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Miami Herald - March 18, 2008

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Allapattah development will offer affordable housing, YMCA
Ground was broken for a $60 million rental property that will house an equal number of units for low-income families and seniors, along with two YMCA facilities.


Officials of the Carlisle Development Group, the Biscayne Housing Group and the YMCA of Greater Miami broke ground March 13 for Village Allapattah, a project said to carry a $60 million price tag with a summer 2009 completion date.

The project will include 200 housing units for low-income families and seniors, a 10,000-square-foot YMCA child care center and a 17,000-square-foot YMCA wellness and fitness center.

Michael Cox, partner with Biscayne Housing Group, said it all started as a simple conversation between him and YMCA officials in 2005.

''It was just us dreaming about the perfect development affordable project where kids can come to after school and go to the YMCA recreational facility,'' Cox said. ``We wanted to build a safe environment where the younger kids could play and where parents could take their kids to daycare by just going down the elevator. We dreamed up what would be the perfect project in our heads and we just tried to make it happen.''

Village Allapattah will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with rent ranging from $250 to $750 per month and 40 of the units renting for less than $300 monthly, developers say.

The ground floor will contain a parking garage, with the YMCA facilities to the left and right. Half of the family units will be in the front, and the other half, for the elderly, in the rear.

Matt Greer, CEO of Carlisle Development Group, said all tenants will have an added benefit of a home-ownership program designed to transform renters into homeowners.

Tenants will have regular access to training and seminars on how to be good homeowners and how to get mortgage financing.

Also, a 5 percent down payment will be offered to encourage tenants to own their homes.

''I think it's tremendous because what it does is take someone who is really struggling to provide for their family and it gives them an opportunity to focus on the other needs of the family,'' Greer said. ``It also takes someone who may be providing for their family and gives them an opportunity to be a homeowner. It gives people real financial opportunities and a chance to be safe and comfortable.''

Most of the $60 million cost for the project will go to building the housing units, with less than $10 million going to creating the YMCA facilities.

''For the YMCA, Allapattah is a $7 million project,'' said Alfred Sanchez, president/CEO of the YMCA of Greater Miami. He said $3 million will go to building the first floor, with $2.5 million coming from the county and $500,000 from ``an old-time family supporter.''

That will leave a $4 million hole that Sanchez said he plans to fill with help from the county, foundations and wealthy individuals who are passionate about the project.

A highlight of the groundbreaking ceremony came when County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson presented the YMCA with a check for $2.5 million from the General Obligation Bond (GOB) Program.

''I think it all got started because it was a need. There was a need for affordable housing in the community. We were able to get something going with $6.7 million coming from the county in Surtax funds, as well as the $2.5 million from GOB,'' Edmonson said. ``We have a huge increase in homelessness because people cannot afford a place to live and we have people exiting the county. It makes me feel good to be able to do my part in assisting with a crisis to ensure that every individual can be able to afford somewhere to live.''

The YMCA is familiar to Allapattah residents. For more than 40 years, the organization occupied the site where Village Allapattah is being built, until the old recreational facility was torn down in October 2007.

Retired Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek, president of The Carrie Meek Foundation, who pushed hard for the Village Allapattah project, said it was ``the realization of a dream.''

''The provision of affordable housing has always been a dream of mine. Allapattah, to me, is a much-needed area, an area that has the demographics that represents Miami-Dade, Florida,'' Meek said.