Miami-Dade County

Related Group’s affordable housing arm in lead to redevelop Liberty Square

Related Urban Development Group’s proposal for Liberty Square
Related Urban Development Group’s proposal for Liberty Square Courtesy

One year after Miami-Dade’s mayor announced plans to redevelop Liberty Square, a committee created to help select a developer has recommended that the county work with Related Group’s affordable housing division on what may be the most ambitious public housing project in Miami history.

Committee members met Thursday to score proposals by Related Urban Development Group and Atlantic Pacific Communities, two finalists given a chance last month to update their plans. New packages were submitted Feb. 5, and on Thursday the committee ranked Related’s plan highest — flip-flopping results from a first committee meeting in October.

Now, committee Chairwoman Indira Rajkumar-Futch will recommend to Mayor Carlos Gimenez that he select Related as the developer for the high-profile and highly politicized redevelopment. Gimenez can buck that recommendation, but it’s more likely he will begin to negotiate a development agreement with Related and then bring a draft proposal to county commissioners for approval.

We're hopeful the process will move forward quickly

Albert Milo, Jr., senior vice president Related Urban Development Group

“We're hopeful the process will move forward quickly, and we're ready to start the negotiation process with the county,” said Albert Milo, Jr., senior vice president of Related Urban Development Group.

In their updated plans, Related proposed to build 1,548 residential units at Liberty Square and at the former site of Lincoln Gardens in Brownsville. The complex at Liberty Square would include garden-style apartment buildings on the north border, mixed-income town homes in the middle, and five-story towers for elderly, workforce and affordable housing along 62nd Street. The two complexes would include 745 public housing units, 455 affordable tax credit units, 288 workforce housing units and 60 affordable, workforce and market rate units.

Related wants to build a community center, a youth center, a K-2 charter school, a school for special-needs students, a museum created out of an existing row house, and a grocery store, among other facilities at Liberty Square. The Lincoln Gardens project would include $1 million in upgrades to the adjacent Bannerman Park.

Milo believes the changes Related made in its Feb. 5 proposal helped it leapfrog Atlantic Pacific Communities, which is favored by some vocal Liberty City residents who left Thursday’s meeting frustrated. Related removed a large and controversial K-8 charter school, proposed to renovate 70 uninhabitable Liberty Square units in order to avoid having to move families from Liberty Square to Lincoln Gardens at the start of construction, and sweetened the pot for the county by offering to return within 15 years $44 million of a $46 million public investment.

“We went back to the drawing board and made modifications to our initial proposal,” Milo said after the meeting. “Our competitors did not.”

Atlantic Pacific Communities president Randy Weisburd declined to comment after the meeting. But late Thursday night, company spokeswoman Jessica Wade Pfeffer issued a statement criticizing the county’s process and Related’s new plan, which she said borrowed heavily from Atlantic Pacific’s proposal.

Related “reworked their plan, borrowing many ideas from our original proposal in their [final] response, including the unit count (within one unit), sources of financing, and percentage fee split to the County. The County asked for Best and Final Offers in order to maximize economic benefits to the County and to maximize benefits to the community, so in our Best and Final Offer, we provided exactly those requests. Paradoxically, we received a lower score on our BAFO than we did in October ... All independent members of the scoring committee recognized our proposal as the highest ranked.”