Letter to the Editor | Miami, Florida | June 11, 2019

First Comprehensive Revitalization Plan for Little Havana Is Released

National Trust for Historic Preservation, PlusUrbia Design and local partners issue report with input from over 2,700 Little Havana residents and stakeholders.

Miami (June 11, 2019) – With the goal of promoting the revitalization of the Little Havana neighborhood for current and future residents, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and PlusUrbia Design today released a master plan focused on building a healthy, equitable and resilient neighborhood community in Little Havana. The plan, put together over the course of more than two years and with the input of over 2,700 neighborhood residents and stakeholders and several local partners, brings together best practices and the latest thinking from a range of fields—from public health to urban planning to architectural design and historic preservation. It is the first plan of its kind to focus specifically on revitalizing and improving the quality of life for people in Miami’s most iconic neighborhood.

The revitalization plan includes input from a collection of civic and non-profit organizations currently working in Little Havana, including: The Health Foundation of South Florida, Live Healthy Little Havana, Urban Health Partnerships and Dade Heritage Trust.

From the time the National Trust named Little Havana a National Treasure in January of 2017, the Trust and its local partners led by Plusurbia Design, a local planning firm, have been focused on ways to retain the things that make this place one of America’s most beloved neighborhoods. While it is an iconic historic place, Little Havana is also a dynamic urban neighborhood whose residents face a range of challenges and threats, including poverty, sub-standard housing, displacement, poor transportation options and insufficient open space. This plan is an attempt to comprehensively address these challenges by bringing together an integrated set of national best practices from a diverse array of professional perspectives. Rather than a regulatory approach, the plan relies on increasing incentives, lowering barriers and respecting the existing heritage of Little Havana.

“Little Havana is the heart and soul of Miami. It is also a longstanding symbol of the immigrant experience and one of the most essential places in America,” said Robert Nieweg, Senior Field Director and Attorney at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “But there is no denying that this important place is also facing a range of threats, and its residents confrontsignificant challenges on a daily basis, from sub-standard housing to poor transportation options to a lack of green space.In developing this plan, we listened to the concerns of thousands of local residents and stakeholders, and took advantage of the latest thinking in fields from public health to urban planning to architectural design and historic preservation to find solutions to these concerns. This is the first report of its kind, and we believe it can be a road map for making life better for people in Little Havana.”

"La Pequeña Habana is one of the best known Latin-American barrios in the United States," said Juan Mullerat, Principal at PlusUrbia Design. "Though the neighborhood is one of Miami’s premier tourist destinations, those who spend time there know that its real value lies in its people and the legacies they have built over many generations in the neighborhood. This plan is inspired by the culture of Little Havana, and it seeks to ensure that this unique place and the people who created it will always have a home here."

“We know that people’s economic, social and physical environments have a profound impact on their overall health and sense of well-being,” said Raissa Fernandez, Chair of Live Healthy Little Havana. “I believe the recommendations in this plan would give us a great pathway to continue to work towards the goal of enhancing the physical and mental health for the people in Little Havana. From improving connections to nature and increasing the amount of green space, addressing housing options we can enhance our identity and sense of place. This plan presents a vision to making life better—and healthier—for current and future residents of Little Havana.”

“Like a growing number of health leaders across the country, we understand that the opportunity to lead a healthy life begins where people live, work and play—long before they walk into a doctor's office,” said Janisse Schoepp, Vice President of Operations and Strategy for Health Foundation of South Florida. “Health begins with the ability to live in a safe home, eat nutritious foods, hold a steady job and have a safe place to walk, bike, exercise or commute. This is exactly why Health Foundation of South Florida has invested in the community through the Live Healthy Little Havana initiative and supported the creation of the Little Havana Me Importa revitalization plan, which provides a roadmap for the future health and vitality of this historic and beloved neighborhood. We also know this plan is only the beginning: we must continue to collaborate across the entire community to ensure our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and streets allows us all the chance to be healthier, stronger and more resilient."

“We are pleased with the recommendations of the report and the positive role preservation can play in economic revitalization of little Havana,” said Christine Rupp, Executive Director at Dade Heritage Trust. “We look forward to working together to ensure a better quality of life for all residents of Little Havana, and to showcase the neighborhood’s uniqueness to the world.”

“In alignment with our mission, Urban Health Partnerships has been very invested in the Little Havana community and in working to co-design with its residents sustainable change that promotes health and equity,” said Dr. Andrea Iglesias, CEO and Executive Director of Urban Health Partnerships. “Little Havana residents have a right to a community that truly meets their needs and that provides them access to quality of life and well-being. It was critical that residents had an opportunity to learn about the goals of this plan, provide their input, and play an important role in its development. It will be just as important for residents to continue to play a key role in the implementation of its recommendations.”

Little Havana Revitalization Plan: Key Recommendations

  1. Identity. Retaining Little Havana’s sense of place.
    • Constructing compatible infill buildings
    • Rehabilitate and reuse older and historic buildings
    • Allow safe and habitable ancillary dwelling units
  2. Mobility. How to support multi-modal transportation options in Little Havana
    • Create an efficient and convenient multi-modal transportation network
    • Increase pedestrian and bicycle safety
    • Create a water taxi transit loop and complete the Miami River Greenway.
  3. Community Building. Empowering neighborhood residents to make Little Havana more livable.
    • Document and designate historic properties and cultural heritage assets
    • Preserve and develop quality housing for all Little Havana residents
    • Celebrate and support viable small and local businesses
  4. Nature. Bringing nature into the lives of Little Havana residents.
    • Increase open space
    • Create new greenways and shared streets to improve access to existing parks
    • Increase urban tree canop

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PlusUrbia Design is a planning and design firm that designs contextual cities, towns and neighborhoods that create lasting value.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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