The South Florida Times – 11-20-12
Commissioner Monestime sets sights on projects in north central Dade
Written by CYNTHIA ROBY
Plans for two Community Redevelopment Areas (CRAs) and a redevelopment trust fund are underway in the city of Miami’s District 2. Ordinances to create the Northwest 79th Street Corridor CRA and revival of the Northwest 7th Avenue Corridor CRA, sponsored by Miami-Dade Commissioner Jean Monestime, were passed during the July 19 meeting of the County Commission.
“[The CRA] is necessary because the area is considered blighted and in need of revitalization,” Monestime said. “The creation of the CRA and the plan for development will definitely spur job creation as well as beautification of the area.”
For all depressed areas, Monestime said, “If we don’t create CRAs to help revitalize them, I don’t know what a county or city could do to bring economic development to economically challenged areas.”
The Northwest 79th Street Corridor lies within the unincorporated municipal service area of District 2 and is bounded by Northwest 87th Street on the north, Northwest Seventh Avenue on the east, Northwest 62nd Street on the south and Northwest 37th Avenue on the west.
In order to effectively plan for development, a trust fund must be created for the 79th Street CRA, Monestime said. Ninety-five cents of every dollar of tax revenue generated by the properties within the CRA’s boundaries will go into the fund for redevelopment of the area.
“Over time, that money will be used for whatever projects … all the things that will be called for in the CRA plans,” said Monestime. He said there will be “a little while” before the trust fund is fully established. “The CRA board will start meeting soon to establish the priorities of the area,” he said
So far, five members of the board have been identified. They include community advocate Doretha Nichson, who will serve as chair and State Rep. Yolly Roberson who will serve as vice chair.
The 7th Avenue CRA resolution appointed local businessman and community activist Mack Samuel, Miami-Dade Branch NAACP executive committee member Dr. Mae Bryant and financial representative, Alphoncia LaFrance-Mompremier, to the board of commissioners, designating LaFrance-Mompremier as chair and Todd A. Ruderman, principle, Tarco Properties, LLC, as vice chair. Other members include Reverend Dr. George E. MacRae of Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, and entrepreneur William Wallace.
Other members include Ron Butler, executive director, 79th Street Corridor Initiative; Oliver Gross president, New Urban Development, LLC, and Amy Lee, chairwoman of a Crime Watch group.
“We are receiving nominations for two other members,” Monestime said. “The leaders selected are remarkable, competent people with a passion to revitalize the area.”
The board has full power to make decisions regarding the CRA, without being subjected to a veto. That, Monestime said, presents not only an opportunity for the residents but also a challenge. “CRAs have been criticized for misusing funds. I am committed to seeing that this CRA does not do that and that our members strive to become a model for other CRAs coming into the area,” he said.
Monestime said some county commissioners are not in favor of CRAs, adding, “but they trust my commitment to making this one successful. They have faith that it will be something exceptional.”
While the 79th Street CRA is new, the 7th Avenue CRA has existed for about four years, according to Monestime. “Many issues have kept it from being operational,” he said. “They did not have a board but in weeks to come, there will be meetings held for both CRAs.”
The Northwest 7th Avenue Corridor CRA boundaries are Northwest 79th Street on the south to Northwest 119th Street on the north, Interstate 95 on the east and, on the west, the westernmost property line of all parcels of land that abut the westerly right of way line of Northwest Seventh Avenue.
Location is everything when it comes to investment and the north central part of the county is prime location, Monestime said. “We just need to attract major partners for us and for everybody else,” he added.
Monestime sought to lay to rest any suggestion that, as the first Haitian American to be elected to the county commission, his efforts would be weighted in favor of Little Haiti. He said most of his efforts are spent doing work in the north central section of the county and in Liberty City.
“The majority of the people west of [Northwest] Seventh Avenue are not Haitian. So for anyone who would put that argument forward, that I do not represent all of the people in the district, they probably have some particular or personal interest that I do not support,” Monestime said. “I have a larger vision for the community.”
He considers himself, he said, “an African American of Haitian descent – the labels we choose too often divide us.”
For Lindsey Wilson, a lifelong resident of the district, Monestime has his work cut out for him. “It seems that the more things change the more they remain the same.” Wilson said. “This district looks the same today as it looked in 1980. We pay a lot of property taxes in this district and I just think we are not getting our fair share of services here.”
Wilson has seen “some improvement” but not enough for the amount of taxes residents pay.
“I look at development along Biscayne Boulevard and [Monestime] mentioned development along Seventh Avenue. I have seen quite a few agenda items addressing development along 79th Street. I live over there so I do see some good things coming. But quite a few residents would love to be able to sit outside along Seventh Avenue and have coffee, dinner … without fear of becoming a victim of a crime,” Wilson said.
But Wilson is optimistic that Monestime “will get things done” and says he is the “best choice for commissioner.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.