Two weeks after Miami-Dade's public housing director expressed concerns about a developer’s bid to secure millions in public funding for a Liberty City housing project, the builder behind the Seventh Avenue Transit Village has told the county to keep the money.
Atlantic Pacific Communities president Randy Weisburd notified Miami-Dade’s housing office Tuesday that his company will no longer need $3.3 million in surtax funds after scrapping plans to expand the second phase of the project on 62nd Street and Northwest Seventh Avenue. Weisburd said the company's decision was about timing and finances, and influenced by material changes that made the county’s loan less valuable.
“By scaling back to the original 100 units, we will be able to deliver much needed affordable housing sooner,” Weisburd wrote Tuesday.
His announcement follows concerns raised by housing director Michael Liu about why Atlantic Pacific's June application for county surtax dollars neglected to mention the company's $2 million soft commitment from the city of Miami and unspent bond funds related to the first phase of the project. Liu said the omissions influenced the county’s scoring of grant applications — Atlantic Pacific ranked first — and said several weeks ago that the county was concerned the omission of millions in funding was “more than just perhaps a slip of the pen or a scrivener’s error.”
Weisburd, however, said in a recent interview that those concerns, expressed in the Miami Herald, were a surprise to Atlantic Pacific. He said his company had not been contacted by the county on the issue outside of questions from an underwriter about the size of the project. He sent Liu a letter on Christmas Eve attempting to explain in depth the different possible sources of funding for the project, their tenuous nature and why some of it was not included in the grant application. He sat down with Liu Wednesday after requesting a meeting.
Questions raised about the developer's grant application took on added weight due to Atlantic Pacific's leading bid to win the high-profile redevelopment of Liberty Square, Miami's oldest housing project. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has yet to recommend a developer to county commissioners, and another leading bidder, Related Urban, has called on the county to throw Atlantic Pacific’s bid out.
Atlantic Pacific’s withdrawal of its grant application would appear to make Liu’s concerns moot. As for whether the issue will affect relationships with the county going forward: “I’m not going to comment any further on that point,” Liu said. “We want to make sure everybody understands we want accountability. We want full disclosure from the very start.”