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News

City signs suspicious new deal for soccer stadium

Black Business Investment Fund gets city money while still owing city money

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Over the past few months, the city of Orlando has been involved in an eminent domain lawsuit following failed negotiations with the Faith Deliverance Temple in Parramore. The parcel of land that the church sits upon was the last holdout for the $100 million Major League Soccer stadium that will be built for the Orlando City Soccer club – the team is scheduled to make its debut in the new stadium for its 2016 season (in the interim, the team will relocate to the renovated Citrus Bowl). When the church refused the $4 million offer the city made for the land – it has alternately said that it wanted $30 million and that it did not want to sell at all – the city filed suit.

On Aug. 4, the city announced that it had rescinded its suit and had reworked its plans for a new site for the stadium, one block to the west of the original site. Orlando City Soccer president Phil Rawlins joined Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer at City Hall to make the public announcement.

“Importantly, this is also a win for the community of Parramore,” Rawlins said in a statement. “Orlando City is committed to Parramore’s future, and we will serve as a role model for service and citizenship. We have a proven track record of delivering on our promises, and we look forward to working closely with our community partners.”

But the move just one block west of the planned site did raise some questions – questions Dyer was quick to address with a statement released later that day. The city had entered into an arrangement with the Black Business Investment Fund, which has for years attempted to develop the parcel at Church Street and Parramore Avenue that it agreed to sell to the city for the soccer stadium. The move would streamline the scheduling of construction, Dyer added, and the new design “also allows for a larger footprint.”

The city purchased the land from the BBIF for just $2 million.

But there is a hitch. In 2008, the BBIF entered into an economic incentive deal with the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency – a deal worth $878,000 – so that the group could move forward with its plans to construct the Carver Theatre project, which was supposed to help revitalize Parramore, bring 225 to 350 new jobs to the area and create retail, residential and office space. But, “due to the downturn in the economy, the development stalled and was not completed,” according to an item on the Aug. 11 City Council consent agenda.

The BBIF will now have 20 years to pay off its debt to the city ($43,900 annually). Should the BBIF miss a payment, the city is authorized to levy a 3 percent late fee and to deduct that payment from other grant funding the group gets from the city.

$878,000
Amount the city gave the developers of Carver Theatre in 2008 as an incentive to develop a plot of land near the corner of Church Street and Parramore Avenue into a mixed-use project

225-350
Number of new jobs the BBIF – an organization that describes itself as a nontraditional lender working mostly with underserved small businesses – estimated its project would create

$43,900
Amount the city will collect from BBIF annually to pay off its debt, after the city pays $2 million for the land

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