Miami-Dade’s Puerto Rican residents may get a community center in the historically Boricua Wynwood neighborhood. The County’s Economic Prosperity Committee is considering a proposal on Thursday to exchange county property for private land owned by real estate developer Moishe Mana. If approved by the committee, the proposal will go to a full vote by the county commission later this year.
Under the proposed deal, the county would swap four parcels of vacant land for two private plots currently held by Mana’s company, Mapton Holdings. Mapton would also build a three-story County facility, at a minimum cost of $7.37 million, to house a Puerto Rican Community Center and government offices.
County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who represents Wynwood, sponsored the land swap resolution on the condition that it include a community center for Puerto Ricans “because they are without one."
"All ethnic groups should be able to have their community centers as well as be able to utilize it for community purposes,” she said.
Before becoming Miami's hub for for street art and trendy businesses, Wynwood housed a large Puerto Rican community. Edmonson and others say it still does.
“All you have to do is start driving down the side streets, where you have homes and duplexes… you still have a real high and heavy Puerto Rican community there,” said Edmonson.
Luis De la Rosa is president of the local Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, which will manage the center once it’s built. De la Rosa says the community center will be a powerful institution for supporting Puerto Rican artists, small businesses, young people, and seniors.
“You know, culture and arts means business, not only for Miami-Dade County, but for the community at large,” said De la Rosa. “We want to be able to provide that to our constituents.”
De la Rosa says he has been asking for a community center since 2004. In 2008, the County awarded the Chamber $2.5 million from General Obligation Bonds to build the center, but the Chamber was unable to secure the necessary matching funds to get the project going. Now, finally, he says, Puerto Ricans will have a place of their own, just like the Cubans, Haitians, and others.
“It’s really exciting, you have no idea,” he said. “I’m having a hard time sleeping.”