This week, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's office will release a report detailing how the county could sell or lease 2.8 million square feet of publicly owned downtown land to developers. The vague plan is already sparking outcry, but it turns out one concrete negotiation in the proposal is already underway: All Aboard Florida, the company behind the Gov. Rick Scott-tied Brightline train system, is already in talks with Dade to bulldoze part of the county hall complex.
All Aboard Florida wants to build a parking garage on the land where a YWCA daycare center stands. But it turns out the workers at the YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Childcare Center didn't know anything about those negotiations until New Times called Friday afternoon.
"That's the first we've heard of it," a woman who answered the phone said. "I had no idea." She declined to give her name and instead referred New Times to the YWCA Miami's corporate office. Representatives from the YWCA office did not respond to multiple messages about the negotiations.
Update: A YWCA Miami spokesperson declined to comment Monday.
According to the report, All Aboard Florida's parking garage would include a bus terminal with 24 bays. But that's not all All Aboard could build: The report says the company could use up to 1.9 million square feet of space to erect what is effectively a second skyscraper next to county hall — one that would include space for county activities but would largely cater to private tenants.
"Relocation of the daycare facility would be required and could potentially be accommodated in the existing 30-story tower or within new construction on the northern perimeter of the site," the report says.
Two separate appraisers said All Aboard could buy the property for anywhere from $65 million to $75 million or could lease the spot for $2.9 million to $3.7 million per year.
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But why does All Aboard Florida — which critics accuse of being a looming money-sink for taxpayer funds — need to take over a large chunk of public, taxpayer-owned land in the heart of downtown? The company is already building an 80-story megatower right next door.
That property will include residential, office, and commercial real-estate space right above the train tracks, in a huge facility that won't look out of place among the other megadevelopments that have transformed Brickell recently.
Even without All Aboard Florida's involvement, the county's 40-page report detailing how Miami-Dade could sell off public land for a profit was already ruffling feathers. The report, which county commissioners asked Mayor Gimenez's office to prepare, casually proposed selling or leasing some of the government's most iconic buildings, such as the Miami-Dade Cultural Center — an open-air piazza that houses the main branch of the county library.
Critics have pointed out that world-class cities don't use libraries, courthouses, and city halls as bargaining chips to be sold off to build condos.
The latest All Aboard negotiation draws the same skepticism. All Aboard has been criticized because the firm has close ties to Scott's chief of staff — and the governor approved the project only after turning down federal funds for a public high-speed rail line. Activists have slammed the project as a gift to Scott's well-to-do friends, and selling a big chunk of public land to the company will only add to that suspicion.