County Might Classify Marlins Stadium Neighborhood as "Blighted" to Help Fund Soccer Stadium
Soccer mogul David Beckham with MLS commissioner David Garber, left, and county mayor Carlos Gimenez
Photo by Michael E. Miller
After years of roller coaster speculation and hand-wringing, it's now all but certain that David Beckham's long-lost professional soccer franchise will play in a revamped stadium on the site of the former Orange Bowl, across from Marlins Park in Little Havana.
But there's still a problem: How to clear out enough space in the still-residential neighborhood to build a new soccer park. Today the county commission will consider one fix — designating the area a Community Redevelopment Area, a classification for neighborhoods that qualify as "slum and blighted."
If it passes, supporters say, the county could use more funding to improve the space for a stadium, including transportation infrastructure upgrades.
"The main thing I'm looking at is to do an extension of mass transit," says County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who is sponsoring the move. "There's already an existing available platform at the Government Center station, which would provide for a simple expansion of Metromover to the west."
His intention, Barreiro said, is to provide an important link both for fans coming to the area and for residents of the working class neighborhood, who would benefit from a better connection to downtown.
But residents in the area — which remains a dense, lively, mostly immigrant neighborhood — aren't likely to agree with the city designating it a "slum" to make way for a stadium, are they?
"Well, that's the issue," Barreiro responds. "What's the definition of blighted? Is it a place that no one lives, or is it an area that's a working class —- absolutely low-income, working-class [neighborhood]?"
Barreiro lives and works nearby, he says, and argues that he understands the neighborhood well.
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"I don't want to demonize it by any means," he said of the possible designation. "But I do want it to have its fair share of property value [increase]" — meaning it shouldn't be left out of county infrastructure improvements.
As with all decisions surrounding the proposed soccer park, the shadow of the disastrous Marlins Stadium deal looms large. The neighborhood was also promised new economic lifeblood and jobs from that project — and three years later, little has materialized. Barreiro was also the architect of that plan.
His soccer resolution will come before commissioners at today's Economic Prosperity Committee, the first step towards realizing the eventual designation and allocating funding.
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