With Enough Money

Ed Hanna has been the driving force in promoting the development of West Perrine. He's done well for himself. Too bad West Perrine can't say the same thing.

When Miami-Dade County demolished 139 crack-infested duplexes, Hanna was part of the charge. The county deeded land to the West Perrine CDC for new housing. After Hurricane Andrew slammed South Florida in 1992, Hanna again recognized opportunity in tragedy. The storm tore up West Perrine. Just about every building in town that wasn't destroyed was seriously damaged. Most of the rickety rental duplexes and cottages were flattened. In the wake of the massive destruction, the CDC bought property from people whose homes and apartment buildings were wrecked. Much of Homestead Avenue, which had previously housed duplex rental units, came under the nonprofit's control, as did other lots throughout the area.

With millions of dollars in public money, Hanna's CDC built single-family homes on lots scattered throughout the community. And not just any houses. Hanna insisted the masonry houses his nonprofit built be capped with red barrel-tile roofs. The roofs symbolize quality, he explains, and that sends an important message to the home buyer and the community. West Perrine CDC pieced together tiny properties and had them replatted into standard 7500-square-foot lots. Large tracts were created for residential development. And on Homestead Avenue the CDC endeavored to give the community a central commercial district of the kind it had never had.

In addition to running the CDC, Hanna was a visible presence outside West Perrine. He served on the Metro Miami Action Plan, the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, and the Urban Revitalization Task Force -- three organizations that recommend funding to CDCs. Hanna's opinions were sought by newspapers in other states writing about redevelopment. He advised banks how to invest in poor communities and sat as a peer with some of Miami-Dade County's most prominent African-American business leaders to counsel the Beacon Council on black business development. In Overtown Hanna's CDC sponsored a concert by the Boys Choir of Harlem.

From his grocery store, Wilbur Bell has watched West Perrine weather good times and bad over the past 23 years
Steve Satterwhite
From his grocery store, Wilbur Bell has watched West Perrine weather good times and bad over the past 23 years
Ever since Hurricane Andrew blew away his grocery customers, Nat Green has been counting on Ed Hanna to bring people back to Homestead Avenue
Steve Satterwhite
Ever since Hurricane Andrew blew away his grocery customers, Nat Green has been counting on Ed Hanna to bring people back to Homestead Avenue

In the past four years, Miami-Dade County has sent nearly eight million dollars to the West Perrine CDC to pay for a dizzying array of business and residential endeavors. The CDC received $760,000 toward the development of 200 single-family homes (excluding actual construction costs). It obtained $501,000 to open a housing-opportunity center for potential home buyers. To pay salary costs to build a retail center, an office complex, and a small-business development center, the CDC received $350,000. In 1999 another $300,000 was awarded to the West Perrine CDC to provide counseling and other services to businesses housed in the CDC's commercial developments. The county gave the West Perrine CDC $2.3 million to develop a design center where CDCs countywide could learn how to effectively manage their affordable-housing and economic-development projects. There also was more money for a doughnut factory ($37,000), a food-distribution center ($37,000), and a landscaping center ($30,000) that were to provide employment to area residents.

One word grocer Nathaniel Green would use to describe Ed Hanna is eager, as in "eager to get the job done." Dressed for work in a striped T-shirt, jeans, and an Atlanta Braves baseball cap, Hanna could drive his 1998 white Ford Explorer down any street in West Perrine and pass unnoticed. But his unobtrusive style belies his big vision, his savvy ability to place himself in the path of money, and the hefty salary he has been paid to pull it all off.

The $7.8 million the county commission approved for West Perrine over the past four years is only a small portion of the dollars that have streamed into the organization. From June 1993 to May 1999 Hanna's CDC received a whopping $18 million in private contributions and government grants, according to the nonprofit's tax forms.

As president of the West Perrine Community Development Corporation, Hanna earned $200,000 per year in 1996 and 1997, according to tax forms the nonprofit organization filed with the Internal Revenue Service. That is about $20,000 more than Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver earns as base pay. Although Hanna disputes the $200,000 salary figure, despite the IRS filings, he says that in the private market people with his knowledge of architecture, engineering, and planning are very well paid. Hanna claims he currently earns about $96,000.

While he did not earn degrees in architecture, engineering, or planning, Hanna likens his skills to those of Donald Trump. "I don't understand where this is going," he says in protest of questions about his past. "Donald Trump is not an architect or an engineer. People who do this stuff have the expertise to put something together. I am very good at what I do or you wouldn't see what you see in West Perrine."

Hanna would not provide New Times with any personal background information, except to offer that he grew up in Overtown, attended college, and is a graduate of the Development Training Institute in Baltimore. The institute trains CDC directors from all over the nation, Hanna points out. Before founding the West Perrine CDC, Hanna was executive director of the Richmond-Perrine Optimist Club. County Commissioner Dennis Moss now holds that job.

Although the West Perrine CDC has in fact constructed buildings -- more than most of the CDCs criticized in the December county audit -- investigators noted that many of the programs Hanna espoused were either not operating effectively or not in existence.

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