"MIAMI-DADE Published Thursday, August 31, 2000,
in the Miami Herald"
"Developer Revitalizes West Grove Neighborhood"
By Charles Rabin
Five years ago, Monteca Stone-Rahming was driving along Charles Avenue in the
West Grove, when she noticed a sign in front of new home that read: ``Why
rent, when you can own?''
Today, thanks to the city of Miami-run federal Affordable Housing Program, and builder Andy Parrish, Stone-Rahming owns that very home.
``I feel proud I'm not paying rent to anyone,'' said Stone-Rahming, 52, a part-time out-patient worker at Mount Sinai Hospital. ``I wish everybody had the same opportunity.''
Some do. So far, about 11 other families have bought West Grove homes built by Parrish, and many more soon may be able to thanks in part to the housing program that gives first-time home buyers financial help and incentives. Parrish, 52, one of the very few builders in the West Grove, just opened an office on a tiny strip of Grand Avenue's west end.
The green and white two-story structure with its large picket-fence veranda was built in the mold of a famous Barbados plantation home Parrish saw in a book.
He says it is the first commercial building constructed on Grand west of McDonald Street in 40 years.
``I really think if we're going to be a successful community we can't have a few people owning everything,'' said Parrish, a Grove resident who refers to himself as a reformed tax attorney. ``I think people need a shot at the American Dream.''
The importance of his presence in the West Grove can not be understated, said Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton.
``Any new business we can generate on Grand is a big plus,'' Winton said. ``And in this neighborhood, for Andy to be there, it's a big deal.'' Parrish bought the property at 145 Grand Ave. three years ago for $2 a square foot. Four other commercial properties directly to the east have been scooped up since then for about $12 per square foot.
Proof, Parrish says, that people are beginning to take a peek at the neighborhood -- a neighborhood lifeless for years.
``It's because of all the drug dealing,'' he said. ``They'll be forced out eventually.''
He then tells the story of Cheryl Ogletree, a low-income mother who bought the first home he built on Frow Avenue five years ago. He was having trouble finding an interested buyer, he said, because it was next door to a popular crack den. Every time he brought someone by, a dealer would come out and try to sell dope.
With a push from Ogletree's family, city officials were eventually able to close the crack house. Parrish recently bought the home in foreclosure. Ogletree's cousin is buying it.
Parrish's partner is Mario Benitez, whose NJM Builders and Devon Construction occupies about two-thirds of the Grand Avenue building. Parrish buys, Benitez builds -- and the neighborhood prospers.
``We think this community's time has come,'' Parrish said.
``And I've had more fun doing this than anything I've done in my entire life.''