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|Sujet: Little Haiti shops getting Caribbean makeover Dim 28 Déc 2008 - 1:04|| |
Posted on Fri, Dec. 26, 2008
Little Haiti shops getting Caribbean makeover
BY LAZARO FRAGA
The deteriorated facade of six small businesses on Northeast Second Avenue in Little Haiti will receive a Caribbean makeover.
The shops' rusty iron bars, broken windows and worn facades will be replaced with impact-resistant windows, brightly colored walls, and uniform awnings and signage from a $225,315 grant.
''Today is a happy day for me,'' said Jan Mapou, owner of Libreri Mapou, a Haitian bookstore that will benefit from the improvements. ``This project is dragging since 1997. I'm very happy to see everything taking place.''
Miami officials announced the details of the program Dec. 3.
Officials expect the upgrades to the small businesses on the block between Northeast 59th Street and 59th Terrace to be completed by April, soon after the February opening of the adjacent $36.9 million soccer park and cultural complex.
Mapou hopes the project will help link Little Haiti's struggling commercial strip with the thriving Design District -- especially before next year's Art Basel events.
''With Art Basel coming, it would be a great opportunity for people to walk down and check the Haitian arts and crafts,'' Mapou said.
Also benefiting from the project are Louis Market, Sonny Sounds and Records, Isaiah Check Cashing, Fidelity Auto Repair and Unitransfer, a service that wires money to Haiti.
Boukman P. Mangones, a Haitian-born planner and designer with McLeod Architectural Group, said that despite the small budget, the improvements will make each storefront look uniquely Haitian while tying buildings together.
''It goes back to basics with a vibrant color scheme and gingerbread ornamentation,'' Mangones said.
Business owners were reluctant to give up the security their iron bars provided, but Mangones said their concerns were addressed by the addition of brighter lights and roll-down doors.
Funding for the project comes from Miami's Department of Community Development through a federally funded Community Development Block Grant.
Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, whose district includes Little Haiti, said the project is part of a plan to make the area a more-attractive destination for residents and tourists.
''Between 54th and 71st Street we will create the Little Haiti cultural corridor,'' Spence-Jones said.
The initiative is similar to other ''destination transformation'' projects in Liberty City, Overtown and Wynwood, she said.
In addition to the city's grant, Spence-Jones said Miami-Dade County will be improving Second Avenue with new signs, street lights and benches next year.
''It's our tax money coming back to help us,'' said Luis De Rosa, a founding member of Rafael Hernandez Housing and Economic Development Corp. ``It will help the businesses. And create a ripple effect, bringing people back to Little Haiti.''
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