From Knight Manor to Nightmare, Part 2

One of Miller Dawkins's legacies to the City of Miami is turning out to be every bit the quagmire it promised to be

Even if the Urban League completes the relocation soon, they'll have trouble accessing the rest of their city money. The developers have yet to secure any significant funding besides that promised by the city, and with the project slated to cost $15 million, city officials have expressed some skepticism. After releasing monthly checks to the Urban League since February -- funds that covered not only costs but also the developers' profits -- they declined to issue a check in October, in part because of the housing brouhaha but also because of the continued absence of outside funding.

In his September 25 memo to Housing Director Elbert Waters, Duran summarized a June meeting between the city and the developers. City officials, he stated, had "informed the developer that no additional funds of any kind (excluding relocation and demolition) would be funded past [September] until such time as the developers provided evidence to the city that they had secured firm financial commitments from other private and/or public funding sources in amounts sufficient to complete the total development/construction of the subject project." By the end of September, Duran concluded, progress had not been made: "To date, the City of Miami has not been presented with any evidence of any commitments from other funding sources."

Duran says the developers subsequently secured one commitment: $225,000 from Dade County. They also presented to the city a letter stating that the Falls branch of NationsBank would consider underwriting a construction loan. "It is not a firm letter of intent," comments a wary Elbert Waters. "It is not what we want to see before releasing additional developers' fees."

Gross says he is not worried. "Things are moving as we had anticipated," insists the Urban League development director. "We feel as if we are moving at deliberate speed given the nature of the project. We feel very comfortable. Right now we have a very strong interest in terms of potential buyers. Things are moving quite well."

Jeffery Hepburn points out that it typically takes two years to acquire development dollars, a process the Urban League must condense into half that time. That's because another deadline looms: February 1997. If the development partners have not commenced construction by the one-year anniversary of the closing, they lose their claim on the project, which will be bid out to other interested parties. And if the city continues to hold back funding, meeting the deadline will be difficult.

Despite all the troubles, though, city officials believe Northwestern Estates is a solid venture that will help blighted Liberty City. "The City of Miami supports this project," explains Elbert Waters. "We are confident that this project will get built. But a few conditions must be in place -- have to be in place -- by February 1997.

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