Comm. Edmonson refutes criticism of Carlisle controversy

“I want to make sure something good finally comes to Liberty City”

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/3/2013, 9 a.m.
In a unanimous decision, the Miami-Dade County commissioners recently approved the transfer of four affordable-housing projects from Carlisle Development Group ...
Commissioner Audrey Edmonson next to a rendering of Carlisle’s Brownsville project. Photo by Miami Times Illustration

In a unanimous decision, the Miami-Dade County commissioners recently approved the transfer of four affordable-housing projects from Carlisle Development Group to another local builder, Atlantic/Pacific — despite Carlisle being under a federal criminal investigation. The decision by the commission, however, has gotten considerable attention because the projects were partly financed with $48M in taxpayer and other government funds.

In total, Miami-Dade County [M-DC] has committed or started to spend close to $38M in County funds for the four projects. They have also allocated over $10M in direct federal subsidies. So far, just one project, the first phase of the Northside Transit Village, is under construction, which began last June. With 438 units on land leased to Carlisle by the Metrorail station at 3150 NW 79th Street, it is the largest of the four projects. The other projects include: The Seventh Avenue Transit Village, a 161-unit project at Northwest 62nd Street

and Seventh Avenue; Lincoln Gardens, a project that would upgrade an existing housing site with 95 units at 4771 NW 24th Court; and Island Living Apartments, the newest project that calls for 70 units at 1201 NW 3rd Avenue.

Meanwhile, Carlisle faces its own problems. A grand jury is investigating Matthew S. Greer, the company’s retired CEO and founder Lloyd J. Boggio, along with general contractor Michael K. Runyan, president of BJ&K Construction Services. Carlisle is suspected of padding construction costs of rental properties to generate higher government-issued tax credits and then splitting the resulting unlawful profits. Prosecutors are also investigating Carlisle’s joint venture with another developer, Biscayne Housing Group. Allegedly, Carlisle had no alternative but to sell the four projects because they were unable to secure private financing while being under federal investigation.

Did the commission move too fast?

Some critics wonder if the county commission moved too quickly and did so without enough information to make a reasonable decision. But according to M-DC Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who sponsored the resolution that allowed Atlantic/Pacific to take on the Carlisle projects, the act was done with this caveat: to conduct “due diligence “ research into Atlantic/Pacific to make sure it was financially sound and to request that federal agencies approve the transfer.”

“The County has nothing to do with who Carlisle, as a private entity, decides to sell its portion to,” Edmonson said. “The legislation has protections in it for the County and we are well aware that if the federal agents don’t approve it, it won’t happen. We have funds that could revert back to the federal government and none of us want to see that happen. Finally, we are bringing something positive to Liberty City — that’s my first priority. But there are others who would like to stall this process. The 62nd Street project has had its share of setbacks, most recently being the delay in permits from the City. We need to address why it’s taking so long and who stands to profit from these delays. I am seeking clarity from Miami Mayor Regalado. However, I also realize that there is a small entity in Liberty City that is angry for reasons unrelated to this project. But let me assure you, I am not backing down on this project. Others tried to get the 62nd Street project going before I entered office and I had to beg and borrow to get the money back from the federal government. We won’t be so lucky the next time.”

Other voices weigh-in

Christine King, president/CEO of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. in Liberty City, said Carlisle should not be allowed to profit while under investigation for fraud.

“Our elected officials should be alarmed and concerned that the developer entrusted to improve our community may be doing so illegally and at the expense of the tax payer,” she said. “At a minimum, our elected officials should hold approval of the sale of these projects until the federal investigation is complete.”

For now, King and her supporters will have to wait for further results from the fed’s investigation. And looming in the back of many minds is whether construction will ever begin.

Edmonson says it will.

“I am confident that we will be able to stay on the timeline, despite some attempts to slow the process down,” she added.