As a public servant for more than 40 years, my guiding principle has always been “service above self.”
And while it may have taken us longer than I would have liked to move forward with Liberty City Rising — the name of my proposed redevelopment of the Liberty Square public housing community and the surrounding area — we recently took a giant step in the right direction. On April 1, I signed a final award recommendation, which has been forwarded to the Miami-Dade County Commission for approval.
This long-overdue project represents the largest redevelopment of a public-housing community in Miami-Dade history. As such, it required a transparent and thorough process. Resident engagement is critical to this process. Therefore, I look forward to having even more in-depth discussions with the residents of Liberty Square about this project over the next several weeks.
With the County Commission’s final approval, our collaborative work toward building the new Liberty Square will be an investment of approximately $307 million. Commissioners already approved allocating $46 million to this project. Of the total number of units, 757 will be dedicated for public housing, an increase over the 709 units currently at Liberty Square. We will also build an additional 815 units, priced for those in need of workforce and affordable housing.
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The redevelopment also commits 20 percent (1,158) of all construction jobs and 75 percent (270) of all permanent jobs to eligible public-housing residents. Through my Employ Miami-Dade initiative, we will be partnering with CareerSource South Florida, labor unions and Miami Dade College to train and place Liberty City residents in some of these jobs. And that’s an important point: The new Liberty Square can be built, in part, by current residents.
Liberty Square residents will also benefit from living space that’s much larger than their current public-housing units. Residents will have access to free wi-fi and social services, to commercial and recreational spaces — including an onsite 40,000-square-foot grocery store and 15,000 square feet of retail space for “mom and pop” businesses — and educational, community and health centers for children and adults. And, contrary to some rumors, every Liberty Square public-housing resident has the option to remain in the community throughout the development process. and every resident who chooses to leave is guaranteed the right to return to Liberty Square.
Finally, because Liberty Square has an important history, having been built in 1936, plans include the restoration of a building that will serve as a museum and historical archive.
I am confident that Michael Liu, my administration’s Public Housing and Community Development Department Director, has the experience and commitment necessary to see this project through to completion. As a former Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary with responsibility for public housing, Liu has overseen similar projects throughout the United States.
Some have speculated that moving forward with the redevelopment of Liberty Square may not be the wisest move during an election year, but, again, this is not about politics. This is the right thing to do.
We will continue our work to have Liberty City rise alongside the rest of our community. We are all Miamians and we will all move forward together. And that’s why I’m optimistic that county commissioners will support my recommendation when it comes before them in the next few weeks.
Liberty City Rising will make us a stronger, safer and more prosperous Miami-Dade County for this generation and future generations of Miamians.
Carlos A. Gimenez is the mayor of Miami-Dade County.