The developers of the $1.7 billion Miami Worldcenter complex are one step closer to creating a special district that will help finance the construction of the massive project.
Miami-Dade commissioners gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the Miami Worldcenter Community Development District. If given final approval next month, the developers behind the retail, condo, apartment and hotel project will be able to establish the 24-acre district — called a CDD — and appoint a board of executives from their own businesses.
Once established, the board will issue special assessments to property owners within the district, located between Northeast Second Avenue and North Miami Avenue, and 11th and 6th streets. They will be able to issue tax-free municipal bonds to help pay for infrastructure upgrades, and manage contracts for services like parking valets and security. The developers estimate the district will help fund some $72 million in needed infrastructure upgrades, and plan to break ground on the project within weeks.
“We’re eager to move forward in transforming our neighborhood, creating thousands of new jobs and attracting additional private investment to downtown Miami,” Miami Worldcenter Associates principal Nitin Motwani said in a statement.
But while Motwani touts new jobs, the Worldcenter’s plan to create a CDD has drawn significant opposition from labor groups and clergy, who argue that the developers ought to make stronger commitments to wages and local hiring. They say a deal negotiated with City of Miami commissioners to return as much as $108 million in property taxes to the developer only strengthen that argument, and criticize community benefits included in that package.
Dozens traveled to County Hall Tuesday to urge the commission to force developers to make greater concessions, many wearing shirts that, in remembrance of civil unrest in areas like Ferguson and Baltimore, read “Black Work Matters.” Some argued that the county should only approve the CDD through an agreement that would guarantee better wages.
“We should not operate under the illusion that the builders of the Miami Worldcenter are doing us any favors,” said Phillip Agnew, an organizer with the social activist group Dream Defenders. “They are doing us no favors by offering us jobs at substandard wages.”
Miami Commissioner and Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Keon Hardemon attended the hearing as well to defend the agreement he negotiated last year. He and CRA Executive Director Clarence Woods III said they secured worthy wages and jobs for poor Miami communities, and touted the need for a project they believe will be a catalyst for jobs, housing and efforts to reinvigorate Overtown.
“This agreement has taken monumental steps forward and we can’t take steps back,” Hardemon said.
Motwani told commissioners he has agreed to sit down with unions ahead of a second vote next month, tentatively scheduled for July 14.