B-CU/MLK Lofts deal gone bad irks alumni, Midtown residents
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University is under fire again for another building project.
Heron Development Group LTD has filed a lawsuit against the university for $1 million, stating that B-CU backed out of a deal for a student housing facility in Midtown.
MLK Lofts is the planned development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which calls for an upscale high-rise, three-story living facility between Cherry and El Dorado Streets.
The project was introduced to the community as an upscale high-rise with the average rent at $1,700 a month. A deal with B-CU changed it to housing for students.
It was projected that B-CU would make up to $45 million over 30 years by renting the building to students.
Documents show that former President Edison Jackson signed an agreement for a six-story, 290-bed apartment in July 2015 as well as a letter of intent last June.
The lawsuit states that there was no mention of B-CU being involved in the original plans for the project when it was first presented to the community.
The City of Daytona Beach approved millions of dollars in street improvements and property tax breaks. City officials, however, say they were not told that the apartments would be used for student housing.
It also was reported that B-CU’s Board of Trustees had no knowledge of the MLK Lofts deal and wasn’t presented with information on it.
‘Sad and unbelievable’
B-CU alumni and residents had harsh comments about the deal gone bad.
“Our institution has NEVER had accusations of unethical behaviors of this magnitude. I am disappointed by those local consultants and others that ushered this misled project before the commission. This is a wake-up call to all alumni. We have a vested interest in the survival of Mother Mary’s college…. We are Mary’s babies! It’s time to engage, pay dues, attend alumni meetings and take our rightful place at the table,” exclaimed Zone 6 City Commissioner Paula Reed, a B-CU alumna.
“The B-CU and MLK Lofts agreement is very sad and unbelievable. The contractor should be suing Dr. Edison Jackson and others not the school. The contract negotiator was very misleading and blatantly lied about the inception and intentions of this development for MLK and Zone 6 area,” said B-CU alum Tony Servance.
“The FBI should set up a pop-up office on MLK and investigate into fraud and corruption in the Daytona Beach area,’’ he added.
‘Misled and lied to’
Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP and another B-CU alum, wants answers.
“I believe the community was misled and lied to about these apartments, although I knew it wasn’t realistic to build a living facility in this area with a monthly rent over $1,000,” she related.
“There were people who were part of these lies who knew fully that these apartments were being built for B-CU students. How could the city be so open to give contractors millions to invest in one area of MLK when the entire Black community needs financial investment? We need answers,” she added.
Barbara Young, 83, has lived on El Dorado near the proposed site for the past 14 years. Young said she was twice approached about selling her home.
“I was told that there are two different situations with MLK Lofts and dorms on campus, and people in the community have them mixed up. We had meetings in the past,” she told the Times.
“They first wanted to buy property for a football field. We didn’t need it. It died. Then meetings came about the housing development. They asked me to sell my home both times. I told them that I wasn’t going to. Nobody is going to give a person my age a loan to buy a house. It’s best to keep what I have. We were told that they aren’t coming back this way.”
‘Out of my hands’
Sam Ferguson sold the Safari Lounge, a popular nightspot on MLK Boulevard, last year. The Safari Lounge and some other older homes in the area are supposed to be torn down for the site.
Ferguson told the Times, “If the project goes on, it’s fine with me. If it doesn’t, it is fine with me. It’s out of my hands. I sold it for the betterment of the community.”
But Young is worried about the effects on her nearby home.
She said, “They didn’t mention Bethune-Cookman originally at all. The only thing that worries me is that they keep up the property. When the weather warms up, then all the rodents, snakes and other critters will make their way to our homes. The grass is high over there,” she added.