Miami-Dade County

Miami Marine Stadium, The Underline, Ludlam Trail could be on ballot

The interior of the historic but abandoned Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key
The interior of the historic but abandoned Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key MIAMI HERALD

Miami voters may be asked this November to approve a $275 million bond initiative to fund everything from roadway and sewer improvements to big-ticket parks projects like The Underline, Ludlam Trail and the restoration of historic Marine Stadium.

City Manager Daniel Alfonso said his administration is putting together a list of projects to present to city commissioners by the end of July. For now, details are scant on what would be funded.

But after an epic real estate boom, the city is in its best financial shape in possibly two decades, and Alfonso said now is the best time to take on new debt and issue general obligation bonds. He said the estimated $275 million number is based on projections of how much the city can afford to borrow without actually increasing what residents pay in property taxes.

“This is the best time to do it,” said Alfonso, who hopes to structure the debt so that it kicks in as the city pays off existing loans. “We’re in a good financial position.”

Though his staff could not immediately provide a working list of potential projects, Alfonso said they’re talking about funding a series of efforts, including drainage and roadway improvements and sea-level-rise initiatives like pump stations. They’re also looking at contributing money toward high-profile urban parks projects like The Underline, a 10-mile linear park planned beneath the Metrorail.

This is the best time to do it.

City Manager Daniel Alfonso

In addition, Alfonso mentioned funding some of the Ludlam Trail, a plan to convert an old rail line into a six-mile bike path and park, as well as a mainland portion of Bernard Zyscovich’s Plan Z, which would redesign the speedway that is the Rickenbacker Causeway into a greener, more bicycle-friendly corridor.

The city would only contribute money toward the portion of the three projects that fall within Miami city limits.

It’s likely the bond initiative would include the restoration of the historic but abandoned Marine Stadium, a priority of Mayor Tomás Regalado.

I support the restoration of the stadium and Ludlam Trial. Whether that should be done through a GO bond or not is a very big question.

Commissioner Francis Suarez

“A lot of these projects, we just can’t just pay as you go, so we’ll bring it to the voters and see what they’ll support,” Alfonso said.

But first commissioners will have to approve the bond issue, which would raise the money by leveraging property taxes — always a sensitive issue in Miami.

Some commissioners have alluded to the proposal recently, and are vaguely aware of the details, which they’re expected to take up on July 29. But some say they know almost nothing in terms of specifics and need to learn more before supporting the idea.

“I support the restoration of the stadium and Ludlam Trial,” Commissioner Francis Suarez said. “Whether that should be done through a [general obligation] bond or not is a very big question. We have to carefully consider that.”

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