County seeks developers for senior citizens' housing
By Tom Harlan
Miami-Dade County officials are seeking developers and possibly investors for two low-income elderly housing facilities with transit hubs to be built in the next two years.
MDHA Development Corp., a partnership of Miami-Dade Transit and the Miami-Dade Housing Agency, is establishing a pool of joint-venture developers through a competitive process for the development of current and future projects, said executive director Maria de Pedro-Gonzalez.
The partnership is working on two multimillion-dollar seniors' housing projects that are to include transit hubs that provide residents easy access to county buses. They are:
Senator Villas Apartments, a 12-unit building with about 26 spaces for bus users on Bird Road between Southwest 89th Court and 89th Avenue. The project is to include a senior community center.
Gran Via Apartments, a 54-unit building and 135-space garage for bus users on a 2.2-acre site at Southwest Eighth Street and 127th Avenue.
"Additionally, we are reviewing the financial mechanisms that will be utilized to leverage the county's funding, if necessary, in order to finance the projects," Ms. de Pedro-Gonzalez said. "The completion of the developments is contingent upon these factors."
The county commission allocated $2 million in surtax funds for the housing component of Gran Via in September 2003 and $2.8 million for Senator Villas in March 2002.
Development of the projects is to take 18-24 months, Ms. de Pedro-Gonzalez said.
Gran Via was envisioned after Javier Marques, chief of staff for commission Chairman Joe Martinez, attended a transit seminar in San Diego about four years ago in which housing and transportation were discussed.
Miami-Dade Transit, which is to be responsible for the development and operational costs of the park-and-ride components, has been working with developers on mixed-use projects since 1978, when the commission adopted an ordinance for joint development projects to improve transit.
The first project, Dadeland South Metrorail Station, was established in 1982, transit spokeswoman Tarnell Carroll said.
"From our standpoint, these projects definitely help us increase our ridership," she said. "Apartments next to Metrorail lines are used heavily by residents there."
Gran Via will be designed to cut traffic congestion and help the elderly remain active, Mr. Martinez said.
"The moment inactivity settles in on senior citizens, they start to deteriorate in health," Mr. Martinez said. "Gran Via Apartments is a project that will not only help out transportation but increase the quality of life for our elderly and all residents in Miami-Dade County."
Providing elderly housing has been a longtime concern of the commission, said Commissioner Javier D. Souto, who worked to open Senator Villas in his district.
The commission worked with the housing and transit departments to scout locations, Mr. Souto said, and chose the Bird Road location because of its proximity to a number of bus routes.
"As traffic closes in on us, we have to be visionaries and think of outside-the-box solutions," Mr. Martinez said. "If we do not take care of our seniors, what example are we setting for our children?"
The two projects will add about 66 low-rent apartments in a high-demand market, Mr. Souto said, but they will allow some elderly residents to have quality, affordable housing built according to county and federal standards.
"We have a very large senior population which is abused in many cases by landlords," he said.
The county must ensure that there is a system in place to provide decent, safe and affordable housing as the elderly population continues to live longer, Ms. de Pedro-Gonzales said.
"MDHA Development Corp. is excited about the developments of Gran Via and Senator Villas," Ms. de Pedro-Gonzalez said. "We hope this is the beginning of similar ventures by which affordable elderly housing and transportation come together in a win-win situation for Miami-Dade County."