Liberty City in Miami Receives $325,000 in Economic Development Grants at June 19 Celebration


Pastor Gaston Smith, left, speaks as State Representative James Bush III unveils the new Soul of Miami Avenue street sign near Liberty Square during a rally Friday, June 17, 2022 in Liberty City.

Affordable housing developer Related Urban and the Related Philanthropic Foundation awarded $325,000 in community investment grants Friday to support residents of Liberty City, site of one of the nation’s first social housing projects.

Related Urban is rebuilding and more than doubling the size of the Liberty Square housing complex, revitalizing the old downtown Miami community into much-needed new homes for people of diverse incomes and backgrounds.

The original Liberty Square consisted of 700 apartments. Today, 300 families who lived in the original community are already living or will soon be in their new homes. Once the $300 million redevelopment started in 2015 is completed in 2026, there will be 1,455 apartments as well as complementary buildings for educational, community and commercial purposes.

The developer and foundation officials chose the weekend of June 16 to celebrate Economic Development Grants. Black, green and red balloons floated overhead on a sunny day and a gospel singer performed to the delight of the gathering of around 100 people. A bonus was the free chicken and waffles made by a grandma’s food truck.

The memorial event also served as an unveiling of the soul of Miami Avenue, a street at 62nd Street and 12th Avenue that recognizes the work of Miami’s black community to advance the arts. A series of plaques have also been affixed to the segregation wall in Liberty Square to honor the generations of families who have lived there.

State Representative James Bush III stressed the importance of having a new street in Liberty City that honors the area’s heritage. Bush remembers growing up in Liberty City as a high school student in 1972 and telling the nearly 50 young people in attendance why they should have respect for their community.

“A man without any knowledge of his history is like a flower without its roots. It has no particular growth,” Bush said. “You understand that you can be anything in the world. Your opportunities are greater than ours.

MIA_Liberty_Square_Phase_3_(2) (4)
Related Urban and Miami-Dade County have completed the third phase of Liberty Square, a mixed-income community that will feature 1,455 apartments when completed in 2026. Above: Aerial view of the third phase of the Harmony at Liberty Square redevelopment project . MATIAS J. OCNER

Meanwhile, the grants will help young people benefit from programs like Helping Hands, a program that provides students with financial education, social skills training, arts and culture, and physical fitness.

Related Urban, the affordable housing division of major South Florida developer Related Group, intends to maintain a connection to the Liberty City community as it works for another four years to complete the new Liberty Square.

This story was originally published June 17, 2022 7:59 p.m.

Michael Butler writes about the residential and commercial real estate industry and local housing market trends. Like Miami’s diverse population, Butler, a graduate of Temple University, has both local roots and Panamanian heritage.