party to the compact — commissioners agreed to have executive director Jason Walker try to reopen the agreement. Some commissioners want him to free up millions of dollars that under the agreement are promised to flow from the anti-blight agency into upgrades at the city’s waterfront Museum Park.

But they told Walker to tread lightly.

“This is Pandora’s Box,” said Commissioner Keon Hardemon.

The Global Agreement, created in the late 2000s between the county, city, and Miami’s Omni and Southeast Overtown Park West community redevelopment agencies, used redevelopment money to shift otherwise restricted dollars around and help pay debts on hugely expensive projects like the port tunnel, baseball stadium and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The agreement was hugely controversial, as it was seen by many as an end-around a voter referendum on projects that likely wouldn’t pass muster if put on the ballot. It is largely credited as the precursor for the unprecedented recall of then-County Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

Talk of reopening the agreement in order to tweak relatively minor details has been bounced around for more than a year. The developer planning a downtown Miami convention center and hotel, for instance, wants to change details of the contract that would help it finance a larger project by recapturing more of its own property taxes. An attorney for MDM Group attended Wednesday’s hearing.

“I’d like us to give it a try,” said Omni Chairman Ken Russell, who wants to free up Omni redevelopment money in order to fund housing projects. “We can do a lot of good.”

But the idea has always come with a warning: With so much money involved and so many agencies and projects, reopening the agreement to change one or two details could easily grow into an unwieldy negotiation. Hardemon, who acts as chairman of Miami’s Overtown redevelopment agency, said as much during Wednesday’s meeting, noting that shifting money committed to Museum Park could trigger other requests and posturing.

“We know the county is very deliberate about how they go about negotiating these deals. They have lots of debt they need to pay, that they’re looking to recapture from us as redevelopment agencies,” he said. “We should be cautious with this.”

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