MIAMI, Fla. – The historic grand opening of Phase One of the Liberty City Rising redevelopment project took place on July 1 as Miami-Dade County Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson celebrated the transformation of the Liberty Square housing project along with U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and a host of local, state and federal officials and residents.

“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done; but guess what, we did!” said a Edmonson, a champion of the project who reminded the audience that she grew up in Liberty City.

Liberty Square, which opened in 1937 as one of the oldest public housing developments in the southeastern United States, had become a symbol of blight and gun violence in recent years, prompting calls for its demolition and redevelopment.

Phase One’s six new buildings at 6512 NW 14th Ave. are made up of 73 public housing units and 131 non-public housing units. The $46 million first phase, which was designed with the input of Liberty Square residents, was financed through a combination of county, city, state and federal dollars.

Officials said that eventually, all of Liberty Square’s original 709 public housing units will be replaced with a mix of 1,455 public housing, affordable housing and market-rate units, along with shops, parks and community facilities.

Several officials noted that no residents have been displaced during the redevelopment project, which also is providing construction jobs for local low-income residents under project developer Related Urban Development Group.

Carson said the project could become a model for housing developments around the nation, adding that it’s an example of “lifting people out of poverty and into the American Dream.”

Vernice McKinney, 35, a Liberty Square resident for the last eight years, said she was was thrilled about the transformation and excited about moving into her new unit with her three children.

“Now I don’t have to worry about rats, roaches and mildew,” she said. “Everything’s better!”