A circus impresario is bringing his big-show smarts to Little Haiti.
Guy Laliberté, the Canadian businessman who founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984 and sold it 30 years later for $1.5 billion, has become a creative and capital partner in the Magic City Innovation District.
The 17-acre mixed-use development, announced last year, intends to draw technology, arts and entertainment enterprises to create a walkable, campus-like neighborhood in the Little Haiti and Little River areas of Miami.
“It’s about reimagining the urban fabric and reimagining neighborhoods,” said Tony Cho, CEO of Metro 1, the real estate development firm that’s one of the four partners collaborating on the project.
Cho said Laliberté’s current company, the Montreal-based Lune Rouge, will spearhead the design and development of a “pop-up theme park” located on the former site of the Magic City Trailer Park at 6001 NE Second Ave. The adjacent DuPuis building, a Miami historical landmark, will also be part of the park.
The other two Miami-based firms collaborating on the innovation district are Plaza Equity Partners and Dragon Global.
“There are very few people who have accomplished what Guy has accomplished,” said Neil Fairman of Plaza Equity Partners. “He carries a great credibility in the entertainment and technology worlds because of what he’s done. That’s very important to us here in Miami.”
In a statement, Laliberté , 58, said “Magic City is an opportunity for us to put all our creativity to the service of entertainment and new technologies. This collaboration will allow us to explore new forms of entertainment and make available multimedia and interactive installations adapted to future Magic City residents and visitors.”
Innovation districts are typically comprised of a group of tech companies, public spaces and restaurant/hospitality businesses located within the same walkable neighborhood.
Cho said he hopes the pop-up park will be a “catalyst for a huge economic engine for the entire neighborhood,” where property values have been creeping up. According to the Miami New Times, rents in Little Haiti spiked 13 percent in the third quarter of 2017, with the median one-bedroom monthly rent reaching $1,300.
To address concerns of gentrification, Cho said the project has also launched the Magic City Innovation District Foundation, a charitable fund to help nurture the economic and social prosperity of Little Haiti residents.
“This is really a neighborhood revitalization project, and we want to see a diverse group of people benefit from it,” Cho said. “We’ve been very active in the community and have spent time talking with the people who live and work here. We’re going to do our darndest to make a positive impact and help as many people as we can through this whole development process.”