Liberty Square Rising will lift everyone

Miami-Dade Commissioners voted last week to replace the existing Liberty Square with a new public housing project.
Miami-Dade Commissioners voted last week to replace the existing Liberty Square with a new public housing project. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Last week, Miami-Dade Commissioners unanimously approved the redevelopment of Liberty Square — one of the country’s oldest public housing projects built under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

Originally thought of as “utopia” by Miami-Dade’s African-American community, the historic district has long suffered from substandard living conditions, rampant crime and almost entirely non-existent opportunities for residents.

Now, thanks to the unwavering support of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the Board of County Commissioners and the residents of Liberty Square, this will soon change.

An opportunity to better this community greatly motivated the entire Related team throughout the year-long developer selection process, and I look forward to fulfilling the promise I made not only to Comm. Audrey Edmonson, but to the thousands of Liberty Square residents.

My career began with the goal of building a better Miami, and I got my start rehabbing Section 8 buildings. During the last 37 years, my company has grown and diversified; however, the critical role of affordable housing and urban redevelopment remains vital to the county’s growth.

The new Liberty Square will drastically change the lives of its residents, but the impact and effect will be felt across the entire county, as we continue toward the Miami-Dade of the future.

The entire Related Urban team is acutely aware of the significance of this development and have made it a point to listen to the residents and partner with outstanding community organizations to “transform the Square” — bringing healthcare, early childhood education, education for youths and adults, job training, small business development, youth programs, elderly programs and so much more.

Our aim is to combine this comprehensive Community Benefits Program with Related’s unsurpassed expertise, to create a transformational project that will unite the people of Liberty Square and establish a new national model.

The time spent in the community has made it clear that problems extend beyond housing. Liberty Square has been plagued by crime and violence for years. We will work with all law enforcement agencies to provide a state-of-the-art security system with neighborhood crime watch to stem the crime wave.

Additionally, Related Urban will set-aside 20 percent of construction jobs and 75 percent of permanent jobs for Section 3 residents — 50 percent of the contracts will be awarded to small businesses. The best way to help reduce crime is to ensure that there are decent paying jobs available for area residents so they can prosper.

Our team has begun identifying and mentoring local firms for the project — especially the over 120 businesses that attended our latest Business Forum. We aim to continue to nurture entrepreneurship and civic responsibility.

Also, we know too well that internet access has become a necessity, which is why we have committed to providing access to free Wi-Fi for all Liberty Square residents, regardless of age. I am personally motivated by conversations with the Liberty Square Resident Council and encouraged by their personal stories of hardship and their hopes for a better future. I am fully committed to giving this community my all and am convinced that Related’s expertise, long track record of success with urban redevelopment projects, financial strength, and commitment to this community will help transform the entire Liberty City area into a vibrant community for a better Miami-Dade County.

The New Liberty Square will be designed and built with the same quality methods and amenities that Related is known for throughout our 37-year history.

This project is also a way for me to give back to Miami-Dade, a community that has been my home for over 40 years and has given so much to my family and me. I thank the mayor and every commissioner that made this dream a reality for all of the residents of Liberty Square and the surrounding communities.

The New Liberty Square will be a legacy development that will be long remembered by generations of Miamians as the model for community transformation.

Jorge M. Pérez is chairman, chief executive officer and founder of The Related Group.