Stephen Blumenthal, Jose Hevia’s Project Outside UDB Back for Vote

From left: Coral Rock Development's Stephen Blumenthal and Aligned Real Estate Holdings' Jose Hevia along with a rendering of the planned industrial complex outside the Urban Development Boundary (Coral Rock Development, Aligned Real Estate Holdings)

From left: Coral Rock Development’s Stephen Blumenthal and Aligned Real Estate Holdings’ Jose Hevia along with a rendering of the planned industrial complex outside the Urban Development Boundary (Coral Rock Development, Aligned Real Estate Holdings)

Stephen Blumenthal and Jose Hevia are about to find out if a fourth time’s a charm.

The Miami-Dade County Commission is expected to vote on Tuesday on the developers’ proposal for an industrial complex outside the Urban Development Boundary, the Miami Herald reported. The commission delayed a decision three times this year amid controversy surrounding expanding the UDB, a greenbelt around developed areas that limits sprawl, in favor of preserving farmland and wetlands.

Blumenthal, principal of Coral Gables-based Coral Rock Development, and Hevia, president of Miami-based Aligned Real Estate Holdings, want to build the South Dade Logistics & Technology District on land stretching southeast of the Florida Turnpike and Southwest 122nd Avenue. The property is in an unincorporated area, north of Homestead Air Reserve Park.

After the commission delayed decisions on May 19 and June 1, and based on feedback from the ‘no’ camp on the dais, the developers cut the proposed project by more than half, to 379 acres from 793 acres. South Dade Logistics would span 5.9 million square feet, down from 9.3 million, the developers told The Real Deal.

Still, a decision was delayed on Sept. 22.

Moving the UDB requires two-thirds approval, meaning the developers need just one of the five no-voting commissioners to capitulate and become the eighth person to vote in favor. (Usually, the decision would require nine votes from the 13-member dais to approve, but commissioner Joe Martinez’s Sept. 20 suspension from office following an arrest over corruption charges tweaked the math.)

South Dade Logistics has pitted Blumenthal, Hevia and their supporters against environmentalists. Hevia told TRD in May that the project will be developed in a way that’s actually environmentally beneficial. Plus, the jobs it would bring would be a game changer for south Miami-Dade, the developers have said. Residents in the largely bedroom community now deal with a roughly 20-mile drive to offices in Kendall and a 30-mile drive to downtown Miami’s employment hub.

But environmentalists say the land on which South Dade Logistics is proposed is vital for flood protection, as well as preservation of the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. Notwithstanding the smaller-sized project, risks remain to Everglades restoration, according to a news release from Hold The Line Coalition that fights UDB expansion. Plus, the development would require changes in county regulations regarding paving over flood-prone areas.

Not only do wetlands protect from storm surge, but the agricultural land on the site could play a big role in future farming needs, Laura Reynolds of Hold The Line, has told TRD.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s planning staff has echoed some of these points in recommending denial of the project, adding that the job numbers actually will be about half of the developers’ projection, the Herald reported, citing county staff.

Levine Cava and Hold the Line will hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday on the implications of moving the UDB.

South Dade Logistics is another proposal that highlights the conflicts inherent with developing in south Miami-Dade.

Even tracts planned for construction in the area that are inside the UDB have gotten caught in the crossfire.

Case in point: In the latest twist to the Miami Wilds project in the works for a decade, Bat Conservation International and Tropical Audubon Society, as well as Tropical Audubon President Jose Barros, sued the county in October over allowing a water park.

Developers Paul Lambert, Bernard Zyscovich and Michael Diaz Jr. also plan a 200-key hotel and retail on 27.5 acres north of Zoo Miami. The issue? The site is nestled in the Richmond Pine Rockland, considered one of the biggest and most biodiverse pine rockland habitats outside Everglades National Park.

Also near the zoo, Ram Realty Advisors has completed much of its mixed-use development that was once mired in litigation. In that case, environmentalists again claimed construction would raze parts of the Pine Rockland. Although they initially scored a win, that court decision was lifted and the opposing sides settled confidentially in 2018.

— Lidia Dinkova

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