In quest for resilience, developers threaten character of Miami’s Little Haiti
by Lauren Rothschild
Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood is experiencing an influx of interest from developers, part of a larger trend some have characterized as ‘climate gentrification.’ The neighborhood sits at a higher elevation than most in Miami, a beneficial quality in a city which experiences many instances of flooding each year. The vulnerability Miami is experiencing is only becoming more severe as sea levels continue to rise; in the last decade, the number of “sunny day” floods has increased 400%. The city’s distressed outlook has recently led it to be been deemed “a poster child for a major city in big trouble.”
Not all areas of the city are facing the vulnerability to flooding in the same way. The ground underneath Miami and Miami spring is porous- a quality which comes as a result of its limestone foundation. This means that the residents of lower-lying, directly coastal properties sometimes experience flooding from underneath their properties in addition to more typical coastal flooding. This is one of the reasons why real estate developers are looking to invest in more “naturally resilient” parts of Miami, like Little Haiti which is 3-10 feet above the rest of Miami. A developer called Magic City has sought to take advantage of the neighborhood’s elevation with its plan to develop luxury apartment buildings, hotels, and co-working spaces across 17 acres and over the course of the next 15 years.
Many Miamians have concerns that the Magic City development, called an Innovation District, will accelerate an already existing problem of gentrification in the city. Little Haiti has long been home to working-class immigrants, but now many of the neighborhood’s long-term residents are relocating their homes and businesses due to risings rents. Marleine Bastien, a community organizer, has led protests against the development on the grounds that it is an impetus for cultural erasure and forced displacement. She has said that Little Haiti has become a “place where immigration and climate gentrification collide.”
Developers insist that their projects will spur economic activity, and they have pledged to donate $31 million to the community through various programs including those focused on affordable housing. Further, they say that their plans to develop Little Haiti were not based on the elevation of the neighborhood.
The struggles residents in Little Haiti are facing are not unique. The United Nations has warned of a “climate apartheid” in which there is a clear gap, based on access to resources, between who is able to protect themselves from the threats of the climate crisis and who is forced to bear the burden.