Miami-Dade County

Little Havana property owners to Beckham: ‘Buena suerte’

Soccer star David Beckham
Soccer star David Beckham MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Many things were said in the media about René Díaz over the past month: that he was unreasonable, and that his “greed” could blow up a bid to bring Major League Soccer to Miami.

Now, following news that David Beckham plans to build a $200 million stadium on a site that doesn’t require the purchase of Diaz’s business, the Little Havana daycare owner has some parting words for the soccer star.

“Good luck.”

Beckham’s recently announced move to Overtown comes after plans to build next to Marlins Park fell apart over flailing attempts to purchase Diaz’s daycare and several other properties. Negotiations went so poorly for Miami Beckham United that representatives went public with the details in early November, warning that the property owners would blow a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sell their properties for well above market value if they didn’t drop astronomical asking prices.

But now that Beckham has moved on, Diaz and some of his neighbors say there are no regrets. They’re quite happy to see Beckham and his millions go elsewhere.

“I haven’t lost anything, nobody offered me anything and I never asked for any money for my house,” said Violeta Jimenez, an octogenarian tired of finding reporters and television crews outside her home. “Honestly, I think it is fantastic that they go somewhere else and I hope it all goes well for them this time, before they have to come up with a plan Z.”

Beckham’s hopes to build next to Marlins Park were the team’s Plan C. Initial sites at PortMiami and downtown were blown apart by some of South Florida’s biggest businessmen and politicians. But in Little Havana, Beckham’s third option stumbled at the feet of homeowners and small-business owners.

In this case, Diaz was often the face of the opposition. The team said it offered him $1.8 million for a building he purchased in 1998 for less than $250,000. But Diaz initially wanted $30 million, and the team, which declined to comment for this article, said his last offer stood firm at $15 million.

The 69-year-old Diaz says he was simply starting high and hoping to meet somewhere in the middle. He says contact from the team was sparse at best, and instead of trying to haggle with him, the team blasted him in the media.

“The negotiation process, if you can call it that, was a disaster,” Diaz said Monday in an interview with El Nuevo Herald, holding firm that he’s content to keep his Candy House daycare. “I feel good because I’m not losing anything. I get to keep my business, which is my family’s patrimony.”

Perhaps Beckham’s team never understood Diaz and his neighbors, or started off poorly and were never able to get back on track. Much has been said about the press conference held to announce the Little Havana site before anyone had contacted Diaz or his neighbors. There’s also the fact that some, like Jimenez and her next door neighbor, Manuel Freyre, say they didn’t really want to sell anyway.

Both say they were not contacted by the team. Another property owner who asked not to be named said the team called just once, for 10 minutes.

Diaz questions whether Beckham truly wanted to build across from Marlins Park, and suggests maybe the property owners became convenient excuses for the team to find a site that Miami’s politicians had highlighted. But a last-minute call he says he received Thursday from a negotiator only hours before the team closed a contract to buy in Overtown suggests that Beckham’s group did retain interest in Little Havana and just couldn’t close a deal.

“She asked for me to ask for an amount, and I said: ‘No, you tell me what your offer is because you don’t like my numbers.’ 

A counteroffer never came, he says. And that will very likely be the last contact Diaz and his neighbors have with Beckham’s team, which is now locked in negotiations to buy a Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer property and holds a contract to purchase about six acres of private land.

If so, Diaz says he’s all right with that.

“I wish them good luck with the new place,” Diaz said. “What else can I say?”