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Main Spotlight: Trading Cultural Displacement for Thriving Commercial Districts

October 14, 2020 | Main Spotlight: Trading Cultural Displacement for Thriving Commercial Districts | By: Mileyka Burgos-Flores, Executive Director, The Allapattah Collaborative CDC | 
Commercial corridor in Allapattah's district. Photo credit: The Allapattah Collaborative CDC

Copy_of_Dedicated_to_supporting_small_businesses_and_investing_in_community__District_Bridges_is_a_solutions-driven_advisory_and_execution_practice_in_Washington__D_D__with_a_mission_to_enrich_neighborhood_vitali.pngThe Allapattah Collaborative CDC, a placed-based organization in Miami, Florida, is using the Main Street Approach™ as a vehicle to prevent displacement in our neighborhood and strengthen the 17th Avenue commercial corridor. Located northwest of Downtown Miami, Florida, the Allapattah area is a working-class neighborhood that is considered a melting pot of residents from the Caribbean and Latin America. Since 2018, our organization has been working to implement a range of initiatives to expand equitable development and ensure current businesses can not only remain in the corridor but also flourish.

Understanding the Barriers to Equitable Development

According to the “Development without Displacement” report produced by the nonprofit Causa Justa: Just Cause, “Gentrification is not the inevitable result of economic development. Quite the opposite, it is the result of fundamentally unjust economic development policies, widespread public disinvestment in historically marginalized communities, and lack of protection for existing residents.” In Allapattah, a disproportionate influx of capital is displacing long-term residents and small business owners with rent increases and lack of viable opportunities to own their long-term residences or storefronts. This gradual displacement is eradicating Miami’s diverse and cultural neighborhoods.

To retain and grow small businesses at risk of displacement, The Allapattah Collaborative CDC created an Equitable Development Action Plan (EDAP) in 2019, in partnership with the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders and the South Florida Community Development Coalition. The vision focused on developing a plan that provides a pathway to equitable development without displacement and emphasizes policies and programs that benefit existing small businesses. To achieve this, the project gathered data on the target area’s small businesses and other stakeholders via community conversations, surveys, data analysis, and meetings with community partners.

The outcome of the research confirmed what we already knew: small business owners are being squeezed by rising rents. Many attributed the sharp rent increase to new ownership of the buildings by investors newly interested in the area. Another issue small business owners face is minimal business and financial training and a lack of access to financial resources, which prevented many business owners from purchasing their storefront and scaling their business. 70 percent of the businesses interviewed reported not receiving a business loan in the past five years. Most small business owners reported that they avoid loans because of unfavorable lending terms, as well as, qualification restrictions.

Despite these pressures, Allapattah small business owners are resilient and eager to continue to improve their businesses. 73 percent of business owners interviewed are not interested in selling their business and 69 percent would like to participate in business development coaching programs. They are also interested in improving their business by investing in security, marketing, revenue growth, social media, visual aesthetics, and owning their storefront.

Implementing Equitable Development Strategies

Dry cleaners in Allapattah's district. Photo credit: The Allapattah Collaborative CDC

Based on the data we collected, we came up with a three-step plan for equitable development. Equitable development refers to a plan that takes all community stakeholders into consideration. It is an outcome-oriented community development process where everyone in the target neighborhood benefits from the goods, amenities, and concessions provided by an initiative.

Anti-displacement Strategies
The best solution for vulnerable communities is to first stop the bleeding by implementing anti-displacement strategies. We should not boost the area until the main problem has been addressed, or else boosting the area will harm the residents by the further increase of rents and property values. In Allapattah, we’re pursuing a range of anti-displacement strategies.

We are advocating for “Right of First Refusal,” which allows business owners to have the first right to purchase their storefront, instead of getting kicked out by property owners. We’re in the planning stages to put this into legislation. With NALCAB and Mission Economic Development Agency, we’re working on a feasibility study to acquire property under the Community Land Trust model. The goal is to make sure that the CLT can buy property and sell it to storefront renters so they can become property owners. Finally, we’re an active member of the Public Land for Public Good coalition, a group of organizations who have committed to a set of core values to guide public land use in Miami. The group advocates for a public-private concerted effort in the community development, urban planning and public land disposition, as well as, the implementation of equitable development practices that benefit long term residents, such as Community Benefit Agreements and increased community engagement in the management of public resources.

Wealth-building Strategies
After anti-displacement strategies are in effect (for example, resident protections, community benefit agreements, inclusive community engagement processes, equitable development ordinances, community land trust acquisitions, protection of legacy businesses, retail co-op, etc.), business owners will have greater confidence to expand their ventures. Then it would be sensible to boost the area by adding amenities and new businesses. By preparing small business owners to have access to capital, they can scale their business and be ready to own their storefront when the opportunity arises.

The Allapattah Collaborative CDC partnered with the Hispanics In Philanthropy PowerUp Fund to provide financial assistance to small businesses and develop a capacity building program called the Small Business Resilience Cohort. The Cohort provides a variety of technical assistance and coaching to help retain and grow local small businesses. The group of 12 small businesses in the Cohort are assigned a coach, or small business navigator, to help them understand the resources available to help small businesses. Businesses are also connected with a CPA to ensure they have access to capital and assist with accounting procedures. The Cohort also receives assistance from a portfolio of professionals such as credit repair counselors, financial advisors, digital inclusion specialist, lawyers, among others. The Cohort comes together online once per week for ten weeks for special training sessions. Each week, the group watches training lessons before the session and answers a few questions that explore the topic in relation to legacy building, social responsibility, business development and streamlining operations.

Business in the Cohort then go through the business development phase. A local architect who also serves on our Board helps to assess and improve each merchant’s storefront. The businesses also talk with their coaches about how to create new products, along with other strategies for business development. The final phase of the program is streamlining business operations. Small business owners learn about anything from building an online store to managing payroll more efficiently to providing employees with health insurance.

Through technical assistance, key policy and wealth building strategies, businesses can become resilient, remain sustainable, and intentionally build a legacy in the community for generations to come.

Main Street America Field Services Spotlight

havana_flowers.jpgNorma Ramírez de Miess, The National Main Street Center’s Senior Program Officer and Director of Leadership Development, has helped The Allapattah Collaborative CDC use the Main Street Approach to align with their goals of sparking equitable development and revitalization.

Norma has provided a range of services to the district. After facilitating a Main Street 101 training with community leaders in Miami, Norma worked with The Allapattah Collaborative CDC’s Executive Director Mileyka Burgos-Flores to provide guidance on aligning their efforts with Main Street principles. In addition, Norma provided district stakeholders with a training on Leading through Crisis—outlining a plan for crisis management and showing that the Main Street Approach can be a powerful tool for responding to crises like COVID-19. Norma is currently planning a session with the CDC’s Board of Directors to look at how to align their work with the Main Street Approach. Many of these trainings were provided in Spanish.

In between trainings, Norma and NMSC’s Director of Urban Programs, Dionne Baux, have connected with The Allapattah Collaborative CDC with other districts going through similar issues and have helped the CDC develop additional strategies to prevent gentrification and grow equitable development.

Norma typically travels across the country providing trainings to Main Street programs on everything from leadership to community engagement. Many of her services are now being provided digitally. Learn more about working with Norma or another member of the Field Services team here.