In the aftermath of former Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s arrest, the city of Miami is witnessing a resurgence in its community redevelopment efforts, led by the newly appointed chair of the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Sabina Covo.

de la Portilla faced arrest under charges of money laundering and bribery, leading to his suspension, as ordered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. These events set the stage for Covo’s leadership in reviving stalled initiatives, specifically focusing on education and affordable housing.

“We were able to unlock a deal that was being worked on before with the school board,” Covo stated, outlining her commitment to reigniting partnerships and plans previously hindered under de la Portilla. Central to these efforts is the collaboration with Miami Dade County Public Schools to revitalize a comprehensive redevelopment project. The ambitious plan includes affordable housing options specifically targeted to teachers and first responders and the expansion of the public school I-Prep Academy.

Covo underscored the importance of these initiatives for families residing in the area, particularly in neighborhoods like Edgewater, where the demand for accessible education is high due to an influx of younger families seeking affordability outside the pricier Brickell area. “We are working to be able to unlock to generate more public schools for this area,” she emphasized.

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Miami Dade County Public School Superintendent Jose L. Dotres expressed his gratitude and support for the revitalized efforts. “We are thankful for Chairwoman Covo’s leadership and are strongly encouraged by the action taken by the Board of Commissioners of the Omni District Community Redevelopment Agency,” Dotres remarked. He lauded the comprehensive strategy for innovative public-private partnerships focused on developing board-owned property within the CRA’s boundaries.

The broader community stands to benefit significantly from these plans, which promise not just educational expansion but also affordable housing, increased public parking, and extensive infrastructure improvements. “Leveraging our collective assets and resources will maximize what can be accomplished on behalf of the youth, families, and residents we are all charged to serve,” Dotres added.

The previous leadership under de la Portilla had controversially sidelined the original expansion plan of I-Prep Academy. Investigations revealed his intentions to reroute the public school expansion in favor of a recreational complex for a nearby private school, Center Academy. This decision came after he had allegedly begun receiving undisclosed payments from the institution, as detailed by FDLE special agents on his arrest form.

In a move toward transparency and due diligence, Covo reassured the public that current operations and past decisions are under careful scrutiny. “I think it is important that (parents) know that we are auditing this action and many others that were happening at the Omni CRA,” she said. While acknowledging the time-sensitive nature of these developments, she reaffirmed the commitment shared between the school board and the Omni CRA to prioritize this project due to its substantial community impact.

The city of Miami, currently in a phase of recovery and realignment, anticipates positive outcomes from these reinvigorated efforts, aiming for a future where education and housing are accessible to all community members.