Little Haiti ‘will probably end up looking like another Midtown’

We’re spending this month making the city’s movers and shakers nail down some resolutions and predictions for their work in 2017. This week we’re talking development and neighborhood change. You can see all of the resolutions here.

Joann Milord is the executive director of the N.E. 2nd Avenue Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to branding and preserving Little Haiti and developing the economy of the neighborhood. 

How would you sum up where Little Haiti stands at the outset of 2017?

We’re watching what happens. We have these major projects that are coming along as far as the Design Place project and the Magic City project. We see these mega-developments are coming into the neighborhood and are going to forever change the face of Little Haiti.

I think the neighborhood will probably end up looking like another Midtown or other kind of new development project. I don’t think it will have the same character. I think the essence of the Haitian culture is slowly being erased. Definitely the Haitians are currently being forced out. The commercial gentrification is happening at such a rapid rate, its visibly affecting the residential areas as well.

What do you think will be the outcome of these talks between developers and community members?

I think that the dialogue is important and it really does need to continue. We need to fight toward more of an integration instead of this gentrification that’s happening. I hope that the dialogue continues.

I don’t know how much, really, we can control what happens on private property, but we do have to at least look at the opportunity as far as community benefits and community reinvestment dollars to see how we can preserve what we have left… and how we can continue to uplift the businesses that have survived so far and strengthen the local economy.

How will that tension between gentrification and development be addressed?

Our cultural neighborhoods – Little Haiti is just one – these cultural neighborhoods are really what makes Miami special and different, that we have these pockets of cultural enclaves that so richen culture and identity. We need to salvage that. If not, we’re going to be just this modern city with commercial and residential areas without our flare.

I think that’s a bad thing for Miami. As far as the tensions are concerned… if developers look at what makes this neighborhood different, what makes it special… ask “How is this Design Place project going to be different from Design District, from Midtown?”

The culture of the neighborhood should be taken into account for them to realize this is how we’re going to differentiate ourselves from different neighborhoods in Miami or other developments.

I just hope that within the next year that the community and developers are able to come together… the ultimate common goal is to have a thriving, vibrant neighborhood. I think theres no other place outside Haiti that has such great representation of the Haitian culture.

There is something to preserve. I think we over the last few years Little Haiti has been in the news a lot in regards to cultural events, cultural activities. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau has taken an interest in Little Haiti. The artists, the murals, it really does have its own flare, it’s own flavor. It’s going to continue, I think.