Miami’s Brickell neighborhood is about to witness an education revolution like no other.
A groundbreaking project is underway, seamlessly blending education with affordable housing for teachers.
This visionary venture by Miami-Dade County Public Schools promises to be a shining beacon of hope for future redevelopment projects across the nation.
Raul Perez — the chief facilities, design and construction officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools — is the brain behind this project. He tells Local 10, “What you are looking at here is a very unique collaboration between Miami-Dade County, public housing, and community development, and the school district.” A vacant piece of prime property has been transformed into a haven for education and housing.
The development, estimated to be in the multimillion-dollar range, serves a triple-purpose mission.
First, it addresses the chronic teacher shortage. Second, it caters to the pressing need for additional school seats. Lastly, it provides access to affordable workforce housing, a challenge that plagues many urban centers.
Christina Vazquez of Local 10 News embarked on a hard hat tour of the site, where Perez shared insights on various aspects of this ambitious project.
Perez said, “This will open additional enrollment at Southside for the entire school since middle school grades here … a critical expansion need for families in the area.”
As for student areas: “This is the dining room area and if you look back there, it looks like large stairs, it is for students to meet and collaborate and work together — like a coffee shop — an innovative idea we started bringing to high schools and now bringing to middle schools. The media center is on the third floor overlooking the dining area.”
Each floor boasts classrooms illuminated by natural light, offering breathtaking views. The “lantern” corner window architecture design element, visible from I-95, adds a touch of brilliance to the seven-story facility.
What makes this project truly unique is the inclusion of a rooftop physical education area, featuring a basketball court, a weight room, a dance room, lockers and a running track.
This urban setting is the first of its kind for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, marking a shift towards vertical expansion.
On the second and third floors, residential units await. These cozy 600-square-foot one-bedroom apartments come with separate entrances, fostering a sense of community and independence.
Vazquez questioned Perez about the housing units, asking, “Is that the idea that those who live here work for the district?”
Perez replied, “Yes, it’s part of recruitment and retention for our employees, especially our teachers. As you know, there’s a teacher shortage nationwide, and the South Florida real estate rental market is extremely expensive, and so this is a unique way in allowing some of our employees an opportunity, especially our new incoming employees, to come into one of these units and others in the future and get started.”
But the innovation doesn’t end here. Perez reveals grand future plans: “In the future, we have a property, a school at the border of Overtown and Wynwood, Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, and so that one is going to be redeveloped and there is going to be workforce housing, much larger than what we have here, along with a brand new redeveloped school.”
Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins lauds the project’s comprehensive approach: “Miami-Dade’s collaboration with Miami-Dade Public Schools is not only important for our community, it’s recognized nationally as an innovative approach to addressing multiple community needs in a comprehensive manner.”
In Brickell, where the need for school seats and teacher housing is dire, this project is nothing short of a game-changer.
The tower will boast 465 units, with 45% dedicated to affordable housing and workforce-priced units.
The building’s parking will be shared by the school and the tower units, ensuring maximum efficiency.
Mary K. Jacob