Days after David Beckham’s triumphant return to Miami to celebrate Major League Soccer approving the city for a new team, community organizers in Overtown are trying to rally residents against building a 25,000-seat stadium there.
Organizers are sending out fliers that resemble eviction notices to public housing residents near the planned stadium site, where Beckham and partners have said they plan to use private dollars to build an open-air stadium by 2021 to house the MLS expansion team.
“Everybody is excited about major league soccer coming to Miami,” said Bishop James Adams, of the St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church. “I don’t have an issue with them coming to Miami. I have an issue with the stadium being plopped into Overtown and the potential displacement of 200 more families, being pushed out.”
Adams is the leading voice in Overtown against the Beckham soccer plan and acknowledged his group sent out the fliers on yellow paper with “Eviction Notice Pending?” on the top. The fliers, which promote a community meeting on Thursday, have the design of a government form, but the county is calling them bogus and based on faulty information.
“Whoever did this is either badly misinformed or lying,” said Michael Hernández, a spokesman for Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “There are no plans for any kind of demolition or eviction.”
Amanda Hand, a resident of the nearby Spring Garden neighborhood and another leader of the Beckham opposition, said the notices were based on a five-year county housing plan that does list Culmer Place as one of 31 county housing developments that could be up for redevelopment, according to Miami-Dade’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Culmer Place sits across the street from Beckham’s announced stadium site in Overtown, a nine-acre assemblage where Northwest Sixth Avenue meets Sixth Street.
Michael Liu, the county’s housing director, wrote in an email: “The notice took an excerpt from our ‘Public Housing Authority Plan’ that has included Culmer Place, along with 31 other sites (e.g., Arthur Mays, Naranja; Annie Coleman, etc.) as those that we might try to redevelop, subject to all the things necessary for redevelopment (financing being key) … These sites have been part of the “Plan” for the past two years and been approved by the [County Commission]. It is nothing new.”
The community meeting, planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at the city’s Reeves Park Building at 600 NW 10th St., is the first sign of organized opposition from Overtown after Beckham and his new Miami partners, Jorge and José Mas, joined Gimenez, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and MLS Commissioner Don Garber in downtown Miami to celebrate league approval of a Miami franchise nearly five years after Beckham began his hunt for a stadium site.
Overtown wasn’t mentioned during the ceremony, with the Beckham group using the broader Miami location to tout its planned stadium site.
While the ceremony celebrated MLS approval of an expansion team, the Beckham group has not yet closed on the three acres of county-owned land in Overtown that the partnership agreed to purchase for $9 million last year. The group also must win city approval for the zoning changes and street closures needed to build the stadium.
A Beckham representative declined to comment on the planned meeting or the fliers.
Hand and Adams are part of a neighborhood group opposing the project, and that group, the Overtown Spring Garden Community Collective, is organizing Thursday’s meeting.
Another nearby property owner, Bruce Matheson, has already sued to try and block the county sale, but a judge ruled in Miami-Dade’s favor. Matheson is appealing that ruling.
Hand said it’s not fair to describe the fliers as misleading for residents. “It’s not an eviction notice,” he said. “It’s a meeting notice.”