Open House

Habitat for Humanity should be celebrating. Homes should be for sale to poor families in South Dade. New construction should be advancing. All stories should have happy endings.

Through the county, Ciarmataro has requested $400,000 in additional funds from the federal government as reimbursement for engineering fees on the paving project, which Habitat had paid from its own funds. But according to Adair, those fees had already been paid by a grant from We Will Rebuild, the charity devoted to reconstruction after Hurricane Andrew.

But even if the fees hadn't been paid with grant money, Habitat should have had almost enough to pay for them from the savings accrued when the water-treatment plant and special parking places were eliminated. "The people in place," Adair says, "do not understand the environmental features or how the whole project works together."

Earlier this month Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson called a meeting to examine the problems of Jordan Commons and to discuss its future. Assembled around a table in the auditorium of the South Dade regional library, a group of community, government, and business leaders and academics sketched out a rough proposal for reviving the project and financing future construction.

Among them were the well-wishers and experts Dorothy Adair had originally recruited and who had planned its features during the 1993 charette. In the last few months, Adair had helped gather these leaders in an effort to revive construction. At the February 7 meeting with Sorenson they offered to work in partnership with Homestead Habitat and Habitat International to attract new funding sources and provide the technical expertise necessary to complete the development. They include Steven Kirk, whose Everglades Community Association has just completed a 200-home housing project for farm workers and who has assisted Dorothy Adair from the inception of Jordan Commons; architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk; Mark Buckbinder, an official from the Washington, D.C., Local Initiatives Support Corp., which offers technical assistance to low-income housing developers; Jack Parker and Tom Wilson (co-chairman of the Joint Center of Environmental and Urban Problems) at FIU; and Doug Yoder, assistant director of DERM. Al Alvarez, chairman of the Naranja-Princeton Community Development Council, and Rene Infante, chairman of the council's housing and economic development committee, also attended.

"Jordan Commons is important -- people want promises kept," says Steven Kirk. "One of the important things to us is that other community development councils keep their promises. If we back down, it makes all of our jobs harder."

With such responsible partners in the wings, BankAtlantic has renewed its commitment to provide funding and may even reopen its $500,000 line of credit, says David Finkelman, a spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale-based financial institution.

Notably absent from Sorenson's meeting was Dorothy Adair. That's because Habitat officials said they would walk out if she attended. She deferred to their wishes.

That same week, Adair and her lawyers met with Habitat officials, their attorneys, and attorneys for Habitat's insurers to discuss settlement of a claim she has made for $18,000 in back pay. Adair also has threatened to sue Habitat's board for defamation and for wrongfully firing her.

Even though she says she wants to sue the board and collect sizable damages, Adair continues to hope that Jordan Commons can be built the way she first envisioned it: "Since our promise to the community was that we'd build something they'd be happy to have in the neighborhood, as well as to build a model for sustainable development of low-cost housing, it was important to get folks involved with Habitat who understood that, had the ability to carry out the project, and were committed to its environmental aspects.

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