Overtown CRA to move forward with smaller, $43.5 million bond issue

Miami commissioners on Wednesday side-stepped a funding dispute with Miami-Dade County by voting to issue at least $43.5 million in bonds to fund redevelopment in Overtown.

Acting as the board of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, commissioners voted 4 – 0 in favor of the bond issue, which is smaller than the $60 million previously sought. Commissioner Frank Carollo was absent.

Revenues from the bonds, which the CRA expects to take to market next month, will fund the development of mixed-use projects next to the Lyric Theater and along Northwest Third Avenue, as well as a gut renovation of the Town Park condominiums.

City and county commissioners voted in favor of the projects as far back as two years ago, but funding has been delayed due to red tape and most recently a dispute over whether the county’s funding owed the CRA is capped at just under $4 million.

“The amount of time that has been spent on twists and turns, we’re glad to be here at this point tonight,” said Clarence Woods, executive director of the CRA.

The county and CRA have been at odds over the issue since late 2013, when someone discovered that the county law creating the CRA in the 1980s placed a limit on the county’s financial obligations. Officials with the CRA have argued that the limit is not enforceable because it was created unilaterally, against state law.

Without resolution, the bank underwriting the bonds declined to back the full $60 million. The county has sought to mediate the issue, but Miami commissioners signaled that a lawsuit is the more likely outcome Wednesday by choosing to move forward with a smaller bond issue leveraged only by the city’s portion of the CRA’s revenue stream.

Regardless, a crowd told commissioners Wednesday that they just wanted to see progress.

“I want something confirmed today because we are in need of this money to facilitate our neighborhood and our community,” said Deborah Roberts, a member of the Town Park Plaza South board of directors.

When commissioners voted in favor of the bond issue, the crowd cheered.

Said Hardemon: “Congratulations, Overtown.”