Is the OMNI CRA Expanding?

The current boundaries of the OMNI CRA

A vote Thursday at Miami City Hall could be the lifeline West Grove needs to pull itself out from under decades of poverty and systemic racism.

District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell will introduce a motion at the Commission meeting to finance a $25,000 “Finding of Necessity” study to create a West Grove CRA or expand the boundaries of the OMNI CRA [Community Redevelopment Agency] into West Coconut Grove. [This would be a non-contiguous add on to the current Omni footprint.]

CRAs are designed to attack city blight and reduce slum conditions in neglected areas. To pull this off a trust is created, which is funded by increases in property tax revenues. This money can be used in a number of ways to improve residential, commercial, or infrastructure within the CRA district.

Creating a new CRA means that it could be many years before there’s enough money in the trust to start playing Monopoly and moving pieces around the board. In addition, a blighted area by itself would probably not have the tax base to generate much of a trust fund. You’d have to include parts of Center Grove in order to generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile.

Latching onto the OMNI CRA has its own pitfalls. To begin with the OMNI (or any) CRA Board consists of all 5 members of the Commission and two community members, who must live within the CRA district. Currently there are no West Grove members on the CRA Board for obvious reasons. However, even if West Grove became part of the OMNI, it would, at best, only get one seat on the board. However, there’s no guarantee of that. Furthermore, West Grove would be competing for monies that Overtown might be eyeing for its projects.

Looking east along Grand Avenue as rosy fingered dawn approaches

Further Reading at Now Now Silly:
Unpacking Coconut Grove

As I have done on previous occasions, this morning I arrived on Grand Avenue at 6AM and sat down on my customary bench at Hibiscus to watch the street come alive.

There was less to watch this day. One of the condemned buildings on the north side of Grand has finally been evacuated and boarded up. The building on the south side, which was also condemned, has far fewer residents than it used to, but people still live there among the rats, insects, mold, and mildew. I tried to speak to a gent in the courtyard smoking a cigar at dawn, but he just growled at me. I thought it might have been a language barrier until I saw him talking a bit later to one of the street people.

The moon about to set behind a condemned building that people are still living in

As dawn approached people started gathering at the gate for the Billy Rolle Domino Park, at Elizabeth. They arrive by foot and bicycle. This is where there are public washrooms, but the gate is locked until a city employee comes around and opens up the park for the day.

It never takes very long before I am approached by an itinerant salesperson. As I have explained previously, it’s odd being racially profiled. The truth is that most of the White folk who show up here are looking to score.

I took several walks around the neighbourhood and ended up at the Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery, where I spoke to a gent who was painting his mother’s grave stark white with a roller. At one time this was the only cemetery where Black folk could be buried in Miami.

Coconut Grove was once unique in this country because it had the highest percentage of Black home ownership than anywhere else. That cohesiveness that lasted decades is under attack from greed and gentrification, not to mention systemic pverty and racism. If West Grove is to survive in any meaningful way, with its demographics relatively intact, then a Community Redevelopment Agency just might be what it needs.

This is a story that Not Now Silly will be following anxiously.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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