Edison - Liberty City

Caleb Center closes for two-year, $27.5 million makeover

By Theodore Karantsalis

Special to the Miami Herald

A rendition of the future Joseph Caleb Center parking garage.
A rendition of the future Joseph Caleb Center parking garage. Courtesy of Miami-Dade County

Liberty City residents will be scrambling soon for library, motor vehicle, and other services as Dec. 1 marks the start of a two-year renovation at the Joseph Caleb Center.

“I believe that Joseph Caleb would be grateful and honored that this facility stands tall in the heart of Liberty City, in a neighborhood of laborers and their families for which he fought and advocated,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson said.

Joseph Caleb was the head of the predominantly black Laborers International of North America, Local 478. A local hero of the working class, in the ‘70s, Caleb was ambushed and shot dead.

In 1976, he was honored with a multi-acre community center that bears his name and serves the neighborhood with a library, courthouse, motor vehicles department and other county and state offices.

In the short term, Edmonson said, construction may pose an inconvenience for neighbors though she looks forward to a new facility with ample parking, a closed air-conditioned atrium and refurbished offices and floors.

County records show plans include sprucing up the tower structure, building a two-story garage with about 300 parking spaces and adding two new courtrooms and landscaping. The total renovation cost is estimated at $27.5 million, according to Humberto Contreras, a county special contracts manager.

The three-phase project is being funded with “Building Better Communities” general obligation bonds, Contreras wrote Thursday in an email to the Herald. The first and second phase covers the parking garages and the tower. The third phase will introduce “art in public places improvements.”

During the closure, many of the county and state offices presently housed at Caleb will be moved to the Martin Luther King building in the 2700 block of Northwest 62nd Street.

“That is our town square,” said Renita Holmes, a community activist who frequently attends rallies and public meetings at the center. “Let’s see if they get the job done on time and within budget.”

Caleb Center is expected to reopen on or about Dec. 1, 2016.