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Published Friday, December
8, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Development may uplift Overtown
By Andrea Robinson
Overtown, the inner-city neighborhood surrounded by downtown expansion, may soon
get new buildings, too.
Under a partnership between the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust and a local community
development corporation, a long-shuttered public housing project will be replaced
by 100 townhomes in Overtown. The new development, Town Park Gardens, would be the
first major building project in historic Overtown in more than 30 years.
The project could ``make this a viable community once again. I hope it will bring
some other economic development and initiatives here,'' said the Rev. Richard Marquess-Barry,
rector at St. Agnes Episcopal Church and president of the community development
corporation involved in the project. Town Park Gardens sits adjacent to the church,
1750 NW Third Ave.
Demolition is expected to begin in January. If successful, the estimated $10 million
redevelopment would be an uplift of sorts to Overtown, which has one of the lowest
rates of homeownership in the county.
Empowerment Trust president Bryan Finnie said plans are to reduce the density at
the 12.8-acre site. There had been 145 units in the old Town Park Gardens, built
in 1976. The project fell into disrepair and was vacated because the county lacked
funds for rehabilitation, estimated at $4.3 million.
Finnie said the plan is in the predevelopment phase, meaning that engineering, environmental
and marketing studies have to be completed before they could gauge prices.
However, he said, ``It will be affordable homeownership'' and preference would be
given to empowerment zone residents, ``with particular emphasis on Overtown.''
The project, which is owned by Miami-Dade Housing Agency, had been vacant for eight
years, Marquess-Barry said. In 1998, Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler
pushed to transfer the property to the Empowerment Trust and St. Agnes. The commission
approved $2 million per year over five years in surtax funds for the project.
In Overtown, actual owners occupy just 4 percent of the properties. That translates
into few stakeholders within its boundaries, Carey Shuler said.
``St. Agnes will not be an absentee. They've been here for years and aren't going
anywhere,'' she said.
``They will maintain and monitor what will happen and make sure that people take
pride in the property.''
Marquess-Barry echoed that the majority of the owners are absentee landlords and
said the new project is ``an opportunity for blacks to once again have ownership