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MIAMI-If the public interest means anything, Miami-Dade County may have a tough sell on any plan to use tax dollars to acquire a 54-acre industrial site now leased by the Port of Miami as a satellite container yard.

Neighborhood voices are joining with those from the local commercial real estate industry in questioning whether continued use of the site as a container yard is compatible with city’s long-term growth needs.

“That tract, which is a wonderful piece of property, is the Chinese Wall that divides Miami from its growth to the north,” Edie Laquer of Miami-based Laquer Corporate Realty Group Inc. tells GlobeSt.com.

“In its current condition and use by the port, it is an impediment to the natural growth to the north. We certainly can’t grow to the south or to the west, and they won’t let me fill in the bay to east.”

In reaction to unrelated national security matters, elected Miami-Dade officials postponed a decision on Tuesday whether to authorize the county Seaport Department to order appraisals on the 54-acre site. The Miami-Dade County Commission could review that request today at a rescheduled meeting.

Concern over the proposed use of site comes as the port’s lease with an affiliate of Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Industries Inc. is due to expire on Dec. 31, according to a memo that County Manager Steve Shiver distributed to commission members. Shiver argues the appraisals are necessary since the property owner may put the property on the market.

Neither officials at the Jacksonville-based holding company, a diversified transportation and commercial real estate development operation, nor the Seaport Department responded to requests from GlobeSt.com for additional information.

It actually surprises some real estate industry sources that Florida East Coast would not consider developing the property through its commercial real estate development subsidiary, Flagler Development Co. Flagler is closely allied with Codina Group Inc., a Coral Gables, FL-based firm ranked as one of Florida’s largest locally based commercial real estate services firms.

Anything that Flagler Development could offer at the site is far better than what is there, William Rios, executive director of the Wynwood Community Economic Development Inc., tells GlobeSt.com. His neighborhood nonprofit group has a keen interest in the 54-acre site southeast of North Miami Avenue and Northeast 36th Street.

“It’s my understanding this community has long seen itself as a future midtown to the city of Miami,” says Rios, who lives in this mostly industrial community that is home to a large population of U.S. citizens of Puerto Rican descent.

“There is singularly one thought that comes to my mind as to the effective use of the property. That is to complement and support what has been a stable and contributing participation of the Puerto Rican population in this city.”

While there are other alternatives for the port, Rios argues, this mostly blue-collar community has no opportunities with a site that is simply a dusty eyesore.

He argues that the best idea is to reactive the railway line that leads to Opa-locka airport, a county-owned facility, and relocate the satellite container operations.

“If the port is actually interested in some multiuse facility, perhaps, that is what the community needs,” Rios says.

“The bulk of the operations could be moved to Opa-locka, where it wouldn’t cost the port any additional money to continue serving the container needs of its clients. This would actually help the Opa-locka area in terms of creating new jobs.”

The best use of the 54-acre site is mixed-used, low-rise residential and commercial-retail, in the opinion of Laquer, who has brokered numerous property sales in the community.

“Industrial development will only create a reverse and profoundly negative impact on that community,” she says. “It’s a sleeping giant.”

The broker says, “This site would make for an unparalled development opportunity to create a city within a city, not high-rise residential development but maybe mid-rise, under the guidance of a very good architect. Such mixed-use should contain carefully planned residential with a very, very strong emphasis on retail.”

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