A long-delayed community hub for a historically black Coral Gables community is now open, its completion celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Members of the Lola B. Walker Homeowners Foundation and city leaders gathered Saturday for the opening of a community center that will be part of the Bahamian Village development.
The project was first approved in 2005, but plans for the center go as far back as 2000. The center, at 218 Florida Ave., has been delayed primarily due to lawsuits and complications between Miami-Dade County, the city and the developer, Bahamian Village LLC.
“Due to one snag after another, whether it was the county or partners that were supposed to be involved, it became even more convoluted. It seemed like it would never come to fruition,” Commissioner Vince Lago said.
Bahamian Village is named as a tribute to the Bahamians who helped develop and build Coral Gables and eventually settled in the city’s MacFarlane Homestead Historic District, which is just east of U.S. 1 and is bordered by Grand Avenue and Brooker Street.
Leona Cooper, a lifelong resident and activist in the district, said she’s pleased to see the center finally come together after nearly two decades of work.
“I’m glad I’m here to enjoy it,” Cooper said. “The setbacks we had from the county and the city didn’t stop us.”
Bahamian Village eventually will contain commercial development, and Cooper said the community plans to set up programming like computer training and help with job placement for that commercial development.
“The people who built this city lived there and their ancestors continue to live in that neighborhood. It’s critical that we don’t forget that,” Lago said.
A lawsuit between Bahamian Village and the county, filed in July 2015, is still open but City Attorney Craig Leen said the parties are close to a settlement agreement. Coral Gables chose to intervene in the lawsuit in December 2015 after the Lola B. Walker Homeowners Association became a party in the lawsuit. In March 2016 the parties agreed to delay any action on the lawsuit until a settlement could be reached.
“We’re very close to a resolution of the matter,” Leen said.
Even though Cooper recognizes that she and her fellow homeowners have work to do, she’s happy that she was able to see the milestone.
“Some things, if they’re meant to be they happen, and I’m glad we didn’t give up,” Cooper said.