Declaring Miami’s oldest public housing complex in need of a dramatic overhaul, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez pledged Monday to improve the lives of hundreds of Liberty Square’s poor families through a $200 million redevelopment project.
Gimenez wants to raze and rebuild the 709-unit project as a mixed-income community, starting next year. Citing violent crime and persistent poverty as a reason for redeveloping the 1936 housing project, he called the proposal “one of the most significant announcements in the history of Miami-Dade County.”
“Starting today, we’re going to change the narrative around Liberty Square and Liberty City,” Gimenez said. “Once the work is done, residents will hear the sounds of construction and later the sounds of children at play.”
Gimenez’s proposal, first reported last week by the Miami Herald/WLRN News, calls for the county to invest $74 million into public-private partnerships in the historically black community. If the county commission approves a series of funding proposals over the coming months, the county would move this year to solicit redevelopment proposals from private developers.
Joined by County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents Liberty City, Gimenez officially announced his proposal inside the Liberty Square Community Center. He spoke from a podium in front of a mural featuring M. Athalie Range, Miami’s first black city commissioner, who appeared to be symbolically looking over his shoulder.
Some tenants worry that the redevelopment of the subsidized housing community of about 2,000 might mean their displacement. Many remember when the county made similar promises to the families of the James E. Scott project 15s years ago, only to result in hundreds moving out and never returning to the rebuilt community.
“We don’t intend to make those mistakes again,” Gimenez said Monday.
Gimenez’s plan calls for phased construction, so that the county won’t have to ask current residents to leave and come back. Instead, construction crews would first build a new public housing complex in Brownsville, and then the county would move dozens of Liberty Square tenants into those new units. Their old homes would be razed, rebuilt and then opened to other families in the project’s old buildings so that the razing and redevelopment process could begin again.
Meanwhile, the county expects to conduct parallel initiatives to build new single-family homes and train workers through the county’s Employ Miami-Dade program. Gimenez expects private businesses to pump the value of the county’s $74 million investment past $200 million.
Gimenez said the projects will add to Liberty City’s housing stock, though at the moment little is known about what, if anything, would be built and how it would work. One certainty, though, is that hundreds of units will remain subsidized housing for poor tenants, who currently pay 30 percent of their monthly income as rent.
Gimenez said his proposal will provide 2,300 jobs in the area and result in private investment that should more than triple the value of the county’s funds.