(FIU) – The Miami-Dade County commissioner whose district includes Liberty City says the county's contract with the presumed developer of the Seventh Avenue Transit Village will address demands for concessions being made by some residents and community groups.
The long-awaited project has been riddled with problems and an earlier version stalled after allegations a developer made off with county funds and a scathing report by the county Inspector General.
Commissioner Audrey Edmonson says specifications laid out in the Request for Qualifications soliciting bids on the project require the developer to hire local contractors and minority-owned businesses; to provide jobs to area workers; to replace the Carver Theater; and to help existing businesses relocate and potentially return to the completed project.
“I hear my community in what they need,” Edmonson said. “I will encourage Carlisle to pay heed to what they want.”
Carlisle specializes in affordable housing and redevelopment projects in poorer communities, touting on its Web site
((http://www.carlisledevelopmentgroup.com) commitments to social responsibility and environmental awareness, along with profitability.
A group of business owners and residents led by the Miami Workers Center has been demanding what they call a “community benefit agreement” in which Carlisle will enter into an iron-clad agreement to meet those and other demands and be subject to review by an independent committee.
Many of them spoke at a Feb. 8 meeting of a county committee that sent Carlisle's bid to the full county commission recommending its approval. The protestors also held a street-corner demonstration at the project site Friday, Feb. 11, and promise more to come.
Edmonson is insisting that many issues brought up at that meeting and at a Feb. 3 meeting held by the Workers Center at the Church of the Open Door have been addressed. So does Matthew Greer, Carlisle's CEO.
“They have something very concrete on paper,” Greer said. “They have the contract with the county.”
Of particular concern to protestors is the fate of two businesses on the site: Greene Dreams Shoe Repair and Mop City, a barber shop. Both stores are community institutions.
“Anybody can return if they chose. I will do everything to help Greene Dreams and Mob City to get them back in,” Edmonson said, noting $10 million of the project’s nearly $100 million price tag has been allocated to relocation.
Tyrone Greene, Greene Dreams owner, wants a promise and castigates the county, which owns the building his store occupies, for allowing it to become run down.
Edmonson shot back: “Greene Dreams has been there 45 years, they should own the building. Whose fault is it they don’t own their building? You can’t blame that on the county.”
The commissioner also insisted that this project was one that was both needed and wanted by the community.
The county held community meetings in 2009 and 2010 to discuss the project and address questions. There are no plans to hold a community meeting to inform residents of the latest developments.
Further, the commissioner said, requiring Carlisle, the first major developer to come to Liberty City, to negotiate several side agreements would only discourage other developers in the future.
Edmonson is hoping this project will be a catalyst for much-needed economic development in the Miami neighborhood and create jobs.
“What I would like to see is for this community to look the same as any other community a developer comes into,” she said.
Demolition work at the project site is scheduled to begin within a year.
Jessica De Leon may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miami-Dade County's contract for the 7th Avenue Transit Village requires the developer to:
- Make efforts to use small-,minority-owned and women-owned businesses, and businesses located in or owned by people from the neighborhood.
- Aim training, employment and contracting opportunities at low-income individuals.
- Submit to outside monitoring if the county deems that necessary.
- Replace the closed Carver Theater with theater space in the project, suitable for community meetings, lectures and performances.
- Relocate businesses in buildings to be demolished for the project.