It’s taken 20 years, but most Key West city commissioners seem poised to take decisive action on Tuesday and finally build affordable housing on the infamous 3.2 acres at Truman Waterfront that have long been intended to benefit the adjacent Bahama Village neighborhood.
But a Bahama Village advisory committee recently voted against the housing proposal, as it would name the nonprofit organization AH Monroe as the developer without the usual RFP process to identify other potential contractors.
The Key West city commission on Tuesday will consider a proposal from AH Monroe to build 80 to 100 units of affordable housing on the infamous 3.2 undeveloped acres.
Five of the city’s seven elected lawmakers are co-sponsoring Tuesday’s resolution, which authorizes the city manager and attorney to negotiate a contract with AH Monroe and forego the usual RFP process. (Commissioners Greg Davila and Clayton Lopez are not co-sponsors.)
City Manager Greg Veliz is recommending the city pursue the partnership with AH Monroe and bypass the competitive procurement, or RFP, process due to “exceptional circumstances” that include federal deadlines for funding applications and a required voter referendum to authorize a long-term land lease to AH Monroe. An RFP could add an additional six months to the project timeline, meaning the city would miss the April 2022 federal funding deadline and have to wait until April 2023 to apply for funding.
“It’s already been 20 years; what’s another year if it means giving other developers a chance to bid on the project?” said Aaron Castillo, who chairs the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee. “Everybody else always seems to know what’s best for us in this community. We’re asking the people of Bahama Village to come to the meeting Tuesday night to voice their support for an RFP.”
Castillo emphasized that he’s not opposed to AH Monroe, but rather the absence of a bidding process. His concerns are shared by Bahama Village religious leaders Pastor Charles Major and Bishop Derrick Anderson.
“We have black contractors; why can’t they get an opportunity to bid?” Major said.
In a March 4 letter to the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee, City Commissioner Sam Kaufman asked for the committee’s support, as the AH Monroe proposal provides for 100% affordable units, unlike private sector developers who need to build a certain number of market-rate units in order to finance the affordable ones.
“I sincerely understand the importance of the competitive bid process via the formal request for proposals,” Kaufman wrote to the committee. “There are very rare exceptions…and this is just one instance….Private developers have repeatedly stated…they would not be able to develop a 100% affordable housing project and that they would not be able to include low or very low income units, unlike the AHI proposal provides. We, as a commission, have never had any other group propose a 100% affordable housing development such as this proposal. Their proposal far exceeds goals the city has contemplated for any affordable housing project in recent memory and specifically for… the Truman Waterfront 3.2 acres….”
When contacted Sunday evening by the Keys Weekly, Kaufman emphasized the value of the current proposal.
“The AHI plan … even includes a 20% set aside for home ownership. It is a remarkable proposal hitting all of the marks needed in our community,” Kaufman told the Keys Weekly on Sunday evening. “AHI is a known and proven local not-for-profit agency. AHI has the skills and knowledge to complete the financing and construction for this project within reasonable time frames. This plan is truly in the best interests of our residents and therefore an exception to the competitive bidding process is warranted.”
The city commission meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. For a complete agenda, visit cityofkeywest-fl.gov.