transit_village_small_web.jpgFinally, some good news for the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami. The Miami-Dade County Commission’s Information Management & Fiscal Responsibility Committee has agreed to recommend a lead developer for the proposed $100 million Seventh Avenue Transit Village complex.

That decision advances the project, with the full commission now having to decide whether to accept the committee’s recommendation that the Carlisle Group be named to lead the project.

Basically, the project will include businesses, a condominium complex and a transportation hub, all located at the southeast corner of Northwest Seventh Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard – formerly Northwest 62nd Street.

In these tough economic times, very little development is taking place anywhere and those who are pushing the Transit Village project must be commended for their initiative.  The complex will bring a much-needed face-lift for this very busy, very important part of the main Liberty City business and commercial corridor and, in both the construction phase and later, jobs in a community that desperately needs to find employment. It will have the potential to attract more businesses, as well.

But, judging from the tenor of a recent community meeting and also the county committee meeting, some residents are not exactly falling over themselves to welcome the Transit Village.

The main complaint is that residents are not being involved in all aspects of the planning and execution of the project and, in particular, no guarantees are being given that jobs will go to the community, that local contractors will get first shot at the work and that businesses that will be displaced will be able to return to the area and not asked to pay exorbitant rents that will, for all intents and purposes, prevent them from doing so.

Residents know little of the proposed developer. As one of them asked during the committee meeting, “Who is this Carlisle Group?” It is obvious that officials know the company but the residents do not and that does not bode well for relations between the prospective developer and the people.

Some residents are demanding that the Carlisle Group give a written guarantee that it will comply with their demands and that the county give assurances that this will be a project for the people in the neighborhood and not for outsiders.

That is not too much to ask for. Such an agreement was given in the case of the Florida Marlins baseball field that is now under construction in Little Havana. The County Commission has an obligation to ensure that such an agreement is entered into by the Carlisle Group before signing off on the company as the lead developer for the Transit Village.

Recent history is full of examples of the African-American community in Miami and, generally, in South Florida, being taken advantage of in the name of development. Developers come in, often with the blessing of local government, with lucrative contracts to build houses and businesses and even sports arenas and when the projects are completed the end result is economic gentrification. Blacks get pushed out of their homes and businesses and other people move in and set up shop.

It is fervently hoped that the Transit Village will be the launching pad for greater things for Liberty City. The neighborhood – like all black communities – is suffering from chronic neglect. But when any development is planned, residents must be fully involved and their concerns must be addressed as a non-negotiable condition.