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As it turns out there are a couple of things going on simultaneously with our famous Calle Ocho.
For starters companies like Plusurbia are getting involved with the rebuilding and remodeling of the commercial spaces on Calle Ocho. Dade Heritage Trust is a partner in the National Treasure designation of Little Havana. They are ensuring that the historic preservation is part of the future Little Havana and Calle Ocho. Lastly, the FDOT (Federal Department of Transportation) has funded a project that is still in the planning and study phase to enhance the area and make it more visitor friendly as well as ease traffic to and from Brickell.
It was only a matter of time before Calle Ocho began stirring things up in the planning sector. High density high rise developments are to thank for the increased attention being given to the area by many. On August 31st the FDOT held a meeting at the Interamerican Campus of Miami Dade College where commissioner Barreiro, The Project Advisory Board, community members and County officials came together to continue sharing the pros and cons of the possible scenarios being discussed. The project is still in the study phase where they are taking public input on the best and possible outcomes.
The study is being conducted is to analyze the potential physical, operational and safety needs of the project corridor, including the Interstate 95 (I-95) interchange at SW 8th Street and SW 7th Street. The improvements spoken of are being developed to enhance traffic operations, promote safety, provide a multi-modal and pedestrian friendly corridor, and provide better access to the Brickell area. The project area extends from SR 9/SW 27th Avenue to SR 5/US 1/Brickell Avenue.
The pros and cons to the project are numerous but there are very pressing matters at hand for local small businesses struggling to stay alive. Members of the Project Advisory Boards whom are also business owners shared their concerns in an open forum. They wanted to know why there has been so much “breaking instead of fixing”. They expressed concerns about operations during potential construction and having their business being accessible during business hours. They expressed that they would like the FDOT to do a better job at assigning worker hours so that the businesses in these areas are not affected by construction like is currently happening on Flagler. The FDOT was very cooperative on that aspect. These business owners have very real concerns and their livelihood is at stake. They wonder if these improvements will be the cause to the effect of raising rents that is impending upon them being that this section of little Havana is in the process of making more history. As it is right now, there is a struggle between the people that want Calle Ocho to look and be a certain way in 5 years and with the current business owners who are for the most part not embracing change. If it is indeed a matter of “out with the old and in with the new” then there will be a lot of growing pains that the people of Calle Ocho will endure. There will be many sad stories and heartbreaking tales but in the end Calle 8 will always be Calle 8.
There is no doubt that the area of Calle Ocho is special and that it will thrive. For those of us that grew up here but came from Cuban decent we know what is and what is not representative of our culture. I would say that there is a lot on display on Calle Ocho that is not representative of our culture. I commend the FDOT for their involvement and I look forward to hearing and seeing the changes being spoken of take place. I think it is time that we made Calle Ocho what it is really intended to be. A inviting, fun, safe, place to gather and explore. Tourist flock to the area to get a taste of the famous cortadito, or to purchase an elegant guayabera because the Latin feel and taste are like non-other. It is genuine, it is warm, it is fun and it is inviting.
Rosi Rosell Rodriguez for Calle Ocho News