September 28, 2023 | Community Spotlight: Allapattah Collaborative CDC | By: Liz Shenk, Manager of Marketing and Outreach |
Photos of Little Santo Domingo. Left photo from Allapattah CDC, right photos from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In January, Main Street America announced the launch of the Where It Starts: Breaking Barriers to Business project, a $6.3 million, multi-year program to strengthen small businesses and open career pathways for individuals in five cohort cities across the U.S. Funded by the Truist Foundation and in partnership with Living Cities, the program will uplift entrepreneurs by providing them with tools and resources as well as collaboration opportunities with community leaders to break down barriers for local small business owners. The five cohort cities are Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., and Miami, Florida. Within each city, Main Street America and Living Cities are partnering with select corridors to deepen their impact with local support.
Throughout the duration of the program, we will be featuring each city’s corridor to highlight the work they’re doing to support and uplift local business owners and entrepreneurs. We’ll also tap into how the Breaking Barriers to Business program will help develop, strengthen, and grow their existing resources. To kick off this series of articles, we’re featuring The Allapattah Collaborative (TAC), a historic neighborhood and the only Main Street community in the city of Miami.
Allapattah, located northwest of Downtown Miami, is one of Miami’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods. Allapattah is also home to Little Santo Domingo, an area along the 17th Avenue commercial corridor that has been revitalized by Dominican immigrants. According to TAC’s website, “The area has gone through many transitions regarding its population and prosperity. Until the 1950s, the neighborhood was primarily populated by non-Hispanic white individuals, but the construction of I-95 through Overtown led to the migration of black individuals to the area. It would later become home to an influx of Cuban immigrants following the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and then an influx of Dominicans in the 1980s and 1990s. Allapattah is now considered a melting pot of residents from the Caribbean and Latin America.” To read more about Little Santo Domingo's historic business legacy, see this recent article from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The neighborhood is continuing to undergo significant transformation. Allapattah is currently a largely working-class area, with 8 out of 10 households qualifying as low- and middle-income. The historic neighborhood is now beginning to see signs of gentrification and displacement due to rising rental costs for both residential and commercial properties. Real estate developers and investors are beginning to show increased interest in the area due to its proximity to high-demand areas like Miami’s Downtown, Edgewater, and Wynwood, along with its relatively high elevation above sea level. Due to the rising threat of overdevelopment and displacement, the neighborhood was designated on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023.
According to TAC Executive Director Mileyka Burgos-Flores, displacement of residents and business owners and cultural erasure are among the critical challenges the neighborhood is facing – and the single most crucial problem she and her team are working to remedy. TAC is leading a number of efforts to preserve and protect the cultural identity of Allapattah and Little Santo Domingo. Among them, providing tailored and culturally competent resources, education, and opportunities to small business owners and entrepreneurs living and working in the district – with the ultimate goal of implementing placemaking techniques to foster identity and support wealth-building strategies for marginalized communities of color.
“Part of everything we do, and something we continue to collaborate with the City of Miami on, is thinking through, what is displacing people? What are the issues that are making this business leave rather than stay? Why can’t they pay the rent increase and how can we mitigate that? We’re going to the core of the problem,” said Burgos-Flores. “We’re being very thoughtful about the core issues and finding a way to resolve them.”
Through the Breaking Barriers to Business partnership, TAC is working with Main Street America and Living Cities along with leadership within the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, to further address gaps in access to capital, shift private and public policies, and provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs. Since the Breaking Barriers to Business launch in early 2023, the group has engaged in an Undoing Racism workshop, conducted an initial site visit, and hosted interviews with local business owners, culminating in an evaluation report. Next steps include the development of an action plan informed by their initial evaluation, along with additional site visits and on-going technical guidance and support.
"Creating equity in community building, and supporting the development and strength of small businesses is the cornerstone of building a brighter, more inclusive economic future,” said Alycia Levels-Moore, owner and founder of ASL Creative Firm, the consulting agency managing the project through Main Street America. “It is about paving the way for dreams to flourish and opportunities to thrive in our local communities. The work of the Allapattah Collective under the leadership of Milyeka is bound to make an indelible mark on the building up of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in her city and business corridor. This is the power of the Breaking Barriers to Business initiative, ensuring that business corridors in the Southeast are supported and provided the tools to build lasting change that can affect growth and policy for long term impact."