Across America, there is renaissance happening in urban communities.
Families that fled to the suburbs are coming back. A higher cost of living and a desire to live near work and culture have increased the value of real estate. The best food, most fun and hippest people are moving closer to the core of the city. Yes, the “inner city” has become fashionable. Again.
Fortunately, black communities are geographically well positioned. Whether it’s Overtown and Liberty City in Miami-Dade County, Harlem and Brooklyn in New York City, Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills and South Central in Los Angeles or Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston, “we” never left town.
Instead of being mad at gentrification, black residents should lean in and become part of it, that way they have a seat at the table, the inevitable table that magically appears when there is money to be made in urban neighborhoods.
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Spike Lee wasn’t wrong when he went on his tirade about New York’s gentrification, but if we can see the wave coming and wedge our way inside the conversation, then we can influence the outcome and make the kind of money that changes generations by building businesses, creating jobs and leaving legacies.
Case in point: Overtown. Think about it. To the south of Overtown sits the bustling financial district where most of Miami’s money breeds and multiplies. To the north, Wynwood, the hottest, most creative ’hood in Miami has oodles of art, curiosity and glitterati popping out of its seams.
To the east, the water, there’s Museum Park `and the striking Pérez Art Museum Miami. To the west, easy access to Interstate 95. And juxtaposed, like a sitting duck in the middle of this hodge-podge of moneyed situations is Overtown, a community with an average household income of $14,000, with 90 percent of the residents as renters. This is an “accident waiting to happen.” It’s prime real estate, so it’s going to be gentrified one way or the other. People who don’t deserve to be displaced will be. This is an inevitability.
So why not chose to participate in the process, minimizing the damage, instead of complaining on the sidelines?
Imagine,10 years from now, Miami visitors having a different experience as they take a cultural tour-on-the-go. They visit Village West in the Grove and take in the black art scene, while listening to jazz streaming through the streets. They feel the energy as they pass through the Gateway to enjoy a show at the Lyric Theater and the lively dinner scene in historic Overtown.
They head “uptown” and learn how the block-by-block initiatives by people who cared made an important difference in the lives of children and families in Liberty City. They circle through neighborhoods that remind them of the Caribbean as they travel Little Haiti, El Portal, Miami Shores and North Miami.
They go northwest to Miami Gardens and groove to Jazz in the Gardens, the city’s signature jazz festival, then travel a few miles to experience the architectural phenomenon of Moroccan influence in Opa-locka, the new mecca for artistic endeavors. They pause and reflect about how the black community did not miss the gold mine in real estate right under its nose. Not this time.
They made good use of the information, proximity and access they had to the No. 1 indicator of real estate profit; location, location, location. The ’hood is where it’s at.
Let’s open our eyes and not miss the huge wealth-building opportunities in Miami. Let’s accept that none of us knows everything, but all of us know a lot. Let’s collaborate and recycle our resources — our wisdom, work and wealth.
Let’s buy, renovate, develop, build, negotiate, refinance, rebuild credit, hire, train, partner, support, push for our fair share. And, most of all, let’s trust each other. We can make better decisions so that our legacy will be that we gained from the rise in the real estate market that was bursting at the seams in 2016.
Teri Williams is president and COO of OneUnited Bank.