The Miami-Dade County Commission Budget Planning & Sustainability Committee on Tuesday approved the issuance of a $60 million Industrial Development Revenue bond for the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park, money that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Wexford Miami LLC will build phase one of the LSTP on land owned by the University of Miami in Overtown, a historically black neighborhood. The Florida Independent first reported on the plans last Friday, when we documented Overtown residents’ demand for local hiring during the construction process.

Jordan Thomas, a UM undergraduate student, addressed the committee members, asking for an extension on the bond issuance.

Thomas explained that at a meeting with City of Miami Commissioner Richard Dunn on June 2, UM and Wexford agreed to review the proposal to develop a sustainable community benefits agreement issued by the Overtown Alliance, which represents 12 Overtown organizations. Thomas said that “the terms put forward by Wexford drastically altered those initially proposed by the O.A.”

County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents Overtown, said, “I motion to move the bond issuance.”

“The way [residents] behaved in last week’s meeting with UM representatives was embarrassing,” Edmondson said. “I have spoken with UM President Donna Shalala, I’m satisfied and not asking UM to come back again [to Overtown] because of the way the community acted.”

Keith Ivory — a member of Power U, one of the organizations represented in the Overtown Alliance — spoke with The Florida Independent the morning after the vote. “We emailed Commissioners Sorenson and [Barbara] Jordan with some stipulations on how the bond money could be monitored, but commissioners didn’t attach anything to the use of the bond.”

Bishop James Adams, pastor of the St John’s Baptist Church, told TFI, “I think [issuing the bond] was inevitable. They were going to get the bond. But without community safeguards, it is not good. We don’t oppose the project but we don’t want the community taken advantage [of].”

“It’s disheartening that our elected representatives are paying more attention to others,” Adams says in response to Edmondson’s comments about community behavior. “Her depiction of the rally as an exercise in futility is ridiculous. It was two people out of control. That did not represent the community, and November is coming.”

“We will regroup,” Adams adds. “We want to have a united front. We have several options moving forward, like civil disobedience.”

Keith Ivory says his organization’s “next steps are to inform the community about what happened and to monitor more public funds coming into this project.”

UM/Wexford has applied for another $35 million in public funds to use on the development of phase one of the Life Science & Technology Park.

[Pic via umlsp.com]

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