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Affordable West Grove Housing

County Commissioner Regalado interviewed on West Grove

The Spotlight recently sat down with Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado to discuss the changing face of the West Grove, gentrification, and the need for affordable housing that benefits local residents. As the District 7 commissioner at County Hall, Regalado represents Coconut Grove. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Spotlight:   You opposed the establishment of a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in the West Grove, saying the agency wouldn’t accumulate capital fast enough to be effective. Given the rapid pace of gentrification in the West Grove, is that idea worth revisiting

Regalado:   I think we have to wait and see what happens with the Request for Proposals (RFP) we just put out for the West Grove. I think that answers a lot of the questions we have in terms of what can be redeveloped.

The county invited developers earlier this year to propose new housing for nine county-owned properties east of Douglas Road between Oak Avenue and U.S. 1 where 24 two-story homes and a three-story apartment building now stand. The RFP calls for a mixed-use development with affordable, workforce, senior, and market-rate rental housing spread over three blocks. Four developers submitted proposals. The county expects to award two contracts in March 2024.

Regalado:   We spent two years working on the RFP. We had a series of community meetings [where] folks were asking for affordable, but also workforce. At Platform 3750 [the apartment complex on Douglas Rd. at U.S. 1, with 79 affordable units], we worked with the Thelma Gibson Health Initiative, and we walked people through the [application] process. We got more people in from the West Grove than ever, but a lot of them were knocked out because they were making too much, so it brought us back to that conversation, where people were like, listen, we don’t want to get knocked out because all you have is very high-end workforce or very low-end affordable.  

This RFP tries to capture that missing middle, so that we can keep the people who are in the West Grove, but [also] bring people back. One of the things we did at Platform is, if you had been a resident of the West Grove and you left, we covered your application fee. You were part of this process. So, it’s about keeping folks here and allowing folks to come back.

The RFP splits the nine properties into two groups. Developers were allowed to submit proposals for one group, but not both. The RFP also incentivizes developers to “maximize density within the context of… the surrounding community.”

Regalado:   We don’t want to do single-family. It is not something that is viable in this area, it just doesn’t work. Given the need, we have to move toward multifamily, specifically, duplexes and triplexes and quads, you know, within the context of single-family, but just a little more density, because we have so much demand. So, the idea is to create a campus, even though it’s [divided into] two groups, we are doing it together, so that we can get something that has some similarity. And, obviously, we have asked folks [developers] to be cognizant of the location and come up with something that is beautiful.

The other thing that is interesting is that community meetings are baked into the RFP, so that the folks [developers] who are submitting can hear directly from the community. So, there’s no excuse, that we didn’t know what the community wanted, we weren’t sure about the price points, we didn’t understand. I want there to be clarity and I want there to be engagement.

I’m really excited about that, about making that a model going forward. I think it’s egregious to have an RFP for housing that does not allow the community to voice its opinion and its preference.

Spotlight:   If there are federal dollars in these projects, the application process for new housing has to be open to everyone, right, not just West Grove residents?

Regalado:   It has to be open to everybody. That’s a point we spent a lot of time talking to folks about. But the proof is in the pudding with Platform. We are going to be helping people through this process. They are going to be prepared.

At Platform, the window to apply for 79 affordable units closed in 45 minutes, once the quota was filled. Regalado said her staff helped 13 Coconut Grove residents to apply in time.

Regalado:   A lot of folks were like, well, in the past we’ve never gotten in, so is it even worth it? We were like, listen, we’re going to cover the fee, don’t worry about that, let’s just worry about getting the documents and getting everything together. The other thing we spent a lot of time talking about was background checks, and folks who needed to have things expunged, so we took care of a few of those too, you know, because they may have a marijuana arrest years ago. And then we also had issues with people’s credit scores, so there was some credit counseling, because that’s another way that you can go through this entire process and get knocked out. I think it was a great learning experience.

Now, everyone’s kind of like, look, these are the things we need, these are the documents we need, we’re going to be prepared…. [Platform] was a very small number of units. What we are looking at now is much bigger, and it has a bunch of different opportunities.

The developers who submitted proposals are RUDG LLC (for the Group 1 property on Douglas at Day with a three-story building) and CWV Development Group, Integral Florida, and MAGASI 991 (for Group 2, which bundles the remaining eight properties).

Download the RFP here.

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