Jeff Lozama has taken it upon himself to train people from Liberty Square to handle construction jobs.
“My company has been in the forefront of training other folks in the area to be work ready,” said Lozama, owner and president of CMS International Group Corp., who is Haitian-American. “We work with the labor agency to bring folks from the area and we train them.”
With the work that he’s been doing, Lozama brought much to the table when he attended the mandatory pre-bidding conference for developers and small business owners interested in taking part in phase one of the redevelopment of Liberty Square. Not only can Lozama boast trained workers from Liberty Square, but his business can also be of use to install windows and doors in phase one.
Liberty Square’s redevelopment is a public housing project funded by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is managed by Miami-Dade Public Housing Community and Development.
Related Urban Development Group, an arm of Related Group, has been selected to raze the public housing stock of about 753 units and replace them with 1,400 apartments, public housing and condos. The site at 415 NW 63rd St. sits on 66 acres. All told, the project is worth about $307 million. The county leased the land to Related Urban, with HUD’s approval. The project officially broke ground in May. Since the housing projects is located in the city of Miami, permitting, zoning and public safety are overseen by the city.
Related Urban Aug. 2 held a mandatory pre-bidding conference it dubbed a small business workshop at the Liberty Square Community Center, 6304 NW 14th Ave. More than 300 businesses were represented, seeking opportunities to be a contractor on the $23 million phase one of the project. Alberto Milo Jr., Related Urban’s principal and vice president, said phase one includes the construction of six buildings that will hold more than 200 units.
During the conference, county employees went over requirements for contracts, accounting services, and resources available to potential bidders. Preference will be given to firms that are certified as a Section 3 Business, Small Business Enterprise, or a Minority and Women Business Enterprise. The deadline for businesses to submit their proposals is Sept. 1.
According to Milo, phase one is going to take 14 to 16 months to complete.
“The initial steps have already started,” Milo said. “We’ve already started with demolition and we were able to hire a small business, African-American contractor from the area, who’s also been able to employ 20 people from the Employ Miami-Dade program, many of which are ex-offenders.”
Employ Miami-Dade, a program that trains eligible Miami-Dade County residents to get back to work, will serve as a pool from where employers can hire.
Kareem Brantley, Related Urban’s project manager for Liberty Square, had already been working with in the community for a number of years rehabbing single-family homes and small apartment buildings. He partnered with Related Urban on Liberty Square. He is overseeing the relocation of residents within Liberty Square who live in buildings that are scheduled for demolition.
“We’ve instituted transfers out of each phase of construction where no one has to be relocated outside of Liberty Square, so I think that’s important when you’re talking about maintaining and keeping compositional community,” Brantley said. “We’ve taken into account some of the neighboring homes that are due north of Liberty Square.
Part of the transformation includes putting the residents to work.
Related Urban has a commitment to employ 20 percent of the project’s workforce from the zip codes of 33142 and 33147, which includes Liberty City, Brownsville, West Little River and Hialeah.
“Longterm, we’ve also been permitted to have 75 percent of the permanent jobs also be from residents of the area,” Milo said. “So this development is going to produce in the longterm several thousand jobs.”
Related Urban is working with two local firms that are taking care of the architectural and engineering demands of the project.
Miami-Dade County is providing $42 million in total subsidy for all the phases of Liberty Square. Milo said $23 million is the estimated construction budget for phase one, with $2 million from Miami. Milo said they have a commitment to make at least half of the $23 million available to small businesses. Based on the large turnout at the pre-bidding conference, Milo believes they will exceed that amount. This project will also include development in economics, education and healthcare. An Early Learning Center that will include Early Head Start and Head Start programs will be built in later phases. There are also plans for a grocery store and programs such as a Youth Leadership Academy and public safety and crime prevention.
“This project is going to be the start of a transformation for this area and for Liberty City as a whole,” Milo said. “We believe that this will be a catalyst to spur additional development and help bring some different levels of income back to this neighborhood.”