We must save Overtown

Keon Hardemon, District 5 Commissioner | 1/29/2014, 2:13 p.m.
The Southeast Overtown/Park West Community and Omni Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was established to eliminate slum and blight within the City ...
Keon Hardemon, District 5 Commissioner

The Southeast Overtown/Park West Community and Omni Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was established to eliminate slum and blight within the City of Miami. Slum and blighted areas are injurious to public health, safety, and moral. The existence of slum and blighted areas contribute substantially and increasingly to the spread of disease and crime, constitutes an economic and social liability imposing onerous burdens that decrease tax revenues, promote juvenile delinquency, and consume an excessive proportion of public safety services provided by the City of Miami. It is in the best interest of all stakeholders of the City of Miami to eliminate slum and blight to create a world-class City of Miami that is attractive to potential residents, tourists, and investors.

The funding of the CRA is determined annually and was originally equal to 95% of the difference between the amount of ad valorem taxes levied each year and the amount of ad valorem taxes that would have all been produced within the CRA boundaries. Miami-Dade County’s obligation to fund the CRA commenced in 1982 and its funding obligation remained unchanged until the CRA began to amass cash reserves large enough to effectuate the change needed within the Overtown/Park West Community. Today, the funding of the CRA has been crippled by Miami-Dade County through its unilateral decision to drastically decrease or cap its funding to the CRA.

In 2007, a Global Interlocal Agreement entered into by Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the CRA extended the life of the CRA until 2030. The agreement also provided funding for the Performing Arts Center, Port Tunnel, Miami Art Museum, Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, Miami Marlins Baseball Stadium, and parking to support the Miami Marlin’s Stadium. These were all projects that were designed to provide useful benefits to the residents of the Miami-Dade County and increased tax revenue to the City itself. All of these projects have been fully funded and most have been completed while Overtown has been waiting patiently for its opportunity for redevelopment.

The term extension of the CRA promised to give Overtown the ability to redevelop its community by providing a greater term in which it could finance bond issuances. In furtherance of such, the CRA passed a 2013 resolution which provided for the issuance of Tax Increment Revenue Bonds in an aggregate amount of $60,000,000 for the purpose of financing the construction of affordable housing and other capital improvements within the Overtown community. This celebration was short lived because that promise is now being broken by Miami-Dade County.

In January 2014, Miami-Dade County, through a void provision in a 1982 ordinance, decided that it would limit or cap the tax revenue dollars it is obligated to give the CRA towards its redevelopment of Overtown. This spells death for the CRA and the Overtown community. Such a limitation has threatened the ability for the CRA to issue the $60,000,000 in bonds for Overtown redevelopment that was promised in 2013. In fact, the bond issuance has come to a screeching halt because it is impossible for the CRA to commence the $60,000,000 redevelopment because the cap provision woefully damages the attractiveness of the bonds. Overtown has been promised redevelopment since the inception of the CRA and now through the unilateral actions of Miami-Dade County, the redevelopment is at risk of not occurring.