In 2013, Miami commissioners settled a contentious dispute between two prominent developers vying to build across two city blocks in Overtown by splitting the baby and awarding one block to All Aboard Florida and the other to R. Donahue Peebles.
Three years later, it appears they may have only gotten the solution half-right.
On Monday, as construction crews continued to work on the commercial complex planned by All Aboard Florida, commissioners voted in their capacity as board members of the Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency to reissue a competitive solicitation for the two-acre parking lot at 152 NW Eighth St.. That’s where Peebles had planned to build apartments, shops and a hotel but never got off the ground.
The vote comes only weeks after Peebles and agency executives signed a June 13 termination agreement to end a development contract with his company, Overtown Gateway Partners. It also comes just a few months ahead of a deadline for the redevelopment agency to break ground or risk losing the land to Miami-Dade County.
In an interview, Peebles’ partner on the project, Barron Channer, said the company and CRA couldn’t agree on terms to finalize a series of agreements needed to close on the property, which was released to the redevelopment agency in 2013 as part of a legal settlement with the county. One of the terms was that the county would have the option to reclaim the property in November should construction not have started.
Absolutely there's disappointment, but you have to make business decisions
Barron Channer, Overtown Gateway Partners principal
“Absolutely there's disappointment, but you have to make business decisions,” Channer said. “Given the county reversion [deadline] and our inability to get to an agreement with the CRA on those additional documents, there was no going forward.”
Clarence Woods, executive director of the redevelopment agency, said the breakdown in talks came after Peebles, perhaps the country’s most successful black developer and a possible mayoral candidate in New York City, had trouble putting together financing for the project. Woods said a county requirement to include 60 units of affordable housing proved especially problematic.
“That primarily, along with where the market was moving here as of late, is what made us kind of say it's probably best to just move on,” said Woods, who is already in talks about extending the deadline.
It was mutual
Clarence Woods, Overtown redevelopment agency executive director, on the decision to end the development agreement
All Aboard Florida remains interested in developing the newly available block, which is immediately south of the historic Lyric Theater.
Peebles, meanwhile, isn’t done in Overtown. His company still holds the rights to build a mixed-use complex on CRA property on Northwest Second Avenue and Sixth Street, and is in negotiations with the county for a $6 million economic development fund grant. The Swerdlow Group has been rumored to be an incoming partner on the project, but Channer said Overtown Gateway “is not in any agreement with any party.”