Real Estate

Liberty Square Redevelopment Will Erase Another African-American Neighborhood

illustration by Adam Izaguirre
The new Liberty Square signals the gentrification of another historically black neighborhood.

Two weeks ago, Miami-Dade leaders and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson celebrated the completion of 194 garden apartments Liberty City’s oldest public housing project. When fully finished, the new Liberty Square will offer 1,455 units, including public housing and market-rate residences. Nearly 80 percent of the project's second phase is aimed at non-public-housing tenants. The result: displacement of many longtime Pork 'n' Beans residents.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, and executives for the Related Group — the Miami developer selected to build the $300 million project — claim converting Liberty Square into a mixed-housing community is the best way to tackle rising rents and housing prices in Brickell, downtown Miami, Midtown, Wynwood, Allapattah, and Little Haiti. Even Little Havana is facing the threat of gentrification.

Of the 194 completed apartments, only 73 are designated for individuals earning less than $18,000 a year. Another 121 will be available to renters making $36,000 a year, and ten will be rented to people earning $60,000 a year. Basically, politicians and developers are telling regular, working-class people that the only places they can afford to live are the neighborhoods where all the dark-skinned people were forced to live when the federal government bulldozed parts of Overtown to build I-95 and when developers drove up land prices in the West Grove, forcing descendants of Bahamian settlers to move to places like Liberty City, Brownsville, and Carol City, which is now part of Miami Gardens.

So inner-city schoolteachers will have to live in the same projects as their poorest students. And the cops chasing black teenaged boys in Liberty Square alleys will live there too. Meanwhile, the poor black people who really need help paying the rent will get shipped to Perrine, Richmond Heights, and Homestead — as far south as possible. The middle-class African-Americans who have owned single-family homes in Liberty City will cash out and move to Miramar, which is becoming one of the most successful black cities in America.

And Liberty Square is in one of the government's new opportunity zones, which will reduce taxes, so developers will make bank off the public's investment.

The same strategy will displace Haitian-Americans in Little Haiti. The Miami City Commission recently gave the final green light approving the Magic City Innovation District despite community opposition to the project. Magic City is just one of several massive redevelopment projects planned for Little Haiti that promise mixed housing for all, including Design Place, a huge apartment complex that used to be the Sabal Palms public housing development until the new owners converted it into market-rate rentals in the early 2000s.

Last month, the Miami Herald reported Broward County's black and black-Hispanic population grew by more than 100,000 residents between 2010 and 2018. That's 22 percent. In Miami-Dade, the black and black-Hispanic population increased by less than 2 percent during the same eight-year period.

Every Miami-Dade politician should concentrate on creating income equality, recruiting Fortune 500 companies, and producing high-paying jobs so their constituents can afford to stay in the neighborhoods that have made Miami a beautiful, rich melting pot of Caribbean and Latin American nations. Instead, they have allowed developers to run wild, building condo towers and McMansions that only foreign investors can afford so they can rent out their units on Airbnb.

In the end, a Magic City that's made up of Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Bahamians, and Haitians will cease to exist.
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