The billion-dollar Magic City Innovation District is coming to Little Haiti. But what the heck is it?

Artist rendering of the NE Third Avenue entrance of the Magic City Innovation District development in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
Artist rendering of the NE Third Avenue entrance of the Magic City Innovation District development in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

Big changes may be coming to Little Haiti.

The Miami City Commission will vote this Thursday on a billion-dollar real estate project in Little Haiti. The Magic City Innovation District, which will be headquartered at 6001 NE Second Avenue, is a massive development  projected to take 10 to 15 years to complete. Its developers hope it will propel the Little Haiti area into an international draw for tourists, creatives and tech companies according to proponents.

City commissioners will vote on a first round of approvals of the project on Sept. 27. If it passes, the project must win a second approval at a later date.

Read More: Massive ‘Innovation District’ could change Little Haiti forever. But what would that mean?

The Magic City Innovation District is the latest — and arguably most transformative — major real estate development proposed within Miami’s urban corridor east of I-95. The project is a sprawl of residential, commercial, office, research and entertainment spaces spread out over 17 acres. It will incorporate everything from residential to commercial spaces, parks to offices, a train station and even a tourist attraction conceived by the founder of Cirque du Soleil. The project follows several large-scale developments in Brickell, Wynwood and the Design District that have hastened Miami’s transformation into a global hub while worsening its affordability crisis and income gap.

But the developers behind the Magic City Innovation District insist they want to honor and propel one of Miami-Dade’s most impoverished neighborhoods, not replace it.

“The entire Magic City Innovation District only takes up one and a half percent of all of Little Haiti,” said Neil Fairman, chairman of Plaza Equity Partners, one of the three Miami-based firms behind the project. “It doesn’t take up 10 or 20 percent. But it can actually activate a large portion of the neighborhood around it and allow people to have jobs here. It can be the engine that pulls the Little Haiti train. The social fabric of the community is already strong. The idea is not to rip the culture away from this area. The idea is to enhance the culture.”

The Magic City Innovation District stretches between Northeast Second Avenue east to Northeast Fourth Court/Florida East Coast Railway and Northeast 63rd Street south to Northeast 60th Street. The development spreads out over a total of seven city blocks and, when completed, will consist of:

▪ 2,630 residential units, with 14 percent designated as workforce housing and 7 percent as affordable housing, with the tallest building rising 25 stories;

▪ 432 hotel rooms;

▪ Two million square feet of office space and more than 340,000 square feet of retail;

Artist rendering of the NE Third Avenue entrance of the Magic City Innovation District development in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

▪ 5,690 garage parking spaces;

▪ Nearly four acres of open space, including a pop-up theme park, featuring multimedia and interactive installations, designed by Lune Rouge, the Montreal-based company owned by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, who joined the Magic City project in April 2017.

Artist rendering of the NE Second Avenue entrance and the DuPuis building at the Magic City Innovation District development in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

“We intend to contribute to the economic vitality of the area and enhance the community while preserving and celebrating the rich culture of Little Haiti,” Laliberté said in an email to the Miami Herald. “The idea is to collaborate and share a common sense of the project. Magic City Innovation District is a unifying project that has launched several initiatives to be inclusive and accessible to everyone.”

The other partners in the project are Tony Cho, founder and CEO of Metro 1, and Bob Zangrillo, founder and CEO of Dragon Global.

The Magic City Innovation District will be built across 33 parcels of abutting land that are either vacant or occupied by decaying warehouses. No residents or existing businesses will be displaced by the project, the partners said. The “Magic City” name comes from the historic trailer park at Northeast 60th Street and Second Avenue that opened in 1929 as a tourist court and closed for good in 2015. Many of the live oaks and other native trees growing on the former trailer-park land will be preserved and relocated within the development.

The developers want to preserve other historical aspects of the community as well. The DuPuis Medical Office and Drug Store at 6041 NE Second Ave. — a historical landmark built by Lemon City pioneer Dr. John G. DuPuis in 1903 — will be incorporated into the western side of the project. Plans for the Magic City project include the future construction of a passenger/commuter rail station on the site of the former Florida East Coast Railway train stop on Northeast 62nd Street.