A cause for city corruption?
To my neighbors who read those long email chains about important yet under appreciated subjects like public land deals:
We have seen many public land deals over the years such as African Square Park, Crosswinds (Overtown), Virginia Key, Watson Island, Lummus Park Landing, the Marlins' Stadium debacle, and many others including the Grove Harbor development project.
Allow me to pose a question: Why do these projects come about at all, why so often and why are they so costly?\
First, you should already know that our City has a problem with corruption but its not what you might think. There is mostly a conspiracy of silence. The obvious and most easily remedied problems with the City are hidden from public view. There is little pressure to fix things in a long term sense because of internal politics.
Second, these policy shortfalls that continue despite our good intentions for reform only permit large scale development in the City.Since development follows financing, the only developments that qualify for financing are those that have public funding involved or are sufficiently large and thus profitable to cover the costs such as impact fees and developing public infrastructure (i.e. streets, sidewalks, water and sewer). These are "bankable" projects and qualify for financing.
Third, because of the self-imposed limit caused by current policies the only way to make money from developments is to go BIG. This means out-of-scale, disproportionate developments that lack any resemblance to the surrounding neighborhood.
I have had the opportunity to speak with some of you personally but I think writing how I feel on the one subject like Grove Harbor is insufficient. We have to examine root causes.
With that said, I acknowledge that Grove Harbor is a bad deal as is. Once you build on that vibrant piece of open land (even if it is mostly a parking lot now), you can NEVER get it back... the building is there permanently and even more so with a long-term lease (which is required to qualify for financing).
There is so much up-potential for development in the City and for the profits involved but not just in the form of projects like Watson Island or Grove Harbor. Look at Wynwood. That did not require special permits or land lease deals. Just vision and work. Much of the underdeveloped parts of the City resemble Wynwood in fact so imagine the possibilities.
SOLUTION: Reform City policy to encourage development on smaller parcels.
The current business model advocated by City policy requires that a developer sit on vacant or underutilized property for years assembling enough parcels to apply for a bigger "bankable" project. Those years of vacant, under-used land means immediate blight.
Change policy now. Make it easier for development to take place elsewhere and the pressure on well-established neighborhoods will diminish because it'll be that much easier to build elsewhere and make money. This does not automatically mean up-zoning, although that may be required in specific instances. This does mean a focused approach on lobbying for a change in permitting practices by County and City building departments, advocating for improved "customer service" from the City and making "strategic" infrastructure investments to open new markets for development where it is actually needed the most.
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