Exclusive details on visions to rebuild Liberty Square
By: David Smiley
When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced in February that he would invest $46 million in public money into a redevelopment of Miami-Dade County’s oldest public housing project, some of South Florida’s biggest affordable developers took interest.
Six teams came together to bid on the project this summer under parameters that required them to rebuild 640 of the more than 700 affordable housing units, add in mixed-income housing and create new amenities. They were also told to develop in phases, starting with a satellite facility called Lincoln Gardens in order to ensure no one living at Liberty Square — and in good standing — would be put out of a home and would remain or be welcomed back to Liberty Square.
Each developer was also asked to return 30 percent of their developer fee. They were told to craft a plan that can be finished in five to six years, under the expectation that most would come up with projects costing around $200 million.
The following is a synopsis of what was proposed, presented by the Miami Herald in the order of preference assigned by a selection committee in October.
Atlantic Pacific Communities
Atlantic Pacific Communities has proposed a $287 million redevelopment that would create 1,549 affordable, low-income and market rate units inside a variety of duplexes, row houses, garden-style apartments and town homes.
Through a partnership with local developer Palmetto Homes and designers Dover Kohl and Corwil Architecs, Atlantic Pacific proposed a project that would include a 1,200-student K-12 charter school run by Beacon College Prep, a 34,000-square-foot community center along Northwest 62nd Street, and 25,000 square feet of retail that would likely include a Jackson Soul Food. The redevelopment proposal included a town square at the corner of 62nd and 12th Avenue, reduced streets and pocket park roundabouts, and a relocation plan by Urban Group that lays out exactly where and when each of the project’s inhabited units would move during the project as tenants are shuffled around the site and Lincoln Gardens.
The team was the lone group to propose a return of 40 percent of their fee back $42 million developer to the county, equal to about $17 million.
Atlantic Pacific Communities is among the more prominent and connected of the responding bidders, and was created in 2013 when Atlantic | Pacific Companies bought the affordable housing arm of Carlisle Development Group, which stood accused of defrauding the U.S. government out of millions in tax subsidies used to finance more than a dozen rental projects. Matthew Greer, former Carlisle CEO, pleaded guilty in September to two conspiracy offenses involving theft of government funds and now faces up to 10 years in prison. His name appears 23 times in backup documents presented as part of Atlantic Pacific Communities’ bid.
Related Urban Development Group
The affordable housing arm of one of Miami’s most prominent condo developers, Related Urban put together a proposal to build a new Lincoln Gardens and an 818-unit complex that it calls Unity Village. The project includes a museum operated by HistoryMiami, a renovated community center and a community health center operated by the Jessie Trice Community Health Foundation. Academica, the nation’s largest for-profit charter school company, would run a K-2 charter school and a K-8 charter school on site. The YMCA would run a family center and daycare.
The project includes a 16,000-square-foot grocery store, and a 25,000 square feet of retail space for “mom and pop” businesses in a center and on the ground floor of mid-rise apartments along Northwest 62nd Street. Residents would own townhouses, and live in a mix of market and subsidized apartments. Related Urban would seek to rezone Liberty Square in order to build their project.
An attorney for Related Urban, the second-ranked proposer by a county selection committee, made a case in October for the county to throw out Atlantic Pacific Communities’ bid. The county remained under a cone of silence Tuesday morning, so it was unclear if or how they have responded.
Community Housing Partners Corp and Miami Waymark 2.0 Joint Venture
Community Housing Partners Corporation, a non-profit builder out of Virginia, teamed up with Liberty City-based Miami Waymark — formed for the project — in order to propose a 1025-unit project, with 649 of those units at Liberty Square, including 160 reserved for the elderly.
Designed by architect Bernard Zyscovich, the project includes a notable landscaped walkway that cuts diagonally from the northeast corner of the community past an open space in the center and toward basketball courts, playing fields and a wellness center and tech hub. The complex includes an artists collaborative, a farmers market and a greenhouse.
Residential units are a mix of one- two- and three-story apartments and townhouses. Retail and commercial space will line 62nd Street.
Carrfour Supportive Housing
A $269 million concept from Carrfour Supportive Housing and partners considered the construction of 1,283 units at Lincoln Gardens and Liberty Square. Most units would be two- and three-story walk-up flats, and about half would be affordable housing. The project includes a senior community.
Along with housing, the team proposed that a market and art gallery be built on the corner of Northwest 62nd Street and 12th Avenue, and that a farmers market, orchard, museum, splash park and community center be built along the eastern boundary of the complex. Retail shops are included on the southeast corner.
Carrfour, created by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in 1993 to address homelessness by creating affordable housing, has teamed up with co-developers Columbia Residential and Bank of America Community Development Corporation. They also brought in The Catalyst Group, a firm whose CEO oversaw the razing and redevelopment of much of Atlanta’s affordable housing stock into mixed-income housing.
Centennial Management Corp
Led by Lewis Swezy, the Miami developer who razed Bobby Maduro Stadium and build hundreds of affordable housing units in its stead, Centennial Management has proposed a $132 million, 761-unit project. It is among the smallest complexes conceived in response to the county’s request for proposals.
In tandem with architect Gabriel Salazar, Swezy wants to build a town center with 24,000 square feet of retail, an indoor basketball court, childcare facilities and classrooms for after-school services. A CVS Pharmacy is among the proposed commercial tenants. Space for a charter school is left on the north facade of the community, but its construction isn’t part of the Liberty Square Rising proposal.
Among Swezy’s notable team members: Sybrina Fulton, a former public housing employee and the mother of slain teen Trayvon Martin, is helping with resident outreach.
Miami Redevelopment Partners
This joint venture combines the efforts of multi-family and affordable builder Gardner Florida, affordable developer Pennrose Properties, and Duvernay + Brooks, which has advised housing authorities on redevelopment projects. Miami-based master designer Wallace Roberts & Todd is also part of the project, as are Catalyst Miami and the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
The team’s design includes a central park, retail plaza along 62nd Street, and 1,017 residential units across the two developed sites.
The team provided two development scenarios — one in which some residents would need to be moved off-site during the redevelopment — but concretely proposed a mixed-income community that includes close to 30,000 square feet of retail and a community and childcare building, rooftop terraces, solar panels and “private gardens.” The team envisions a small grocery store on-site.