While tourists from all over the world eagerly come to Little Havana in appreciation of its unique cultural identity, a group of PR-wise investors are more focused on converting it into a “signature neighborhood,” failing to appreciate that it already is.
Their goal is to rapidly push through an amendment to Miami21 on Jan. 22 that will change the current T-4 zoning of East Little Havana into T5. This will greatly increase the density of the area and will turn it into an approaching microcopy of Brickell Avenue.
Meanwhile those living in Little Havana have no clue that on Jan. 22, in Miami City Hall their destiny will be decided. Approximately 98 percent of the residents of Little Havana are Spanish-speaking. Have any Spanish newspapers or Spanish radio stations adequately picked up the story or been asked to send out a public-service announcement? Sadly, Little Havana locals are easy prey to investor exploitation. They belong to one of the poorest communities in Miami, have limited or no English skills and many don’t have voting rights.
Increased density in Little Havana ultimately will destroy its unique cultural identity and wipe out its historic value. It appears as if politicians may be following the game plan of major investors in order to boost the economy by obtaining increased property taxes. But in the long run the proposal is unsustainable because of the burden that higher density will cause on city services.
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It seems as if our politicians may decide to ignore the fact that although in their eyes Little Havana is a slum, in the eyes of those who live there it is their home. Who has asked them if this is what they want for their neighborhood? The community of mostly immigrants once again has been ignored while the economic “benefactors” make all the decisions.
Perhaps if the community were asked they would learn that
- Little Havana has the lowest number of public parks per capita than any other neighborhood.
- This is a community for start-up mom and pop businesses, not high-rises.
- Little Havana has a unique blend of architectural and cultural value making it one of Miami’s few living history museums.
- The community would prefer investments in increased tree canopy rather than increased structural density.
- Little Havana wants protection from over development, and high-density intrusion
- Empirical data has proven that increased structural density in low-income neighborhoods leads to increased crime.
If our politicians listen to those that live in Little Havana, rather than to those who merely seek personal economic benefit, they might learn that Little Havana is a home to many rather than an investment opportunity for a few.
New urbanists, investors, and politicians may say it’s all in the name of progress and modernization, but I wonder what would have become of Venice had that same mentality been applied. Let’s choose to protect Little Havana and derail high density.
Marta L. Zayas, Miami