Senior Center residents being moved to unknown location

After several meetings with Related Urban — the private developers and new building owners Miami-Dade County sold the South Miami Senior Center facility at 6701 SW 62 Ave to — the residents being temporarily relocated during renovations still did not know (as of press time) where they are going to be moved to, nor exactly when the move will begin.

While yellow caution tape already blocks outer access to the lobby pick up area and the electrical repairs in the dining/recreational room have begun, residents still do not know where they will be housed while each of the building’s six floors get a long awaited overhaul with new hurricane windows, shower rails, ceiling fans, and a modernized activity center.

At a recent meeting to answer questions and allay the concerns of residents about the move, Related Urban senior vice president Alberto Milo, Jr. assured the apparently anxious group of seniors that everything was going to be fine. Before answering questions such as “the $64,000 dollar question” of where they are moving to as one resident put it, Milo outlined the improvements to take place in bilingual fashion.

He assured residents that the buildings must remain public housing and that neither their home nor their rent amount situation would change. Milo said the apartment building construction would not start until the first week of January but did not offer a specific date. He also said work in the common areas would begin in late November and would not interrupt any holiday plans. When asked by South Miami News if he would consider delaying any work in the common areas until after the holidays to not disrupt family and center celebrations he said it would be considered.

As of press time, Milo had not return calls to answer outstanding questions on where the residents would be relocated, the exact date relocation will commence (although Ela Pestano from Commissioner Xavier Suarez’s office called to say she was told they will start January 2, 2013), when residents will know when they are being relocated, and whether or not there will be a buffer of time in between their knowledge of relocation area and relocation date (to possibly make alternate plans if the move is inconvenient for whatever reason).

According to a story in Miami Agent real estate online magazine, Related Urban recently received a $60 million dollar tax credit from the federal government for public housing. They plan to renovate and modernize over 464 units and redevelop an additional 1,800 elderly public housing units.

The South Miami Senior Center building facility is no longer owned by the county. The City of South Miami will continue to handle daily operational management. According to City of South Miami employee and site manager of the senior center for over 10 years, Ana Larzabal, the main fear of residents is where they will be moved. “They understand eventually this will all be better for them,” said Larzabal, “but some of them are tripping right now, they are freaking out about where they are going to go.” Larzabal suggests a nearby hotel may be the best option at this point and ideally one with a refrigerator for medications and snacks.

She said electrical work and the fixing of holes has begun at the facility. “We are going to make this transition as easy as possible for the seniors.” Commission Aides to Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez, Ela Pestano and Homer Whitaker were both present at the recent resident meeting as well as former South Miami mayor Horace Feliu. Commissioner Suarez said in an interview that this issue has a “high priority.”

We will be on top of it,” said Suarez. “Ela has been assigned to it and she is very efficient. She has a lot of responsibility over there (in the South Miami office) and knows this is a high priority. When anything gets delayed by red tape, I get involved.”

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