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Miami Approves Joint Plan To Develop Historic Overtown Neighborhood

Creative Commons via Flickr / Shawn Walton

After a period of economic decline, Miami's Overtown is getting a booster shot.

On Thursday, the city's Southeast Overtown / Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) approved a joint plan that would cede two city blocks to a team of developers in the hopes of rejuvenating a stretch of land in one of Miami's core neighborhoods.

Overtown is an historically Black neighborhood near downtown that was once a hub for the Black entertainment industry. In the 1930s and 1940s, stars like Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald would perform in Miami Beach but then overnight in Overtown because of their skin color.

Given its historic importance to not only the neighborhood's current residents, but also to the narrative of Black history in Miami, some residents have asked that the city set the land aside.

But the CRA solicited redevelopment proposals in June for two blocks between NW 6th and 8th Streets on NW 2nd Ave. After weighing the three submissions they received, a review committee awarded the highest evaluation to R. Donahue Peebles' 'Overtown Gateway' plan.

Peebles is one of the most successful Black developers in the country, and that's why some suggest there is less controversy than previous redevelopment projects.

CRA objectives for the redevelopment include jobs and affordable housing for Overtown residents.

The Overtown Gateway design would construct a complex of two, 30-foot towers incorporating a 150-room hotel and 670 rental apartments. Sixty of those apartments will reportedly meet criteria for affordable housing. It will also have 160,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Notes From The Commission Meeting

In an unusual move, Chairwoman Spence Jones moved to recess the commission meeting to see if the two top bidders could draft a plan to combine their two proposals and work together on the project. She asked the two to use the time to negotiate some sort of collaboration.

"We like both proposals and its not unusual for both proposers to come together," said Jones. "There are two separate lots, so then figure out a way to make it work out. I think both sides bring a lot of value to the community."

After almost a three-hour recess, the combined team of developers presented a joint plan and the motion to approve passed 4-to-1. The two teams will split the two-block parcel of land, one block apiece. They will operate as individual entities but would work together on the overlapping portions of the parcel.

Spence Jones’ final say on the matter was a request that there be another community hearing during which the developers present their joint plan. She hopes this will quell continuing concern that any development in the Overtown neighborhood will result in gentrification that pushes current residents out.