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If you live here in Little Havana, maybe you are concerned about rents increasing so much that you can no longer afford to live there. Maybe you’re worried about the loss of historic buildings and the stories and memories they are a part of. You might worry that Little Havana is starting to look like “West Brickell,” with buildings that seem completely out of touch with the history and feel of this special place.

If you care about these topics, it is important that you know about “Little Havana Me Importa: The Revitalization Master Plan Building a healthy, equitable, and resilient community.” This plan was just released last month in June, and it has been years in the making. Residents like you helped to make it possible. The plan is like a roadmap. It offers clear steps for how to achieve a healthy and vital Little Havana that serves the needs of residents. By implementing these steps in a coordinated way, we can realize this vision for the future.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with local planning firm PlusUrbia Design, wrote the plan with the support of multiple partners. All their recommendations are based on listening to residents and other stakeholders and hearing their (our) concerns. In fact, more than 2,700 community members contributed to the plan: at least 1,500 at workshops and 1,200 by survey! Multiple focus groups and community workshops took places at locations such as Miami-Dade College InterAmerican Campus, Miami Senior High School, San Juan Bosco Leadership Learning Center, Brisas del Mar Community, Citrus Grove Elementary, Robert King High Towers Community, and Acción Community Resource Center.

The plan identifies some of the specific problems we face here in Little Havana, but it also proposes solutions. For example, as you may know, Little Havana has a lot of apartment buildings that have become dangerous to tenants because the owners are not making necessary repairs. We also have vacant lots that attract trash and become unsafe to walk by at night. Owners are waiting to sell these properties, but meanwhile the neighborhood and its residents suffer. The plan offers specific steps for dealing with these and other issues.

Did you know that by building on its vacant land, Little Havana could “add more residents, more jobs, and more businesses, without losing a single building,” according to the plan? We have 4,600,000 square feet of space on which to build new units (the same as about seven Marlins Parks). Imagine Little Havana with smaller, affordable units, and where it is very easy to get around by walking, biking or using public transportation. The plan even includes steps for dealing with the increased flooding from sea level rise. It also addresses a topic mentioned by many residents: our lack of park space. Did you know that only 1.6 percent of Little Havana’s total land is dedicated to open space?

Imagine better access to the Miami River, and more trees! Imagine better recreation opportunities in our local parks. Imagine not losing your favorite mom-and-pop shop. Imagine sidewalks that are comfortable to walk along, even for a person with a cane or wheelchair. And imagine being able to afford staying in the neighborhood, which has not lost its “soul.”

Who should implement the recommendations for the plan? Public agencies, non-profit groups, private corporations, and local foundations will be coming together to put the steps into action. They will continue to interact with residents so we can stay involved and informed. You can also support the plan by urging our local leaders to support the plan so all of us can benefit from the results. Wanna learn more and see the plan yourself? Click here.

Corinna Moebius

[email protected]