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Aside from spending more than a million dollars a year in salaries on in-house personnel, the CRA pumps tax money to a wide variety of companies, groups, and individuals inside and outside the redevelopment zone. Here are some amounts (rounded to the nearest thousand) from the past two years.
For construction, engineering, planning, and design firms (including the ongoing Margaret Pace Park renovation): $1,016,000 to Danville-Findorff (construction)
$706,400 to Civil Cadd Engineering (planning)
$375,000 to Terremark Worldwide to help pay for its NAP of the Americas, one of five network access points in the United States for Internet providers and carriers (the big box-shaped building near the old Miami Arena)
$368,000 to TLMC Enterprises (parking lots and fencing)
$148,000 to Dover Kohl (master planning)
$111,000 to ATC Associates (environmental engineering)
$63,000 to Bermello, Ajamil & Partners (architecture and planning)
For legal services: $615,000 to Holland and Knight
$79,000 to Katz, Kutter, Haigler, Alderman
$53,000 to Doug Bruce & Associates
$22,600 to Bercow and Radell (they contributed $2000 to Teele's re-election campaign)
For financial services: $40,000 to RBC Dain Rauscher (Minneapolis)
For a construction trade school: $94,000 to the now-closed Construction Management Institute (located in Ramada Dupont Plaza Hotel, as is CRA)
For various office-related needs: $146,000 for rent
$90,000 for materials and supplies
$73,000 for copies and printing
$39,000 for temporary staff
$22,000 for furniture -- new
$15,000 for other equipment
$20,000 for parking
$12,000 for travel and per diem
$1800 for paintings by Overtown-based painter Ernest Felder King
For food expenses: $3268 to Two Guys Restaurant (Overtown)
$1360 to People's Barbecue (Overtown)
$627 to Jackson's Soul Food (Overtown)
$5490 to Grunberg's Deli (Downtown)
$2137 to Capitol Grille (Brickell)
For Overtown Optimists football uniforms: $23,000 to Matty's Sports (Miami Lakes)
$7500 to J & M Athletic Wear and $54,000 for other "promotional" activities
For Teele's longtime friend Bobbie Mumford: $7200 to B Mumford & Company, a public relations firm (she also earned about $15,000 from the commissioner's campaign last fall for advertising and printing services)
As chairman of the city commission's Overtown Advisory Board (OAB), Irby McKnight should be one of the most informed people in Miami when it comes to CRA spending. He campaigned for Teele in 1997 but now distrusts him so much he has begun to organize a petition drive to recall the commissioner. But he admits he is practically clueless. When Teele visited once, McKnight remembers, "The chairman told [OAB member Dorothy Fields] that he didn't have to reveal where the money was being spent. Since he got bigger than the law there was nothing we could do about it." He is convinced Teele doesn't want people to know the details about where CRA money is going.
McKnight and other guardians of Overtown are critical of Teele's willingness to send tens of thousands of CRA dollars to wealthy outsiders, such as Overtown landlord Solomon Yuken, who owns a gutted three-story apartment complex on NW Third Avenue between Tenth and Eleventh streets. "He seems to be able to get CRA money," McKnight grumbles. "I just assume there's a big payoff there." The CRA board recently approved a $419,000 grant to help Yuken renovate the building.
Teele calmly deflects such suspicions. "We're not working on one project in Overtown that is not a part of a plan," he recently told New Times. "The Solomon Yuken [project] is part of a [design] charrette that happened two years ago. It's not just something I pulled out of --" he continues, gesturing to his rear. Moreover, Yuken backed Pierre Rutledge, Teele's opponent in 1997, the commissioner added. "There's no question that there is no love lost between Arthur Teele and Solomon Yuken. That's widely known.
"The fact of the matter is," the CRA chairman contends, "that there is more happening in Overtown now than has ever happened. And all of it goes back to a redevelopment authority that's aggressive.... Certainly if you look at the property values and the property rolls you'll see, for the first time property values are moving in Overtown. Dramatically."
Some property values are up indeed, but "aggressive" is not the word Art Noriega would use to describe the CRA. Two years ago Noriega, the executive director of the Miami Parking Authority, had signed a contract to purchase a vacant lot at 1001 North Miami Ave. and an adjacent warehouse for $1.6 million. His plan was to build a public garage there, in line with the authority's mission to create public parking at reasonable rates. Specifically, Noriega was responding to concerns of several new property owners in the CRA zone who were planning to open restaurants and clubs, mostly in the blighted blocks north of I-395 and west of Biscayne Boulevard. Noriega was also advancing discussions with the Florida Department of Transportation regarding plans to build parking lots under the I-395 overpass. From there people could easily walk north or south into an expanded downtown arts and entertainment district surrounding the future Performing Arts Center.
When Noriega informed the CRA chairman of the deal, however, Teele insisted that the parking authority cancel the contract. The commissioner wanted the CRA to control parking projects in the redevelopment zone. Noriega obliged, annulling the purchase agreement and putting his I-395 plans on hold.
In early 2001, a corporation named Fast Park bought 1001 North Miami Ave. for $950,000. According to Florida state records, the company is operated by a firm called Downtown Miami Management Group, whose president is Gregory Mirmelli.