Renovated apartment building opens in Overtown

On Wednesday, Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon cut the ribbon to the newly rehabbed Carver Apartments and Shoppes in the heart of Overtown.

The structure, originally known as the Stirrup Building, was constructed in 1926 by Ebenezer Woodbury Franklin Stirrup, a Bahamian entrepreneur who migrated to Key West in 1888 at the age of 15.

Stirrup, who eventually became a Miami developer, built more than 100 houses throughout South Florida for the African-American community by the time of his death in 1957. (At the time, housing in Florida was legally segregated by race.)

Fast-forward to 2014 and about 75 guests were gathered to celebrate the rehabilitation of this unique building.

“Finally,” said Don. D. Patterson, the executive director of Mt. Zion Developments Inc., who was tasked with the reconstruction of the apartments back in 2012 when the groundbreaking took place.

“It’s important for us to pay attention to the details and it’s important to us that we maximize every nickel that we get paid from taxpayer dollars,” Patterson said.

To help produce this project, Miami’s Department of Community Development gave $1.3 million from two different sources.

The Florida Community Bank also committed $145,000 to the project when significant termite and water damage was found throughout the building. The total cost of development was $1,580,500.

The building, at 801 NW Third Ave., includes four stores at ground floor. Above the retail spaces are 10 affordable rental apartments for those who make below 60 percent of the area median income. A family of four would have to make below $40,800 to be eligible for occupancy.

Within 40 days of becoming available, seven of the apartments already have been occupied.

“To have businesses on the bottom and residents on the top, that’s the type of smart development that we need in this community,” said Commissioner Hardemon, who hopes to see an increase in job opportunities and better places to live in the area.

“It’s a winning formula because the people that live within the area can walk downstairs to visit restaurants or to buy their groceries instead of having to travel outside of it to shop and spend their dollars.”

“I want to see this become a community where people feel proud living in,” Hardemon said.

According to Clarence Woods, executive director of Overtown’s Community Redevelopment Agency, this kind of redevelopment will bring in residents who in turn will provide goods and services in the neighborhood.

“It’s really not a new concept, this building has been here forever and we just took a treasure and rehabbed it,” Woods said. “It’s exactly what we want to do with the rest of the community.”

For Lovette McGill, being part of the ceremony brought back memories.

“I remember I used to come to this building to get my hair done when I was a kid,” said McGill, who attends a nearby church.

“With time I saw it deteriorate. It kept trying to hang on in different forms and fashions. It’s so great to see something that is right in the corner of Overtown revitalized.”

Among the other guests at the ribbon cutting was Overtown resident Phyllis L. Green.

“For me to be here to see this project coming up is a beautiful thing,” said Green, who has been living in Overtown since 1999.

“It’s good to see our black communities coming together and working with the commissioners,” Green said. “Seeing them put things like this together in this area makes me very proud.”

Follow Matias Ocner on Twitter @matiasocner