MIAMI (CBSMiami) – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, toured a newly redeveloped section of Liberty Square Monday, saying the project fulfills a promise to residents.

Carson was joined by numerous officials including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez as they toured and celebrated the completion of Phase 1 at the Liberty Square housing development after 73 existing units were demolished and in their place, six new buildings with 204 units were built at 6512 N.W. 14th Ave. There are 73 public housing units and 131 non-public housing units.

Liberty Square is one of the oldest public housing developments in the southeastern United States. It opened in the late 1930s when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President.

Carson and Gimenez also toured the apartment of Sharon Gregory, the first resident to move in.

Gregory told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I am the only resident here in the whole place. I am speechless. I mean this is beautiful. I thank God. I thank God and everyone over this development because everyone was right there for me.”

Ultimately in this $307 million project led by the Related Urban Development Group, 709 units will be demolished and 1455 new units will be built using local, state and federal funds and there will be public housing, affordable housing, and market-rate units.

Carson said, “I remember being here before and seeing the squalor here and talking to people about a promise. This is where federal, state and local people work together and isn’t that who we are as Americans.”

“So many people are afraid that people are just going to be kicked out and gentrification is going to occur and that people will have no place to live. You all have presented an ideal model of how it can be done the right way,” said Carson.

In celebration, officials untied a huge red ribbon that was wrapped around one of the buildings as a band played.

The Liberty Square development has had its share of shootings and crime.

Gimenez said “This is an exciting day for Miami in this historic neighborhood. There will be no displacement of people and we kept our promise. We told everyone who stayed here that they did not have to move out. Everyone should feel safe on the sidewalk here in Liberty City.”

“This overall redevelopment plan has adeptly combined public housing units with affordable and workforce housing units,” said Gimenez. “It also includes market-rate rental apartments along with units that are available to purchase for home ownership.”

“The inspiring redevelopment we are celebrating at Liberty Square is the result of wise leveraging of public funding to attract private investment. I want to thank all of our elected officials and our partners at Related Urban Development Group who worked so diligently to make our vision for the revitalization of this neighborhood a reality.”

“We’re building a great, world-class city right now, right before your eyes,” he said.

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonton said “After so many years of working with the community to ensure the successful completion of this project, I’m thrilled to see Phase One come to fruition. The transformation of Liberty City has begun.”

Gimenez said residents will be able to move into rehab housing during construction. He said the project would create hundreds of jobs as well.

Crystal Corner is the President of the Liberty City Council.

“I feel very excited about this redevelopment and the process here and the new building across the street,” she said. “I think it will be a safer and better community. I am very excited and pleased to be here.”

Phase 2 has already started construction.

County officials hope to begin construction on the next 3 phases by the end of the year.

Officials tell CBS4 that the entire project should take 4 to 5 years to finish.

Peter D'Oench

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