thelma-gibson_web.jpgMIAMI — It has taken nearly a decade but an idea to increase low-income housing for a predominantly black neighborhood in Miami will come to fruition on Monday.

Ground will be broken on a nearly $15 million mixed-use project in West Grove, the first major development to take place in the historic section of the upscale Coconut Grove suburb in nearly half a century.

Gibson Plaza, set to be completed in summer 2015, will be built on Grand Avenue, just east of Douglas Road, a community that has been the home of immigrants from the Bahamas and their descendants from at least the early 1900s.

The project, which has been designed to reflect traditional Bahamian architecture, will include 56 one- and two-bedroom rental apartments for the elderly. On-site amenities will include an exercise room, a community center, a library and a computer lab, according to the developers.

Fifty of the apartments will be rented for about $559 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $819 for a two-bedroom unit, according to David O. Deutch, a founding partner of Kendall-based Pinnacle Housing Group, the lead developer.

“We will advertise once we are ready to begin lease up, likely in early 2015,” Deutch said.  “If demand is overwhelming, we will do a lottery; otherwise, first come, first served.  We will give that additional thought throughout the summer.”

The six remaining apartments will be rented at prices based on market conditions at the completion of construction, Deutch said.

The developers are especially excited over the prospects for revitalization which they say Gibson Plaza will provide, as well as the inclusion of an educational component in the project.

The ground floor will include spaces for job and technology training for area residents. Miami Dade College, a partner in the nonprofit consortium behind the project, will provide the educational and workforce programs through funding from the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation.

“It has always been a dream of ours to have affordable housing, continuing education and after-school programs for children running side-by-side,” said Thelma Gibson, founder of the Theodore Roosevelt Gibson Memorial Fund, another partner in the consortium.

The 30-year-old fund is named for Gibson’s husband, who was a beloved West Grove priest, a Miami community activist and City of Miami Commissioner. The fund owns the land on which the development is being built.

“Gibson Plaza will bring us one step closer to realizing our long-held vision of improving the West Grove neighborhood,” Gibson said in a statement announcing the project.

Jihad S. Rashid, president/CEO of the West Grove-based Collaborative Development Corporation, the fourth partner in the project, said the idea for additional housing in the area arose during a conversation he had with Gibson around 2005.

Initially, Rashid said, his group was considering using the county funds to build a 100-unit apartment complex for seniors, along with 42 townhouses and upgrading the Miami-Dade Human Resources Department building in the neighborhood.

When that plan did not materialize, Rashid explained, he proposed the development which will be known as Gibson Plaza. “Our project will allow for the pioneer residents of the West Grove to maintain their foothold in the community,” he told South Florida Times Tuesday.

He is hopeful it will “catalyze, revitalize and transform” the neighborhood. “Gibson Plaza will create a synergy in the Grove business district that will promote further investment,” Rashid said in a statement announcing the launch of the project.

Miami-Dade County is providing the bulk of the financing – $9 million. Deutch said Tuesday the city of Miami is providing $550,000 and $4,750,000 is coming from Wells Fargo Bank purchasing tax credits. Another $400,000 is coming from deferring some of the developer fee.

County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who represents the area at County Hall, said the Miami-Dade allocation is earmarked for construction and development of affordable housing in his District 7. 

Suarez, too, is hoping said the project “will spur the re-birth of the long-neglected segment of our community.” Those sentiments were shared by Michael Wohl, another partner with Pinnacle Housing Group. Gibson Plaza, he said, “will create new jobs, educational opportunities and access to affordable housing in one of South Florida’s most underserved areas.”