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Revitalizing Miami: The Transformative Impact of a Thriving Community Along the Miami River

In Little Havana, nestled between the Miami River and the Marlins’ ballpark, a thriving community has emerged with the completion of two significant housing projects. This development represents a significant victory for a county grappling with a prolonged housing crisis.

In August, occupants began settling into the newly refurbished senior housing at the 14-story Robert King High Towers and the recently constructed, mixed-income seven-story Paseo del Rio in the River Parc community. The Robert King High Towers, once a dilapidated structure easily visible from the Dolphin Expressway, now provides 315 apartments tailored for seniors at 1405 NW Seventh St. Meanwhile, Paseo del Rio, located at 1401 NW Seventh St., introduced 182 residences for affordable and workforce housing.

Collectively, these two ventures incurred a cost of $600 million, constituting the fourth and fifth phases undertaken by Related Urban, an affiliate of the Coconut Grove-based Related Group, in collaboration with the Miami-Dade government. This partnership aims to transform this enclave in Little Havana into a vibrant mixed-income neighborhood. Related Urban and Miami-Dade County are working hand-in-hand with state and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development entities on this undertaking.

During the grand opening event of Robert King High Towers and Paseo del Rio, 85-year-old Estelle Aguilera, a long-time resident of Little Havana, reflected on the transformation. She vividly recalled the state of Robert King High Towers prior to its renovation, emphasizing the stark improvement it now represents.

Aguilera, like many in Little Havana, has witnessed the area’s cost of living rise, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. She and her husband continue to reside in the neighborhood, facing the challenge of keeping pace with escalating expenses. A retiree on a fixed income, Aguilera longs for the opportunity to call Robert King High Towers her home without enduring a prolonged waiting list.

Aguilera’s circumstances mirror those of many in Miami-Dade, prompting Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to declare a state of emergency in response to the deepening housing crisis. In April 2022, the Biden administration’s housing chief labeled Miami the “epicenter for the housing crisis” in the United States, underscoring the severity of the affordability challenge in the region.

Related Urban has successfully executed 25 partnerships for affordable, workforce, and senior housing in conjunction with Miami-Dade thus far, with additional projects in the pipeline. The company is actively working on an additional five ventures for the River Parc community, all slated for completion by 2027.

The forthcoming phase in the River Parc community, an $80 million senior housing endeavor, is set to introduce 240 apartment rentals by March. Upon completion of all renovations and new constructions in River Parc, the community will boast 10 buildings offering a total of 2,600 affordable, workforce, and senior housing rentals. The overall investment for this revitalization and expansion is estimated at approximately $1 billion.

Residents of Robert King High Towers, the senior housing community, benefit from rents capped at 30% of the area’s median income, equivalent to $74,700 as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This building comprises studios and one-bedroom apartments, with an average monthly rent of $250, according to Albert Milo, president of Related Urban Development Group. Robert King High Towers currently enjoys a 98% occupancy rate, with only six residences available for rent.

Adjacent to Robert King High Towers within the River Parc community, Paseo del Rio stands as the most recent fully occupied affordable and workforce housing structure.

Named after a former Miami mayor, Robert King High Towers was constructed in 1964 but had fallen into disrepair in recent years. Related Urban and Miami-Dade initiated renovations and arranged temporary relocations for residents within the River Parc community in 2020 to facilitate the restoration process.

To qualify for affordable housing, applicants must currently earn a minimum of $36,135 annually for a one-bedroom apartment and $42,669 annually for a two-bedroom apartment. Affordable housing tenants, who typically include low-wage earners like waitstaff, cleaning personnel, and caregivers, pay 60% of the area’s median income. Rents range from $1,095 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,293 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

For 55-year-old Ernesto Lara, Paseo del Rio has provided a sanctuary for him and his wife. With his salary as a CVS employee in downtown Miami, Lara can comfortably afford his one-bedroom rental. He expresses gratitude for finding a place to live at a time when the costs of living have surged. Workforce housing tenants, encompassing professionals like teachers, police officers, and public sector lawyers, contribute 80% of the area’s median income. Their rents range from $1,483 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,758 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. The minimum salary requirements for renters start at $48,939 for a one-bedroom and $58,014 for a two-bedroom apartment, with a maximum cap of $82,560 for a four-person household.

Albert Milo, president of Related Urban Development Group, notes that the waiting list for Paseo del Rio approaches 100 individuals. He encourages interested applicants to reach out to the firm, as opportunities may arise even as the list evolves. He emphasizes that it’s always beneficial to get on the waiting list rather than assuming it’s an insurmountable barrier.

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