Voters have spoken, University will get fairgrounds

Carl Frederick Francois/The Beacon

Rebeca Piccardo/News Director
rebeca.piccardo@fiusm.com

University leaders will finally get what they wanted: the fairgrounds.

Eventually.

Miami-Dade County voters approved a referendum that would allow the University to relocate the Youth Fair and annex the 64 acres of land currently leased to it.

“Tonight marks an important milestone in the history of our University,” said President Mark B. Rosenberg in a University-wide email in the evening of the Nov. 4 elections.

However, before the University can start building new structures and continue increasing enrollment, it needs to identify a new site for the fair and pay to move it.

For almost five years, the University has met with County and Fair officials to negotiate if and how the fair would relocate.

In all that time, they evaluated over 20 sites, none of which the Fair found an equal and suitable replacement.

Even now, with the voters approval of campus expansion, the University is responsible for finding a suitable site.

Then the University has to give three years’ notice for the fair to move.

In the Nov. 4 elections, the referendum voters approved specifically allows the University to be exempt from the County charter, which designated the fairgrounds land only for park and recreational purposes.

This exemption allows FIU to move into the 64 acres adjacent to the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

Years from now, when the Fair has cleared out, the University plans to expand their programming and space in the science and technology fields by adding more labs, academic health center buildings, expand the college of engineering, add more student housing and parking structures.

There are some unresolved issues still, mostly about what the relocation costs are: the fair says it will cost more than $200 million, while Rosenberg has told Student Media that the University would spend between $45 and $50 million to move the fair someplace else.

Part of the agreement the University has with the County to acquire the fairgrounds includes giving $20 million to the the County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department to make improvements in Tamiami Park.

Additionally, the University must lease the County a title to the Bird Basin Property. The County’s lease to the University depends on whether they get the Bird Basin Property or not.

As agreed with the County, The University has to present an alternative site to the Fair by March 2015

For now, University leaders are content having reached this milestone, and are openly thanking the community.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, after Election Day, drivers passing along Southwest Eighth Street towards Southwest 107 Avenue caught a glimpse of the spectacle right in front of the giant FIU billboard.

Rosenberg and other University administrators, along with students, paraded at the intersection, flaunting giant “Thank You” signs.

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