Back in December 2013, when I first moved to Miami, my mother cautioned me to stay away from the neighborhoods that appeared on her favorite show—First48. She said “Do you live anywhere near the ‘Poke and Beans?’” her voice littered with genuine concern. I laughed and assured her that my new South Florida life was (begrudgingly) miles away from the inner-city areas of Dade County. And eventually, I came to realize that while “The Beans” may be riddled with crime and danger, it’s mostly just filled with loving people and amazing youth who are trying to find a way to survive and thrive. How ever they go about it, they just want to not be on the short end of the proverbial stick anymore. And after two years in Miami, it is becoming obvious that whatever tragedies have plagued Liberty Square (the given name of “the beans”), will soon be the stuff of Urban Legend.
Urban Revitalization, which some would argue cannot be separated from gentrification, is quite literally painting the town. Formally declining areas of Miami such as Coconut Grove, Overtown, and Edgewater are examples of the results of this process. Love it, or hate it, developers are coming into Miami’s economically declining areas and doing what they do best—developing and making loads of money. This means some people will be moved out and some people will be moved in. Some businesses will be bought out and some businesses will buy in. Opinions aside, small business owners need to know what they can do when the big dogs come in ready to build high rises around their once hidden treasures. As the story of your business unfolds, the changes taking place in your neighborhood are incredibly relevant to your narrative.
Who Is In Charge of Urban Renewal?
In other parts of the country, programs in place in efforts to protect the interests of small business owners (i.e. East Boston’s Main Streets Program). In Miami-Dade County, low income areas are assessed and, upon completion of a “Finding of Necessity” Report, CRA’s (Community Redevelopment Agencies) are put in charge of particular areas to usher in a wave of sustainable prosperity and revitalization. You can find the report for your area of town HERE. Ultimately, the goals of each CRA vary per the needs of their service area, but always impact the property owners and business owners in the neighborhoods. If you are a nonprofit servicing a particular region, your services also have the potential to be largely effected as a CRA hits its goals.
So, what can you do?
First, it is important to actively plug into your community. If you’re a small business owner who has set up shop in one area, but lives in another, both of those spaces are still YOUR community. Be aware of what is going on. First, understand if you’re area is on the list of Approved or Proposed Redevelopment Areas. If so, find out the dates and times of your local CRA Meetings, and send someone from your team or attend yourself. If you cannot make the meetings, get the minutes or watch the videos (they are on your CRA’s website). And find out how you can get a seat on a CRA. Your goal here is to make sure that while the CRAs are designed to lift “slum and blighted” areas out of poverty, they make decisions that are fully mindful of the residents and businesses currently in place.
Secondly, and you will find this to be a recurring theme with our posts at Jali, build relationships. Be aware of who YOUR Elected Officials are (you voted for them, they work for you), and if they visit your business give them an experience they’ll never forget (like we hope you’re doing for all of your customers). Get to know your district’s decision-makers and help them get to know you. If you don’t know your district, or your Commissioner, they have a convenient search feature on the Board of Commissioner’s homepage that allows you to put in your address and find out who’s who. Click HERE for that!
Thirdly, check out sources of funding that could help you keep your business financially stable as property values rise and the big chains move in. Programs such as the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant, are available and designed to establish a partnership between the county and local business owners. Review the requirements, and if you’ve missed the deadline for your district, put it on your list of to do’s next year!
Ultimately, as a small business or nonprofit, it is your job to not only continue to provide stellar service, but to also protect the investment you have in your neighborhood. But how can you protect it if you feel powerless? As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and with that in mind it is important to do your best to understand what is taking place in your city.
The organization that plans for the wave of change, will not be blindsided and left out to dry once the tide rolls away.