After months of delays, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Wednesday that plans to rebuild the Pork and Beans housing project in Liberty City are on the fast track to a county commission vote.
Last week, after Gimenez whittled six competing developers down to two, Atlantic Pacific Communities and Related Urban Development Group submitted their final proposals for a roughly $250-million redevelopment of Liberty Square and the former Lincoln Gardens project in Brownsville. Their plans — which have substantial differences from their originals — are to be vetted and scored by a selection committee Feb. 18.
Gimenez remained firm Wednesday that he expects to recommend a developer to the board of county commissioners by the end of the month.
“That project has needed to be redeveloped for a long, long time,” he said following a meeting with the Miami Herald editorial board.
That project has needed to be redeveloped for a long, long time
Mayor Carlos Gimenez
The county has been weighing proposals to rebuild Miami-Dade’s largest and oldest housing project since the summer. Gimenez offered $46 million to help finance the redevelopment. In return, the county sought new amenities, modern, mixed-income homes and a better and more accessible buffet of social services for the roughly 640 families who currently live in cramped and outdated rowhouses.
In October, the selection committee ranked Atlantic Pacific first and Related Urban second — only to have the county attorney’s office review the scoring results of one committee member. After months of silence — and public scrutiny of the details of the projects — the county gave the two top-ranked developers two more weeks to improve their offers.
Related responded by changing the financial structure of its project and offering to return all but $2 million of the county’s contribution over time. The developer also removed a large charter school from the plans at Liberty Square and added youth centers run by the Alonzo Mourning Family Foundation at both Liberty Square and Lincoln Gardens.
Another change: the developer decided to renovate dozens of uninhabitable units at Liberty Square in order to avoid moving any families off-site during construction. Previously, those families would have been moved to Lincoln Gardens.
The fact we’ve made some revisions shows we’re not tone deaf
Albert Milo, senior VP of Related Urban Development
That change allowed Related to treat the Lincoln Gardens project like a “blank canvas,” said Albert Milo, senior vice president of Related Urban. With that freedom, he said Related will offer about 100 units to residents living in another county housing project across the street.
Between Liberty Square and Lincoln Gardens, Related will provide a mix of 745 public housing units.
“The fact we’ve made some revisions shows we’re not tone deaf,” said Milo, who met Tuesday with the Miami Herald.
Atlantic Pacific declined a request for interview, saying they worried about violating the county’s bidding guidelines. Their new plans offer to return or leave untapped $29 million of the county’s $46 million contribution. A half-million of the savings would go to scholarships for school students.
Atlantic Pacific kept a 77,000-square-foot charter school in its plans, and retained a relocation plan that shows exactly when and where each Liberty Square family would move within the compound and Lincoln Gardens. Company spokeswoman Jessica Wade Pfeffer said the new plans also include an option that would increase the number of market rate apartments, with the county as an equity partner, should the county choose to go that direction.
“Our ‘Best and Final Offer’ is a starting point,” she said. “Many components of our redevelopment plan would evolve with input from the residents of Liberty Square for the successful revitalization of this historic neighborhood.”
This article previously contained an inaccurate statement about the number of affordable housing units proposed by Related Urban Development Group. The developer has proposed a mix of 745 public housing units.