Skyscraper City Forum banner
1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,740 Posts
There's been a whole series about it this week. The developer skimmed off millions with the help of some connected, and respected politicians. Who knows what the developers intentions ever were but tis a shame. I guess this is some of that good ol' free market stuff that Roark is always crowing about.
 

·
Contents Under Pressure
Joined
·
9,623 Posts
I read that Herald series online. Obviously, there was some extremely scummy shenanigans going on with that whole deal. Shame on Kendrick Meek (and his mom) for being so cavalier about funneling public money and greasing the political rails for such a slipshod operation led by incompetents.

We all may have legitimate beefs with the Herald from time to time but the reporters involved with this story deserve kudos for exposing this corrupt sham. That's journalism at its best.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,670 Posts
I always wondered about that one. If you were going to build a large biomed facility, would you build it in an area that already has dozens of hospitals and the UM medical campus plus metrorail & freeway access (the "Health district" Civic Center area) or would you build it way up in a Liberty City getto around 79th street?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,740 Posts
more news...

http://www.miamiherald.com/416/story/154789.html

Commission blames Burgess over biotech deal
BY JASON GROTTO AND MATTHEW I. PINZUR
[email protected]

Reeling from the collapse of a highly touted biotech park in Liberty City, Miami-Dade County commissioners said they were embarrassed and angry over breakdowns in oversight that have put county land and money in jeopardy.

During a contentious commission meeting on Thursday, commissioners criticized County Manager George Burgess and his staff for failing to vet the background of Boston developer Dennis Stackhouse, who owes the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in late loan payments.

''We're past the point of bruising. We're bleeding. We've lost credibility,'' Commissioner Sally Heyman said. ``I'm sick about this.''

In their first meeting since details of the failed project emerged, commissioners ordered a report on what went wrong with a proposed $250 million deal that was to create thousands of jobs and lure some the biggest biotech companies and research institutions in the world to Liberty City.

But a three-part investigative series by The Miami Herald found that most of the tenants touted by Stackhouse had no knowledge of the Poinciana Biopharmaceutical Park, while the developer drained hundreds of thousands of dollars in money set aside to fight poverty through double billings and dubious expenses.

Two years ago, the developer staged an elaborate groundbreaking for the park, drawing some of the county's most powerful civic and government leaders, but since then, nothing has been built.

At Thursday's meeting, Burgess deflected blame to the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, a nonprofit poverty agency funded with county dollars.

He said the project was vetted and overseen by the trust, and that he and his staff relied on the agency to provide due diligence on the developer before supporting the project.

With the land still vacant and millions in poverty money spent, the project is now under investigation by Miami-Dade police and the Miami-Dade state attorney's office.

''I'm not going to sit here and deal with this when the responsibility for these things has been delegated to others,'' Burgess told commissioners. ``Our failure, if there was a failure, was an overdependence on the due diligence of the Empowerment Trust.''

Burgess unveiled a proposal at the meeting for overhauling the county's strategy for creating jobs and businesses in Miami-Dade's poorest areas.

The plan calls for the manager to take control over millions of federal dollars allocated to nonprofit agencies responsible for fighting poverty.

Along with the trust, agencies that could be centralized under the manager's control include some of the most well-known poverty institutions in the county --Metro-Miami Action Plan and the Urban Revitalization Task Force.

Burgess said his proposal -- supported by County Mayor Carlos Alvarez -- will better target dollars in the community and improve accountability and oversight of the programs, which are now run by independent boards.

While the manager says his proposal is a way to overhaul the system, some commissioners were critical, saying it's unfair to target only agencies that serve black neighborhoods.

Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Dorrin Rolle questioned why the manager singled out those agencies.

''The Empowerment Trust was not responsible for protecting the county,'' Edmonson said of the biotech deal. ``It was the county management who influenced my decision [to vote on the project]. That's who I hold responsible.''

Commissioners criticized Burgess and his staff during much of the meeting for bringing a resolution to the commission in January for one of the biotech park's key elements: a $23 million parking garage.

The commission endorsed the plan 11-2 and asked the manager and his staff to produce monthly progress reports. But Burgess never delivered the reports -- a point brought up several times during the meeting.

''I think the blame lies over there, where I'm looking,'' said Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, staring at Burgess across the dais after more than 30 minutes of questioning.

Several commissioners were disturbed that they were asked to endorse the project early this year even though Stackhouse owed the county more than $200,000 in late loan payments.

In addition to Burgess and his staff, much of the commissioners' anger was directed at Aundra Wallace, the chief executive officer of the Empowerment Trust. Several commissioners berated Wallace for failing to find a host of inconsistencies in the developer's proposal.

At its board meeting Thursday night, the Empowerment Trust lashed back at Burgess, saying county lawyers and a former assistant county manager helped forge the deal.

County leaders ''can't plead ignorance,'' said Eleanor Kluger, a trust board member.

While Burgess canceled the biotech park project by sending a default letter to Stackhouse on Tuesday, questions are emerging over whether the county can regain control over land set aside for economic development in Liberty City.

The construction company hired to build the parking garage slapped a $704,676 lien on the land after Stackhouse failed to pay the company for more than six months.

Wallace said he was unaware of the lien, which was filed in May.

While commissioners blamed the manager's office and the trust, records show the County Commission was responsible for making the trust the master developer of Poinciana.

Under a 2001 agreement, the county was to receive annual financial statements about Poinciana and quarterly progress reports. But that never happened -- and commissioners never questioned why they weren't receiving the updates.

The newspaper also found that Rolle -- one of the driving forces behind the project -- received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and a $10,000 donation to a social services agency he heads from Stackhouse -- the money drawn from project funds, records show.

During Thursday's meeting, Rolle defended his support of the project.

''It appeared to be a great project for the inner city. It appeared to be a great project for Miami-Dade County,'' Rolle said. ``Now the question arises . . . should there have been more due diligence? The answer would have to be yes.''
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,182 Posts
I always wondered about that one. If you were going to build a large biomed facility, would you build it in an area that already has dozens of hospitals and the UM medical campus plus metrorail & freeway access (the "Health district" Civic Center area) or would you build it way up in a Liberty City getto around 79th street?
this project always sounded fishy to me, I mean seriously think about it....a bio tech park in Liberty City?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
715 Posts
This whole thing was a scam. But, on the greater topic of biotechnology, I hope that Miami will continue to invest in biotechnology. The Civic Center area can become a thriving research center, which I hope to work in one day. I wish it could become what San Diego's Scripp's/Salk Institute/UCSD is to the West Coast.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Top