Council votes to purchase current Town Hall building

The Cutler Bay Council has voted to purchase the office building in which Town Hall has been located so that it will own the property instead of just renting space there.

During a second reading on Wednesday, May 26, commissioners unanimously approved the financing package from TD Bank to finalize the purchase of the Town Hall building and pay for improvements there. Funding also includes the purchase of land just south of Town Hall for future use, possibly as a community center. The $12-13 million sale will be finalized later this month.

Mayor Paul Vrooman thinks the timing is ideal and will work well for residents now and later.

“The way the council looked at it, this is a sweetheart deal for the town,” Vrooman said. “In the space we’re already renting right now, we’ll be able to add council chambers and have our meetings there, and own the building for less than we’re paying for rent. “The way the market is, it’s a really good time to jump into it and pick up an asset that’s going to appreciate in value. Interest rates are very low and it just makes sense to plant our flag on something that we own,” he explained.

“We’ve been around for about four years, so it’s time to set where we’re going to be. We could have gone for fancier options or glitzier stuff, but this is such a good deal for us financially it makes really good sense. If we waited until 10 years from how the interest rates could be back up and property values are coming back up.”

Mayor Vrooman said that before the council vote and a workshop leading up to it, a staff-prepared report showed that the town is financially solid and in good shape. He also indicated plans to make the building better and feels the purchase sends a good message.

“We’ve going to be doing some improvements, some ‘greening up’ of the building and a little bit of remodeling and renovation, to make things better for the town and the building tenants,” Vrooman said. “The other thing I like about this is that we want redevelopment and improvements in that area, and if we have the town hall there with that kind of commitment from the town, then everyone knows that we’re going to work on bringing the level of this area up. If you’re going to ask the private sector to invest their money in that part of the town, then I think the public sector should lead the way.”

Town manager Steve Alexander confirmed the financial reasons for making the purchase now, and explained the necessary steps ahead.

“We were trying to lock in the best rates we can,” Alexander said. “The council still needs to, by ordinance, ratify my signatures and their action authorizing me to go forward with the purchase. We couldn’t set up the ordinance for that meeting because the financing deal points had just come in from the bank that day. “Ordinances require two readings. So now we can go ahead and advertise for the ordinance, so the first reading will be on June 9 and the final passage of the ordinance approving everything will be on June 14.”

Alexander also commented on holding commission meetings there, and suggested that might take place by early next year. “We have a lot of work to do and we don’t have finalized drawings, although I’m working on drawings for the council chambers already,” Alexander said.

“Once I’ve finalized the drawing then they’ve got to go back in and figure out where all the computer hookups are, where all the lights and sockets are, where the AC rerouting, literally all the electrical plugs and things like that go, then get the permits. We’re at least six months off before we’re ready to walk into that part of the facility.”

He also believes that the move made a positive statement to everyone in Cutler Bay and that operating costs would be offset by rent from the other tenants. “It gives a sense of permanence to the residents,” Alexander said. “That’s us…that’s ours. Having a structure this size as town hall will be a source of pride, and a landmark. The building itself is a fabulous investment for the town.

“The fact that there are private commercial tenants that are in here paying rent is like having an apartment in your house that you rent out. It helps pay the mortgage and gives all the benefits of owning the building without incurring all the costs. It’s a very good business deal for the residents.”

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