Looks Good on Paper

Miami's planners already have a blueprint for eliminating poverty -- now all they need is a little divine intervention

Unfortunately the Consolidated Plan is at least three years and 3000 homes behind schedule. It wasn't until July 2001 that Miami commissioners voted to make Model City first among the seven revitalization projects. To speed up the process administrators agreed that some type of public-private partnership would be best. "There's a project in St. Louis that's been going on since 1988," groans CDD acting director Dan Fernandes. "We said, 'I don't want to be in a wheelchair looking back at this.'" So the commission voted to create a trust to oversee and acquire land for new homes. Members of the trust, a mix of public officials and private citizens, were appointed by City Manager Carlos Gimenez and met for the first time this past June. As trust president Gimenez named Gwendolyn Warren, former director of the CDD.

To date the trust has acquired eight million dollars in properties. Warren estimates that land-acquisition costs for Model City alone will total $32 million. But she must still clear some budget hurdles. Recently she submitted her first budget for the Model City project. It called for expenditures totaling $10 million, nearly all the available money from HUD. "This is what I think we need to accomplish the task," she told a skeptical trust board of directors in August. "We can't tear up the community and leave it the way it is. We have to move forward."

If things do progress smoothly, the city will open a bid process later this year to hire a private contractor to actually start building, though construction is not expected to begin until sometime next year. "In a perfect world you'd look to do whatever is in your five-year plan," laments Fernandes, acknowledging that the goal of 1000 houses per year has turned out to be a very tall order. "When you're writing this stuff, words are easy," he adds. "It becomes reality-based when you're in the trenches." Still he remains optimistic: "We're evolving. Once we're able to do the first one, then hopefully we've created a model to move on with."

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