(Florida International University) – About 30 Liberty City residents and community activists stood at the corner of Northwest Seventh Avenue and Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard during rush-hour Friday to tell the world about their concerns over the proposed 7th Avenue Transit Village.
The project, many years in the planning, will redevelop the site where the group rallied as a mixed-use complex that will include bus, taxi and jitney transit stations, some 200 condominiums and spaces for small businesses.
The Miami-Dade County Commission is set to name Carlisle Development Group of Miami lead developer of the project at the commission’s meeting on March 1.
Owners of existing businesses at the site say they’ll be displaced by the project. Some residents want Carlisle to promise the $100 million project will provide jobs for locals and are pressuring county officials to make that happen.
County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents Liberty City, says the county’s contract with Carlisle already addresses many of the issues being raised, with provisions requiring Carlisle to hire local workers and minority-owned contractors and suppliers.
But to Hashim Yeomen-Benford of the Miami Workers Center, which sponsored the rally, which, he said, will take place weekly, said Edmonson’s assurances were not enough.
“Development is more than building, it’s about building community and the wealth of the people in that community,” Yeomen-Benford said. He called for a “community benefits agreement” that lays out iron-clad obligations.
Edmonson was not impressed.
“They are not making requests, they are making demands,” she responded. “I will not defer this, I will not delay it, I will not do anything that will impede progress happening in the Liberty City area.”
The demonstrators included Tyrone Greene, owner of Greene Dreams, a shoe repair business his father started some 50 years ago. To him, the fight is personal.
“Before my dad died, he said, ‘Son, don’t let them take it.’ So we will ensure this by any means necessary,” Greene said.
Greene wants assurances that rental rates won’t push his store out when the project opens.
“If it ain’t in writing, it ain’t gonna happen, it ain’t a guarantee,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee that Edmonson will be commissioner for much longer. How can she guarantee us anything without it being written?” he said.
Demetrius Allen, president of the Urban Garden Foundation, sponsor of the “Peace in da Hood” festival, had some advice for the demonstrators.
“This area is changing for the better and you have to get ready for it. Move over and re-modify yourself,” Allen said. “You can’t expect someone to redevelop and things stay the same.”
Megan Wright may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.