An old bowling alley in Homestead may become a car dealership, now that city officials decided they may be ready to give up on the costly idea of reopening the lanes.
The Homestead council decided in March to enter negotiations with James Rivchin, owner of RT Automotive LLC, who offered $2.1 million to turn the bowling alley on 111 S. Homestead Blvd. into a Hyundai dealership.
The property, built in 1991, has been closed since the mid-2000s. Until now, the city has been determined to find a buyer who would reopen the bowling alley, but every attempt has stalled.
“I think that the bowling alley — with all our good intentions — we tried to make it work, we tried to make it viable,” Councilman Jimmy L. Williams III said.
The last time the city put out a request for proposal in 2014 for the 4.6-acre property, it received only one offer from Elite Real Estate investments, a firm represented by former Homestead Mayor Steve Shiver.
The firm offered to either buy the property for $500,000 with the guarantee that it would reopen as a bowling alley or pay $800,000 to do whatever it wanted with it.
Both offers were far below the appraised value available at the time, $2.6 million in 2012. A more recent appraisal done in February stated the value is closer to $2.3 million.
Elite later withdrew its bid after months of waiting for the council to make a decision.
“This bowling alley has been so contentious that I think it is prudent for us, at this market value — which is a great offer to move the process forward — so we can get rid of this eyesore of a place,” Williams said.
Homestead needed at least $2 million from the sale to pay back its debt after lending money to an agency within the city — the Community Redevelopment Agency — for 4.2 acres of the rundown homes in 2007 in an effort to bring more development.
According to Quinlivan Appraisal on Feb. 9, the property has been vandalized and has a lot of damage on the inside. In the report, Quinlivan recommended that the city find another commercial use for the site.
“With high land values, most bowling alleys have been removed and replaced with higher revenue producing commercial property or converted to other uses, such as self-storage facilities or religious facilities,” according to the appraisal report recommendations. “The existing bowling alley is not considered the highest and best use of the site and should be redeveloped with a commercial use.”
Rivchin, principal of the Dadeland Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram franchise, made an official offer to the city in December and has attended a couple of meetings where the council, torn by the decision to sell off the property or hold out for another shot at reopening, deferred discussion.
Councilman Jon Burgess, who has previously said he favored a less restrictive bidding process that would allow developers to bring proposals that don’t involve bowling, said he supports the offer if Rivchin and the city manager can negotiate the price.
“The only problem I see on the paperwork we have in front of us is that the city is still left holding the bag for about $300,000,” Burgess said. “If we are going to sell it, we at least need to be made whole. I’m certainly not going to give it away under what the cost is to the city.”
Rivchin, who has spoken with most of the council members individually, said he’d be willing to sit down and negotiate.
“Yes, I absolutely am flexible,” Rivchin told the council at the last meeting. “If you’re saying ‘I’m going to sell it and let’s negotiate the number,’ then I can make my calculated decision on the expense that I am going to incur.”
The council approved negotiations in a 5-2 vote, with both Mayor Jeff Porter and Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley dissenting. After negotiations, a final contract would be presented for the council’s approval.
Follow Rebeca Piccardo on Twitter: @rpicc002.