Budget conference: Legislature agrees on $100K for Cutler Bay plan to build over regional mall
A digital rendering of what a redeveloped Southland Mall may look like. Image via Cutler Bay.

The plan will guide a $1B redevelopment project spanning more than half a decade.

Cutler Bay is on track to receive $100,000 in nonrecurring state funding for a plan to redevelop a large portion of town property into a residential, office and commercial hub.

The area being examined, called the Cutler Bay Town Center District, sits just off of a Florida Turnpike exit. It now contains Southland Mall but is targeted for $1 billion worth of redevelopment.

Both the Senate and House have agreed to apportion the full sum Sen. Alexis Calatayud and Rep. Alina Garcia sought through twin appropriations requests for Florida’s Fiscal Year 2023-24 budget.

Cutler Bay will provide a $100,000 local match, according to Town Manager Rafael Casals.

The goal of the project, he said in the request, is to “identify gaps in workforce training and create a marketing plan to attract new businesses that leads to gainful employment for South Dade residents.”

He said Cutler Bay is experiencing “great population growth” and needs a plan to provide residents with better work and recreational opportunities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Cutler Bay’s population shrank 2.5% between April 2020 and July 2021 to 44,291. But since 2000, the town’s population has increased by more than 46%, a rate faster than 73% of similarly sized U.S. cities.

The Cutler Bay Town Center project is expected to take multiple development phases and up to seven years to finish.

“Ensuring that this project aligns with our community’s vision and has a proper mix of use is extremely important to the Town Council and me,” Cutler Bay Mayor Tim Meerbott said in a statement. “The site is ready for change and this project will check so many boxes on our community’s wish list — thousands of jobs, more restaurants, entertainment, and a fresh look, to name a few.”

The economic development plan has two main components:

— Assessing Cutler Bay’s existing conditions and the town’s future needs while identifying ways to promote and capitalize on the benefits offered in opportunity zones.

— Determining strategies to promote the growth of small businesses and foster entrepreneurship.

“The plan will lay out specific policy changes and projects that will stimulate economic development, facilitate use and reuse of existing infrastructure, protect green spaces and natural resources, and promote sustainable and equitable development,” Casals said.

Others who worked on the appropriations request include Cutler Bay Community Development Director Jared Munster and Jonathan Kilman, a lobbyist with Converge Public Strategies.

Budget conference subcommittees will meet throughout the week to resolve differences in each area. When remaining issues reach an impasse, they will be “bumped” to the full budget conference committee.

Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by May 2 to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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