In September 2019, the Wynwood Community Enhancement Association (WCEA) created a Community Vision Plan for Wynwood Norte after more than a year of meetings as a community-driven, participatory initiative. Bringing together diverse familiar and new stakeholders, we were united to improve the quality of life for the neighborhood. Recognizing increasing development pressures from surrounding areas, we knew doing nothing was not an option. We sought to address existing area conditions, while envisioning our collective desire to preserve and revitalize one of Miami’s oldest and most beloved urban neighborhoods.
Bound by I-95 on the west, I-195 to the north, North Miami Avenue to the east and Northwest 29th Street to the south, Wynwood Norte is home to a younger, more-transient population of working households and long-time residents who are aging in place. At its height late-1970s, the population roughly was 18,000; today, approximately 4,000.
We are anchored by three public schools: Eneida M. Hartner Elementary, Jose de Diego Middle and Young Men’s Preparatory Academy. A large city park, Roberto Clemente, provides green space for passive and active recreation. Wynwood Norte is home to the 35 year-old Bakehouse Art Complex (formerly American Bakeries Company, which opened 1926 and closed 1977). Bakehouse is the largest and oldest artist-serving, nonprofit-owned space in Miami’s urban core. It is the affordable working home to 100 multicultural and multigenerational artists.
Miami-Dade County’s Public Housing and Community Development provides significant subsidized housing opportunities throughout the neighborhood. Recent Pinnacle Housing Group projects have augmented the number of affordable and low-income elderly housing units. Several social agencies already are serving our neighborhood, including De Hostos Senior Center, Miami-Dade County Community Action Agency, City of Miami NET, Mission San Juan Bautista (Corpus Christi) and the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce. All combined, we have the bones, assets and partnerships upon which to build and improve the neighborhood.
In late 2019, the district’s City Commissioner Keon Hardemon, impressed by our community-driven initiative, stepped in to support our efforts. He encouraged the city administration to lend the Planning Department’s expertise. Together, with planning officials, we worked to develop land-use and zoning tools. While the pandemic has been devastating, nationally and locally, and forever will impact every aspect of our lives and community, our work advanced even during these challenging times. The community and city planners convened virtually, and frequently, during the COVID-19 shutdown and ensuing months — even holding a virtual community townhall meeting.
As a result of our collaboration, City Manager Art Noriega and the Miami Planning Department recommend, with WCEA support, a new Neighborhood Revitalization District (NRD-2), unique to the conditions of and opportunities for Wynwood Norte. It is based on the community vision plan’s tenets to preserve the residential character and cultural heritage of the neighborhood; incentivize the retention of legacy buildings while recognizing the need for economic development, population growth and revitalization; encourage investment in anchor institutions; and protect from demolition without purpose to ensure we maintain naturally occurring affordable-housing stock.
It’s important that the NRD-2 incentivizes new and additional affordable and workforce housing to mitigate displacement. It encourages small-business development on Northwest Second Avenue and along other commercial corridors, while allowing appropriate new development that is compatible with the scale and character of the neighborhood. A public-benefits program will be created to contribute to open/civic spaces, more affordability and community infrastructure.
Hopefully, with approval by the Planning and Zoning Appeals Board on Sept. 30 and then the City Commission, our community vision plan will be set in motion and serve as a model for how empowered and motivated communities can partner with local government to identify effective solutions for community reinvestment.
Our work was guided by Juan Mullerat of Plusurbia Design, an urban planning firm, rooted in collaborative and inclusive participation; Steven Wernick, a land-use attorney known for guiding and shaping creative placemaking; and Adriana Oliva, who has been a tremendous liaison with stakeholders to maximize inclusive community participation. In the end, community engagement has and will continue to be most critical to our ongoing success.
A neighborhood plan is a living document, requiring active and ongoing participation and adaptation.
The proposed NRD-2 sets us on a path, addressing Wynwood Norte’s present and anticipated future needs. As a framework for equitable growth, it ensures the community’s role in the future of the neighborhood.
Cathy Leff is Bakehouse Art Complex acting director and member of the Board of Directors of the Wynwood Community Enhancement Association (WCEA). She wrote this on behalf of Yoni Bornstein, WCEA president, and board members Asi Cymbal, Arnold Melgar, Robin Vasquez, Wil Vasquez and Julie Williamson.