For decades, activist Roy Hardemon dreamed of bringing commerce to the dormant Poinciana Industrial Park, a huge parcel of land tucked off in an industrial area near Northwest 27th Avenue and 79th Street.
He and members of a local advisory board came up with an idea of building a hub for trucking and shipping interests that could create jobs for Liberty City residents.
After his election as state representative in 2016, Hardemon unsuccessfully sought millions for the project. He came back immediately with a new bill for Poinciana in November.
”It didn’t make it through committee last year,” Hardemon said.
In the just-completed legislative session he found success: a $2 million allocation for the economic development project. The plan, if successful, would bring new industry to one of the most-underserved communities in Miami-Dade County.
“Poinciana is in there,” Hardemon said late Friday. “This is the first time in decades that we got some resources for this community when it comes to job creation. I’m delighted. I’m pinching myself to see if it’s real. It’s actually real.”
Today, Hardemon will meet with the county’s top budget officer to talk about how the money could be spent.
“We’re going to meet on Wednesday to talk about what they have to offer,” said Hardemon, the Democrat whose House district includes parts of Liberty City, Little Haiti Upper Eastside.
The allocation is a victory for Hardemon who is wrapping up his first term in the Legislature. He said Jennifer Moon Glazer, the director of the Miami-Dade Office of Management and Budget reached out to him, and that others are paying attention.
Glazer said she was pleasantly surprised that the $2 million windfall escaped Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen. The governor historically has frowned upon large-sized local projects.
“I was sort of shocked. It was a big ticket item,” Glazer said.
She pointed out that the county has long viewed Poinciana has an ideal project for development. Most recently, the county used the site as a staging area for debris after Hurricane Irma tore through South Florida. That incident set off complaints by Hardemon and members of the Model City Community Advisory Committee, the group that threw its support to the intermodal transportation project.
Glazer said she wasn’t familiar with Hardemon’s project. She said the county has received federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She’s interested in discussing how the two funds could be utilized.
Commissioner Jean Monestime sponsored resolutions in 2017 and this year supporting Hardemon’s bills for the intermodal logistic center.
Community members like Mae Christian, a member of the Model City CAC, hailed the news. Christian made several trips to Tallahassee last year and this session to support the project and to testify about the need for economic development in the area.
“They never gave us a lot of time to prepare,” Christian said of the late notices she received to get to Florida’s capital city.
On Monday, she, Hardemon and local businessman and activist Cuthbert “Broadway” Harewood visited the site for their dream project.
They want to transform the parcel into the Poinciana Industrial Park and Intermodal Logistic Center, a system of cold storage and regular warehouses where import/export businesses could put their products, a processing plant and large bays for transport vehicles. The site also would have a hotel with amenities for truckers, business men and their families.
The plan also calls for an incubator/ training facility for locals who want to venture into start-up businesses or potentially to enter the import/export business.
“The incubator would be a training model both for individuals with import/export businesses and the ones who would be trained to become certified,” Christian said.
Hardemon estimates the first phase of the project once completed could produce 1,000 permanent jobs on top of the work that would be available during construction.
Poinciana is one of the local projects Scott approved Friday in an $88.7 billion budget, which includes $550 million in tax cuts and salary increases for law enforcement, firefighters and juvenile justice employees. It also includes another $282 million for the 24 regional CareerSource employment boards that assist Floridians who seek employment.
The county-owned property tract has sat vacant for decades with failed promises of economic development.
Hardemon, who is up for re-election in November, said he would request the additional $23 million next year.
“I asked for $25 million, and we got $2 million. I’m grateful for this,” Hardemon said.
Scott vetoed about $64 million in projects around the state. Among the Miami projects that didn’t make the cut were $2.5 million for an Opa-locka Airport Service Center, and $250,000 for the Historic Hampton House.
Earlier, Hardemon urged district residents to call Scott and ask him to let the Poinciana funding remain in the budget.
“We’re asking people to call and remind [Scott] that we need jobs,” Hardemon said. “It’s in [the budget]. If the governor doesn’t veto it, we get started on Poinciana.”