Little Haiti on the cusp of big changes

LITTLE HAITI: The Caribbean Marketplace is one of the cultural and economic landmarks of Little Haiti.
LITTLE HAITI: The Caribbean Marketplace is one of the cultural and economic landmarks of Little Haiti. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Miami is the epitome of a melting pot with the weather of the Caribbean. However, Miami is not just South Beach. There are so many cultures to explore, and that is the true beauty of this city.

Each culture has formed an enclave welcoming fellow countrymen from their homeland and providing an ethnic experience to locals. Year after year, Miami is growing in the development of urban areas. Annual events such as Art Basel and Ultra are putting Miami on the map for its art, music and culture.

Miami has now begun to establish and brand itself as a comprehensive destination. This is just the beginning. The question for our group is how to find a way for Little Haiti to participate in the next phase of development while ensuring we maintain our ethnic diversity.

The primary focus of Northeast Second Avenue Partnership (NE2P) is the revitalization of the Little Haiti community. Therefore, we have been diligently working on addressing the key issues needed for comprehensive revitalization and economic growth in the area. To do this, we have researched various models, from the Harlem Renaissance to local areas such as Overtown, Wynwood and others to create and implement a plan to rebuild.

Taking a cue from these examples, NE2P has built strong partnerships with city and county commissioners to develop a plan for Little Haiti.

Usually, gentrification has a negative connotation of displacing locals and residents, but it is NE2P’s goal to make it possible for current business/property owners and residents in Little Haiti to capitalize on these changes, rather than being displaced by them.

Because of the development of neighboring areas, including Wynwood, the Design District and Midtown, it is inevitable that this change will eventually reach Little Haiti. The movement has begun, with the influx of artists seeking studio space in the area. Already a vibrant community, Little Haiti has the potential to be the ultimate authentic Haitian cultural experience. Therefore, preparation is key to surviving the change and capitalizing on the growth of tourism in Miami.

In other words, NE2P is attempting to revitalize the area while preserving authentic Haitian culture, art and history — and the people who produce them.

The next challenge is organizing a fragmented community. Over the past few years, more diverse residents and businesses have moved into the neighborhood. The mix of those already established with newcomers to the community, NE2P believes, will increase the potential of Little Haiti to be the next hot spot of Miami, similar to the growth seen in Wynwood.

This was the main catalyst for our Little Haiti Small Business Association. NE2P hopes this association will become the mechanism that advocates for better services, offers collaboration on solutions, and implements a comprehensive plan for the community. Our role is merely to facilitate the growth of building a strong bond among the community stakeholders and presenting a way to capitalize on Haitian culture, which can increase economic opportunity.

Along these lines, NE2P has already begun to brand Little Haiti as a designation by providing cultural tours of the area, as well as providing Little Haiti street banners and decorative trash bins, and working with various city and state agencies for Little Haiti to be included in tourist guides and manuals.

Little Haiti is on the cusp of some huge changes — all which can be positive for the Haitian community if we are prepared and united for it. And I know NE2P will play a central role in these developments.

Joann Milord is director of the Northeast Second Avenue Partnership. The group’s next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. this evening (Nov. 12) at the Caribbean Marketplace, 5925 NE Second Ave.