HOUSING/ALLAPATTAH

Renovations finished on apartments for low-income seniors

 

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

Jorge Febles has lived in the Dante Fascell Apartments in Allapattah since 2003, and as he spoke to his fellow residents and local leaders at the building’s re-opening Tuesday, he described his new apartment as so clean that you could eat and drink coffee in the bathroom.

“I am very satisfied with this construction; here, come look at the bathroom,” said Febles as he showed off his renovated unit.

Febles is among the hundreds of senior residents who had their apartments renovated by the Related Urban Development Group, who served as developers on the project.

RUDG, a division of the Related Group, received more than $60 million in tax credits from the Florida Housing Finance Corp. in 2012.

The money will go toward funding five projects in the county, with about $18 million of it going toward the renovation of the Dante Fascell apartments, which are owned by the Miami-Dade County. Related also received $2.7 million from the county.

Construction took about a year and was completed last month. Residents had to relocate in segments. They were given a stipend to live in Miami hotels, and some stayed with family until they were able to move back in. Albert Milo, senior vice president of RUDG, said he wanted to partner with residents from the beginning so they understood the process.

“We told them you will be inconvenienced, it’s going to be a little tough, but stick with us and you’re going to like the result at the end,” Milo said.

The result so far is a new community center, at the front of the complex, emergency call service in each unit, and renovated kitchens and tile for each apartment. There are also plans for a wellness center on the property, which is expected to be completed by December.

Gregg Fortner, the executive director of the county’s Public Housing and Community Development agency, said that working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and developers can be a tedious process, but in this case, it was not.

“It’s a major undertaking to get everyone moved out and to get everything done in two years,” Fortner said. “$18 million and this getting done in less than two years is a major achievement.”

Fortner said the seniors will pay a set amount of 30 percent of their monthly income for rent at the complex, 2929 NW 18th Ave. in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood.

The complex also features art by local artist Xavier Cortada, who added seating to the entrance of the building. The glass and porcelain mosaic pieces feature mangrove trees, which Cortada said serve as a symbol of the work of the man for whom the complex is named, the late U.S. Rep. Dante Fascell, D-Miami — who championed the creation of Biscayne National Park in the 1960s — and as a reminder that the senior residents are rooted in the community.

“These murals celebrate the residents with color and life,” Cortada said. “Connecting the art to the place, the people and to Dante Fascell.”

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