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FIU celebrates expansion approval

Miami-Dade Youth Fair to remain at Tamiami Park until county finds suitable relocation site

MIAMI – Florida International University celebrated Wednesday after nearly 65 percent of voters agreed FIU should be allowed to expand and move into public park land now occupied by the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition.

"I'm pleased that Miami-Dade County voters strongly supported Florida International University's effort to expand its campus," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in a statement released Wednesday. "I supported the ballot item because I believe that having FIU expand to the 64 acres currently used by the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair. Moving forward, my administration will work to identify a new site for the Youth Fair that will enable it to continue to serve our families and young residents. My administration will not use county funds for the relocation efforts."

"This is a long process. It's a lot of heavy lifting," said the youth fair's CEO, Bob Hohenstein.

Hohenstein told Local 10 News that the fair and its expo business is not going anywhere for a while.

"We're going to be here for the foreseeable future, if not beyond that," said Hohenstein.

It will probably be at least three years before the county fair has to be moved, because contractually, the county has to give it enough time. Because that contract doesn't expire until 2085, the county also has to find an equal or better site for the fair.

In four years of negotiations, officials narrowed it down from 20 possible sites to three, including what they call the Beacon property near Interstate 75 and Florida's Turnpike, some plots of land near Sun Life Stadium and a site in Homestead.

"One site didn't work for us," said Hohenstein. "The other site was simply too small. The third site FIU said was too expensive for their checkbook. So in effect, we're back to square one."

Once a site is found, FIU has to pay for the fair's moving expenses. The university's president, Mark Rosenberg, acknowledged the long road ahead but said it's a good first step.

"If we couldn't move into the land they're currently occupying, there was nothing left to talk about," said Rosenberg.

The president remains hopeful that FIU, by way of the state Legislature and donors, will be able to come up with the millions needed to help the fair move.

"Ultimately the voters want more and better educational opportunities for our community, and that's what FIU is about," said Rosenberg.

The university plans to build $900 million in student housing, parking and research facilities.

Hohenstein said the move would cost $230 million, but FIU thinks it can be done for less.

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