CULTURAL PRESERVATION IN THE FACE OF NEW DEVELOPMENT IN LITTLE HAVANA: A POLICY/DESIGN GUIDELINE FOR THE COMMUNITY
Kevin Van Osterom and Anthony Talavera Planning Project | URP 6979 Frank Schnidman Summer 2016
1 INTRODUCTION Little Havana is a unique neighborhood with a strong Latin cultural identity, located just to the west of downtown Miami. As a community with deep roots in immigration from Cuba and Central America, Little Havana has shaped itself into a community that facilitates a culturally diverse and rich experience of everyday life by its residents and visitors. It was the Cuban elite, however, that have and continue to shape the socio-spatial configuration of Little Havana in the most impactful way. The porous public landscape and rich everyday life that has evolved from this landscape has allowed a common identity to rise from the variety of cultural backgrounds that coexist within the community. This unique cultural identity, its convenient proximity to downtown and the other employment centers of Miami, and its affordable housing prices have recently made it an attractive target for the forces of gentrification. As a neighborhood that consists mainly of low-income residents that largely do not speak English, there is concern that the majority of residents have the least ability to voice their interests and concerns over community transformation and will become displaced by the desires of the few with more power and more money. If not done in a careful manner, the process of community transformation and transition can lose the socio-spatial characteristics that create unique experiences of place and displace a population that identify Little Havana as uniquely Little Havana, a place that people of all cultures can appreciate and enjoy. Purpose of the Study Problem Statement In the face of new developmental pressure, the cultural identity that defines Little Havana as a unique place is under threat of being lost and losing its authenticity. Goal This paper will identify certain physical and experiential characteristics which reinforce the cultural identity of Little Havana, then establish how those characteristics can be preserved or adapted to existing and new development. Target Audience More specifically, this paper is aimed at the few with the power and the money, those with the ability to shape the future and vision of Little Havana. For the purposes of this paper, this target audience consists mainly of two groups: those who govern and those who develop. Those in control of policy and governance, a Cuban American ‘pastoral power’ of sorts, as explained later in the paper, will have the power to shape the “rules of the game” moving forward, for which the developers must then abide by. Although residents are involved in discussions on policy and decisions within the community, it is those in positions of control over community perception and representation that have the final say.
Significance of Study
As a community that struggles with issues such as poverty, inhumane living conditions, and crime, revitalization of the area is a necessary intervention to improve the lives of its residents. However, care must be taken to maintain certain characteristics if the unique cultural identity of Little Havana is to be maintained moving forward, instead of replacing or transforming it into one that is more generic and less special. The significance of this research is to help identify the physical and experiential characteristics most important for the community of Little Havana to maintain moving forward, as new development begins to transform and revitalize the area. This research is also meant to present strategies to the governing powers of Little Havana to help maintain these unique characteristics of their culture and community in the face of new developmental pressure. This paper aims to give perspective, ideas, and recommendations first to those with the ability to control governance and policy in the neighborhood and then to those who want to develop and revitalize the area, with recommendations on how they can benefit and move forward in a more controlled community transformation process, one that has a better vision on how it can maintain the unique cultural characteristics and people at the essence of the community and be able to revitalize the area for the better, reducing things like crime, poverty, and other issues along the way. General Background for the Study The study is being conducted as part of a research effort led by the Florida Atlantic University’s Urban and Regional Planning department. Research teams composed of students are identifying issues of different topics to address in Little Havana and presenting their findings and proposed solutions to the neighborhood. Other team’s studies will be referenced in this paper and will be recommended as additional resources to learn more in detail about certain issues in Little Havana.
2 METHODOLOGY AND REPORT DESIGN We begin with a Literature Review to provide a general background on the history of Little Havana, introduce concepts and information relating to the socio-spatial conditions of the neighborhood, and then discuss the developmental pressure being applied to the community and its ramifications regarding the socio-spatial framework of Little Havana. In our Findings and Recommendations section, we first establish the role a certain group has had on the socio-spatial character of a publicly identifiable characteristic of Little Havana. These sections include: “Little Havana’s Main Street, Calle Ocho: The Role of the Small, Local Business” and “Little Havana’s Housing Selection: The Role of Immigration". We identify these groups and characteristics through a combination and analysis of research of existing literature, observations made from our tour of the community with cultural anthropologist Corrina Moebius, and a lecture given by local developer Carlos Fausto Miranda. We then identify
concerns from both the community’s and the developer’s point of view through the same methods, and then recommend strategies for addressing these concerns through case studies and other sources we found during our research of similar situations to Little Havana. These strategies are meant to maintain or even strengthen the characteristics essential to the identity of Little Havana, in a process of transformation from developers.
3 LITERATURE REVIEW The paper will give a brief background of Little Havana, before analyzing demographics and data of the community, in order to give the reader an understanding of Little Havana and the history leading to its current state. Historical context along with a snapshot of today is important in identifying and better understanding the socio-spatial characteristics of Little Havana and the role they have had on the cultural identity of the neighborhood. 3.1
Little Havana’s History: Achieving a Small Active Urbanism through Sociable Streets
Miami has served as the gateway for Latin American immigrants coming to the U.S. since 1959, when a wave of exiles left Cuba during Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. Social tensions with the black community and other non-Hispanics in other parts of the city led to the eventual settling of the Riverside area, now known as East Little Havana, by Cuban immigrants (Lombardero, 2013). “Both the gradual settlement of Cubans and the culturally rich everyday life experienced in the neighborhood promptly made the area recognized as Miami’s Latin enclave, acquiring the name of Little Havana by non-Hispanic or ‘La Saguasera’ by the Cubans” (Lombardero, 2013, p. 105). These Cuban immigrants had resources, money and establishment, which provided them the ability to create a number of businesses, which a great many did, starting in the early 1960s. In doing so, they lay the socio-spatial1 framework for a community that was able to continuously sustain “an active and vibrant urban environment” (Lombardero, 2013, p. 106), regardless of changes in immigration population origins that would occur in the following decades. This result has been achieved by small-scale interventions and through the activation of public space, a “small active urbanism” as Lombardero identifies it. 3.1.1
Small Active Urbanism: The Social Role of Public Space on a Common Identity
Lombardero, in her article “Small Active Urbanism”, notes that a logic within modern urban planning in the United States prioritizes the privatization of city space, the use of the automobile, and the securitization of suburban neighborhoods. This practice has created social tensions “The socio-spatial perspective in urbanism research addresses how built infrastructure and society interact. It assumes that social space operates as both a product and a producer of changes in the metropolitan environment.  In the socio-spatial perspective, built environment is intrinsically meaningful: It has its particular “semiotics” that tell about policy, culture, society, economy, etc., and about security as well” (Sociospatial Perspective, 2013) 1
within not only Miami, but also in many modern U.S. cities, between individuals and groups with, “different cultural, social, ethnic, and economical backgrounds” (Lombardero, 2013, p. 105). Little Havana, on the other hand, was able to create a common identity for its community regardless of ethnic background, through an urban culture it modeled after Little Havana. This common identity was forged by public events held by the community, small businesses, and a socio-spatial configuration that facilitated these types of social activities. “The urban spatial configuration brought by Cuban migrants from the city of Havana, (Shulman; 2009: 25-27) full of patios and communal courtyards inherited from Southern Spanish traditional architecture, activated everyday life in the neighborhood and attracted other citizens to enjoy a more "European and Latin American tradition of sociable streets". (Shulman; 2009; 73). Moreover, these activities responded better to migrant's everyday life dynamics that differed from new modern standards imposed by the assumed Miami urban modernization. The dialog created by this more porous spatial configuration with the street raised the intensity of pedestrians' everyday life between 1959 and 1980” (Lombardero, 2013, p. 114-115) This urban culture has been able to facilitate the integration of a variety of ethnicities throughout the years and form a common identity for the community of Little Havana to share in the meantime2. In essence, this urban culture is one of “sociable streets”, where social activity is enhanced and encouraged by its spatial configuration. This socio-spatial configuration will be identified and analyzed later in the paper. 3.2
Snapshot of Little Havana Today
As Cuban Americans became more established within their new society, they started moving further west from Miami’s central city to newer, suburban communities. This has left a community that is predominantly low-income and a mix of Latin cultures, no longer the majority as Cubans. 3.2.1
Before diving into the demographic data, it will be important to establish geographical boundaries for the community. As there is currently no real consensus on the boundaries of Little Havana, the class from the previous semester created its own to include the Dolphin Expressway/Miami River to the North, I-95 to the East, SW 11th Street to the South, and 37th Avenue to the West. This was further broken down into sections of East Little Havana to the east
A hybrid form between sociable streets and modern planning practices has emerged from this effort, as the variety in courtyard spaces has at times been replaced by the modern planning’s prioritization of automobiles, as they have been adapted into “parking courtyards”, at times, taking the form of American strip malls.
of 12th Ave, West Little Havana to the west of 27th Ave, and Central Little Havana between the two. These boundaries are illustrated in Figure A3.
Figure A: Geographical boundaries of Little Havana
Within the study area of Little Havana, there are approximately 3, 748 acres of land and a total population of 100,815. Little Havana has a population density that averages between 8-60 people per acre, and it is East Little Havana that has the highest distribution of population per acre, followed by Central and then West Little Havana. A majority of Little Havana has a population that is between 89-97% Hispanic. This population does not speak English well, as 6 of the census block groups had 31-47% of their population that could not speak English well. “According to the Census Bureau’s QuickFacts2 , the Median Household Income is $53,482 in the U.S., Florida’s is $47,212, Miami--‐Dade County’s is $43,099, and the City of Miami’s is $30,858. However, the Median household income in the Greater Little Havana area is substantially lower 3
Defining the boundaries of Little Havana becomes important in order to proceed in analyzing the demographics and other data of Little Havana. A majority of this data and information comes from the work of Allison Goldberg from last semester in her report, “Maps: Visualizing Little Havana” (2016). However, in some instances, we found certain demographics and data from outside research resources to be of interest and note. Although other resources were using different boundaries, for the purpose of this paper, boundaries are similar enough to be able to use these statistics. Analyzing the demographic data of Little Havana is important in establishing the context and background of the neighborhood and identify areas and topics of focus
in majority of the census block groups. There are many census block within the study area with a median household income less than $16,000” (Goldberg, 2016, p. 15). A large amount of buildings in Little Havana were built between the 1920s-1960s. The historical and cultural influences of that time are still being felt today with the continued presence of these buildings. East Little Havana has 7% of its properties as vacant land. All of these demographical factors in the light of increasing developmental pressure make Little Havana an easy target for gentrification, especially East Little Havana. “Indeed, there is some evidence that the class composition of East Little Havana is changing. After decades of rising poverty and declining numbers of college-educated residents (NCBD, n.d.), from 2000 to 2010 the share of residents with annual incomes below US $25,000 decreased from 70% to 63%, while people earning US $35,000 or more increased from 16% to 25% (US Census Bureau, 2000; 2010). The number of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher increased from 1,325 in 2000 to nearly 2,100 by 2010 (a 56% increase). ((Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 4).
Policy Leadership: The Role of Cuban Leadership in the Socio-Spatial Control of the Neighborhood
Even today as Central Americans outnumber Cubans in Little Havana, “…the rules of spatial discipline are imposed by Cuban American elites, who act as the ‘historic owners’ of the place” (Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 4). The power of local leadership is significant in this case, as the, “Cuban Americans represent Little Havana politically and control key government and non-government organizations that shape daily life and economic activity in the neighborhood” (Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 4). These shifts in immigration origins have changed over the years, and now have resulted in a population that is higher in Central Americans than it is Cubans, as seen in Figure B, a chart created by Marcos Feldman and Violiane Jolivet, based on Census data up to 2011. Even with this shift in demographic compositions, the Cubans still remain the group with the most sociospatial control of the neighborhood.
Figure B Changes in Immigration Origins of Population in Little Havana (1980-2011)
Zoning and Development (Gentrification) “Little Havana is considered to be increasingly ‘ripe’ for gentrification owing to its proximity to downtown Miami and the wealthier city of Coral Gables, its dense and affordable rental housing, its ‘historic’ architecture from the 1920s and 1930s, its ‘efficient’ street grid system and ‘pedestrian friendly’ commercial building scales (Duggan, 2003).” (Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 4)
These characteristics, explored more later in the paper, have helped create, “The ‘new Little Havana’ (Shoer-Roth, 2005) that is being created through the place-marketing of lifestyle, heritage tourism and cultural events…” ((Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 8). This has led to an increasing presence of developers looking to develop and re-develop large portions of Little Havana. A combination of high market-values of properties and the restrictive regulations of current zoning for building on these properties, however, has stalled most motivation to start this process of transformation so far. As many people looking to maintain the character of Little Havana and its quality of place as a community say, perhaps this is a good thing. “The National Trust, the country’s principal preservation organization, says the neighborhood’s historic scale and character are imperiled by two main factors: a controversial upzoning of East Little Havana under consideration by the city of Miami, and a lack of legal protection for the broader area’s extensive and architecturally diverse collection of early to mid-20th Century homes and apartment and commercial buildings” (Viglucci, 2015) With the transformation of the physical character of Little Havana from a low-rise community with a cultural identity tied to its historic buildings and humanistic scale, also brings concern for
the possibility of a change in social character as well. Gentrification could become a factor as residents are displaced by a different market, attracted by new development that replaces the current lifestyle of its residents with new ones. Change in lifestyle is not the only concern, as the possibility of a raise in rents in the area could also displace residents who could simply no longer afford to live in Little Havana. These concerns outline the importance of the role the sociospatial framework of Little Havana has had on the creation of it cultural identity and unique quality of place.
4 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS As identified by Lombardero in her paper, “Small Active Urbanism”, Little Havana’s public space configuration and its use by Miami’s citizens allow the unique interactions of everyday life to occur quite fluidly between a variety of cultures, with little of the social conflict found in most other parts of the city. It is this ability to facilitate these daily multi-cultural interactions between its residents and visitors that has attracted so many visitors and others to the community. We identify two types of urban conditions created within the community, one that occurs in a more commercial oriented sense and one that occurs in a more residential oriented sense. These conditions will be addressed in two separate sections. These conditions are not entirely separate as they often have characteristics that interrelate, just in a different context. We will then provide recommendations for each section on how to maintain such characteristics, by both protecting certain ones and adapting and implementing others in new forms for new developments. 4.1
Little Havana’s Main Street, Calle Ocho: The Role of the Small, Local Business
The role the small, local business has established in the socio-spatial configuration of Little Havana is two-fold. Not only do the variety of small, local businesses attract a variety of users (both locals in their daily routines and tourists looking for authentic Latin flavor), but the development patterns adapted by the first Cuban entrepreneurs have facilitated a vibrant, active, multi-cultural urban environment for pedestrians as well. 4.1.1
Variety within the Block: An Effective Developmental Pattern
This type of activity has become most apparent within the commercial core along Calle Ocho as, “For the last twenty years, everyday life of multicultural Little Havana neighborhood has been emerging from the pockets to face its central spine: the so called in Spanish "Calle Ocho" or 8th SW street” (Lombradero, 2013, p. 106). During our tour, we were struck in particular by the ambiance of Calle Ocho. The main factor that created such a unique experience, we realized, was the variation in stores and their frontages along a block. You could find a variety of building uses and styles between streets, which kept us interested and engaged as we walked. This diversity in building use, styles, and social spaces within the block has created a variety of experiences and users and an intensity of social interaction that has also added to the uniqueness of the place. The approaches of these original Cuban entrepreneurs to the built environment (in
blue), and the experiential characteristics that have emerged from these approaches (bullet points below the blue), are identified in Figure C.
A VARIETY OF USES WITHIN THE BLOCK Promotes walkability by providing a variety of business uses and options within a small area
A VARIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL STYLES WITHIN THE BLOCK Provides a culturally rich environment to identify with, at a scale that relates to the pedestrian A VARIETY OF SOCIAL SPACES ALONG STORE FRONTAGES WITHIN THE BLOCK Promotes social interaction and increases the diversity of experiences Figure C This picture shows (starting from the farthest building) the Historic Tower Theater, a Cuban eatery, and a tax shop within just a third of the block. They all interact with the street in different ways and in appearance as well. Social spaces like ventanitas also added to the diversity of experiences and intensity of social interaction happening on the street.
Figure C is a picture taken on the south side of Calle Ocho, between SW 15 th and 16th Ave. The picture shows (starting from the farthest building) the Historic Tower Theater, a Cuban eatery, and a tax shop, all within just a third of the block. They all vary in their uses, have their own unique architectural style, and interact with the street through the use of social spaces in different manners. Social spaces like ventanitas4 recessed into the storefront of the eatery, are transplanted from Cuban culture and add to the diversity of experiences and intensity of social interactions happening on the street. The theme that arises out of our findings presented by Figure C is variety within the block. Variety in both the physical form and appearance of the buildings, as well as in use. It is this physical approach facilitated by Cuban entrepreneurs who brought their urban spatial typology from Cuba to the neighborhood, that have created the experiential characteristics that have been promoted as positive attributes of Little Havana.
A ventanita, “little window” in Spanish, is a walk-up service window for cafes and food establishments. These push the experience of the café out onto the street by activating pedestrian activity directly in front of the café, rather than reserving that experience only for those who enter their store. 4
These individualities of the small, local businesses make up a broader developmental pattern that keeps diversity in activity and experiences throughout the neighborhood. They are then able to create a social environment within each block that keeps pedestrians interested and engaged as they walk, while presenting a variety of potential interactions between different people. The small, local businesses have established a socio-spatial framework that is quite conducive to activating the vibrant urban environment unique to Little Havana.
Blurring the Public/Private Threshold: The Street as an Engaging, Interactive Social Space
While the role of the small/local business has created a developmental pattern that encourages variety within the block, it is the last type of variety within the block (a variety of social spaces along store frontages) that can be used to implement more specific small, pedestrian scale physical design strategies to further activate the social experiences within the broader developmental patterns of the neighborhood mentioned earlier in Figure C. These physical design strategies include the use of ventanitas, street furniture, and the creation of indoor/outdoor connections. Figure D illustrates examples of these design strategies and explains how they affect the social space between the street and store fronts. The physical design strategies illustrated by Figure D further break down the variety within the block by providing close and frequent opportunities for social contacts between passing pedestrians and customers. This intensity of potential social interactions helps break down the urban environment into a scale suitable for an active, multi-cultural environment by blurring the threshold between the private space of the store and the public space of the sidewalk. Further strengthening this sociospatial configuration are the use of park elements added in between blocks like the famous Domino Park, where elderly Cubans gather to play dominoes.
A ventanita, “little window” in Spanish, is a walk-up service window for cafes and food establishments. These push the experience of the café out onto the street by activating pedestrian activity directly in front of the café, rather than reserving that experience only for those who enter their store.
Street furniture allows the social experience of the store to spill out into the street, making for a unique experience for both its users and passer-bys. People can sip on coffee, gossip about news, share a meal, smoke a cigar or play some dominoes in these arrangements.
Connecting the outside with the inside and vice versa, through squares, courtyards, large doors in storefronts that open up completely, fans, outdoor speakers, ventanitas and outdoor dining options is an effective strategy in blurring the public/private threshold between the street and store, and invites social interaction and engagement.
Figure D Physical design strategies further strengthen the socio-spatial character that makes Little Havana unique
Concerns and Recommendations for Development
There are conflicting concerns, both from members of the community of Little Havana looking to maintain characteristics essential to its identity and from developers looking to invest in Little Havana. We will identify these concerns, at times conflicting, and recommend strategies to address both concerns in a mutually beneficial manner, in order to maintain characteristics essential to the cultural identity of place that the community of Little Havana shares. Concerns: 1) Community P.O.V.: New development coming into the area will displace the small-scale variety of shops and businesses in the area and, as a result, the existing socio-spatial framework that makes Little Havana special. Developer P.O.V.: New development needs more and higher-rent occupants to justify the investment into the community, and may even need larger projects to support such investments. a) Analysis: The existing socio-spatial configuration of Little Havana is not compatible with the large block mega-developments common in downtown Miami and Brickell. The current zoning of T6-8 (maximum of 8-12 stories high) helps restrict the size of these projects somewhat, but does not help preserve socio-spatial characteristics crucial to the
quality of place and its identity in Little Havana. As new development has a highlikelihood to build to these maximum size restrictions, as they look for a worthy return on investment in developing parts of Little Havana, more should be done to help maintain the socio-spatial characteristics of variety in the block and a blurred public-private threshold. Without more specific regulations relating to the scale of Little Havana, models common in other part of Miami that often span many blocks and offer little variety in activity or cultural diversity within the block will begin taking over the unique commercial corridor of Calle Ocho. i) Recommendation 1: The first recommendation would be a historic preservation effort. The first step would be to designate a certain area as a historic district, the area around the historic Tower Theater would probably be best, and then create a registry of historic buildings to preserve outside of that district. This step should be implemented with the most urgency, as it will help preserve the buildings that are most important to the character of Little Havana. More will be talked about historic preservation strategies in the housing section. ii) Recommendation 2: The second recommendation would be to implement a more aggressive mixed-use requirement for developments along the commercial corridor of Calle Ocho in the T6 Zoning. Requiring mixed-use will help maintain a variety in uses along the commercial corridor, an important contributing characteristic of place to Little Havana. Without this, there is more likely a chance of developers who do create high rises to include the rich diversity of activity needed for the community on the ground floor. iii) Recommendation 3: The third recommendation would be to change the physical design requirements of the T6 zoning regarding high-rise developments to more closely match those of Vancouver, which requires setbacks for tall buildings beyond the initial “podium”, or lower few floors of the building. This can help maintain the small-scale feel on the street along Calle Ocho and encourage more diversity in architectural style along this “podium”. iv) Recommendation 4: The fourth recommendation would be to start the process of deregulating parking. Parking deregulation would help encourage low-rise redevelopments, that are financially infeasible with the current parking requirement. Getting rid of parking entirely may not be the best solution (as Denver is currently realizing) but should be granted in cases where it could be appropriate. In other cases, centralizing parking like the strategy pursued in Wynwood could be implemented. For commercial parking, additional parking to on-street parking should be provided behind the businesses rather than in lots in front of the businesses. v) Recommendation 5: The fifth recommendation would to implement a design proposal that improves pedestrian safety and infrastructure along Calle Ocho, such as the one proposed by PlusUrbia, as seen in Figure E. As Calle Ocho acts as a highway that moves vehicles at a high-frequency and speed through the neighborhood, PlusUrbia proposes the road be changed from a three lane one-way road to a two lane multi-
direction road to help improve the safety for pedestrians. They also suggest adding more shading and street furniture along the sidewalks 5.
Figure E A proposal for a street re-development of Little Havana, as proposed by PlusUrbia.
Little Havanaâ€™s Housing Selection: The Role of Immigration
The role immigration has established on the socio-spatial configuration of Little Havana is profound. Outside of the commercial spine that is Calle Ocho, exists a great variety of housing options and building typologies. While the share of owner-occupied housing in East Little Havana has not surpassed 15% since the 1970s (Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V., 2014, p. 5)6, the large demand for affordable housing from immigrants coming into the area has created a profitable market for low-cost apartment buildings that Little Havana has been able to continually serve throughout the decades. â€œFrom 1955 to 1973 the density and social conflict in Little Havana increased with the growth in numbers of Cuban migrants from the freedom flights that settled down in the area. The number of residents within the average household rose sharply in Little Havana, and there was a considerable conversion of single family units into multiple units as well as demolition of 5
While this paper suggests street improvements along Calle Ocho as it has an effect on the socio-spatial character of Little Havana, other papers in the class that have focused on this topic specifically go into more detail about it. 6 Feldman and Jolivet sourced this data from the 2010 US Census data
houses to make room for new apartment buildings (Winsberg; 1979; 410)â€? (Lombardero, 2013, p. 110). 4.2.1
Low-Rise, Small-Scale buildings: A historic housing stock creates a density that maintains affordability
A constant demand for affordable housing in the neighborhood from high rates of immigrants has resulted in the higher density, smaller unit sized multi-family buildings that make up a sizable portion of Little Havana today. Along with a number of bungalow type single-family houses as well, this variety in housing selection and architectural typologies has created a stock of historic housing and commercial buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood. Carlos Fausto Miranda, a developer in Little Havana, spoke to our class of the deteriorating conditions of these â€˜historicâ€™ buildings, especially the multi-family apartments, as buildings that are increasingly deteriorating in condition as they age because of the poor construction methods used when they were originally built. Buildings used saltwater to make their concrete, and their wood framework is rotting away. While many of these buildings are considered historically significant as architecture and are prized for this reason, without any rehabilitation or work done to them, these buildings will continue to deteriorate and create ever more inhumane housing conditions for the people that live in them.
Figure F A variety of building typologies exist alongside one another. The multi-family building to the right of the picture sits on a similar-sized lot as the bungalow style single-family house to the left. The multi-family building, however, has a much higher density and is still able to maintain a low-scale to the neighborhood.
The reason these buildings have not been torn down and replaced is not as much for a concern for historical preservation from their owners, but because these buildings continue to offer
something that a new building that replaces it cannot offer: density. This moderate density in small-scale buildings allows the owners to provide affordable rents for the constant supply of immigrants coming into the area. Figure F shows the footprint in which a moderate density is achieved within these small-scale buildings, as the multi-family building sits on a similar sized lot as the single-family bungalow style house next to it 7. The zoning attributes that enable such a higher density at a lower scale include: No parking requirements o Frees up more space for more units Smaller unit sizes (350 sf units to a max of 650 sf units) o Allows more units within the footprint of the building These attributes then enable: A higher density per lot (18-20 units) o This translates to roughly 120-150 units per acre It is these characteristics that have kept these buildings profitable over the years and have kept them around so long as a constant demand from immigrants has utilized these economical units. Owners and developers are hesitant to rehabilitate or replace these deteriorating buildings because it is not financially feasible to do so. And there is even less incentive to do so as many of these properties have long been paid off and provide a consistent and predictable stream of revenue for their owners. Current zoning for new buildings do not allow the characteristics that create such a density and make it financially infeasible to build or rebuild at such restrictions. Rehabilitation of these buildings is often too expensive of an option for the owners as well. This is the reason vacant lots are not being built on and a desire for upzoning exists. This is also the reason development and re-development in the neighborhood in certain areas has largely been stalled up to this point. These restrictive zoning requirements today include: T4 ZONING: Parking requirements o 1.5 spaces per unit Height restriction o 3 stories max Density o 36 units per acre
T5 ZONING: Parking requirements o 1.5 spaces per unit Height restriction o 2-5 stories Density o 65 units per acre
While some might argue that such density will not provide adequate quality of life, more widespread adaptation and acceptance of concepts like micro-units show that these types of densities work and are being readily accepted as solutions to affordable housing by renters.
T6 ZONING: Parking requirements o 1.5 spaces per unit Height restriction o 8-12 stories Density o 150 units per acre
On a lot zoned T4, which are what many of the lots are on that are being pressured to be upzoned, you could only build 4 units. Comparing this to the 18-20 units that make up historic buildings in the area, there is no comparison on what makes sense financially. That is why many developers want an upzoning from T4 to T5, which allows a higher density and height to achieve such a density. 4.2.2
Eyes on the Street: Building typologies that create a dialogue between the street and residences
The concept of the street being used as a social enabler of the public realm in the commercial area applies to the more residential areas as well, just in a different manner. With the low-rise, pedestrian oriented scale of the residential building typologies, and close proximity to commercial amenities, there are many points of social contact between residents and other members of the community. “Little Havana is a mixed use, walkable, series of neighborhoods containing unique local variations of iconic American architectural typologies, such as the bungalow, the walk-up apartment, and the courtyard apartment. It is composed of residential blocks intersected by commercial streets, creating a self-sustaining community where goods and services are located within walking distance of area residents” (Little Havana, National Trust for Historic Preservation) Building typologies that include the bungalow, the walk-up apartment, and the courtyard apartment all facilitate a social community by directly abutting the street with short setbacks and have frequent pedestrian activity moving through the area because of close proximity to goods and services in other areas of the neighborhood, creating a very walkable community. The physical design characteristics of these diverse adaptations of architectural typologies as they address the street are outlined in Figure G. These small-scale housing typologies with moderate densities mixed together within the street carry on the variety within the block concept introduced earlier in the commercial section of Calle Ocho, in the residential section. Their low height of 2-3 stories, small lot sizes of around 5,000 sf, and range of architectural styles that commonly include Spanish Revival,
Mediterranean, or Mission type styles maintain a humanistic scale throughout the neighborhood. These design type characteristics along with a moderate density also encourages people to interact socially within the community in the shared common areas of the public realm more often, instead of gathering in the privacy of larger residential units. Even in the residential sections of the neighborhood, one can find businesses mixed in at places, at times even using once residential buildings as their place of occupancy. These can make quite interesting dynamics in the neighborhood and further encourages the variety within the block concept in the residential section of the neighborhood as well.
Figure G This picture shows a variety of housing types. Starting from the nearest building includes a courtyard type apartment building, a standard apartment type building in pink in the center, and the Little Havana classic walk up center-hallway type apartment building at the end in tan.
Concerns and Recommendations for Development
Concerns: 1) Community P.O.V.: New development coming into the area will eliminate existing historic architecture in the area and displace a population that relies on the affordability of rent provided by these historic buildings Developer P.O.V.: The area needs to be upzoned to justify the investment into properties in order to be able to make a project financially feasible, as the current zoning does not allow this
a) Analysis: Current zoning does not allow for investment into the area to help improve it by rehabilitation or new development for housing in the area. The current market value of the land is too high for the allowable building density of the current zoning. This would force the developers to only be able to put a low amount of units on their property, which would require too high of an asking price for the average renter. The developers are asking for an upzoning to T5 to increase the height and density of what they could build, which would make their project more financially feasible in the current market. However, upzoning is not the only option, because density can be preserved, even at a smaller, but more contextually appropriate scale to the character of Little Havana as it exists. i) Recommendation 1: The first recommendation would be to implement more measures of historic preservation, the same for what was suggested in the commercial corridor of Calle Ocho. This could include creating a registry of historic buildings throughout Little Havana and adding and expanding upon designated historic districts (like the current one shown in Figure H as a first step. This would need to be done before any type of zoning is changed, because changing the zoning could finally catalyze developer action that could eliminate these historic buildings before they are saved, and seriously change the character of the neighborhood. ii) Recommendation 2: The second recommendation would be changing the existing zoning entirely to allow an increase in density from 36 upa to 65 upa, without the increase in height from 3 stories to 5 stories that comes with an upzoning to T5. iii) Recommendation 3: The third recommendation would be to also deregulate and reduce parking requirements to help allow such densities, through strategies of eliminating parking requirements and centralizing parking, like the ones suggested for Calle Ocho as well. Developers like Andrew Fey are already building and, in turn, providing a test model for low-rise housing without parking, thanks to an amendment he helped draft with Miami zoning administrators (Beyer, 2016). iv) Recommendation 4: The fourth recommendation is to use creative solutions to current zoning regulations, like creating micro-units that share common space and are only really counted as one housing unit, a strategy being pursued by developers like Carlos Fausto Miranda. v) Recommendation 5: The fifth recommendation would be to provide incentives for developers to rehabilitate historic housing and also include low-income housing. An example of a good low-income housing incentive is the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which gives tax breaks to developers and owners who provide lowincome housing options. Additional incentives could be provided by the city and community.
Figure H A section of the small historic distric designated in a part of East Little Havana. These buildings show a variety of the prized historic center-hallway buildings prevalent throughout the neighborhood.
5 Discussion Little Havana has established itself as a special place, cementing its cultural identity and traditions through its built environment. The socio-spatial framework established by a history of Cuban business owners and Latino immigrants has facilitated an urbanity conducive to the culturally diverse and rich experiences of everyday life by both its residents and visitors. This framework includes a variety of uses and appearances within the block, a blurred public/private threshold between the sidewalk and store, a stock of historic and affordable housing with a moderate density, a strong connection between its buildings and the street, and other historic, cultural design characteristics that are all associated with its low-rise urban character. It is this uniqueness of place, along with its convenient proximity to other places in Miami, that has attracted the attention of developers wanting to cash in on a transformation of Little Havana into something more profitable. In the face of this developmental pressure, the future of Little Havana comes into particular concern. While Little Havana has room to improve in terms of
crime, cleanliness, and infrastructure, there is fear that an upzoning could completely change the area into something unrecognizable. Strategies like implementing more historic preservation efforts, adjusting the zoning codes to address issues of parking and density, and implementing incentives for building rehabilitation and low-income housing are all solutions to help mediate the desires of both the community and developers. In doing so, Little Havana can improve itself through new development, but be able to maintain the characteristics that make it such a unique place.
References Beyer, S. (2015). America’s Progressive Developers–Carlos Fausto Miranda. Market Urbanism. http://marketurbanism.com/2015/10/25/americas-progressive-developers-carlos-fausto-miranda/ Beyer, S. (2016, July 15). Neighborhood Transformation. http://www.housingissues.org/1607151.html Feldman, M., & Jolivet, V. (2014). Back to Little Havana: Controlling Gentrification in the Heart of Cuban Miami. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(4), 1266-1285. Little Havana. National Trust for Historic Preservation. https://savingplaces.org/places/littlehavana#.V5-ysLgrJhE Lombardero, N. A. (2013). Small Active Urbanism. Lusofona Journal of Architecture and Education, (6-7), 105-123. ULI–the Urban Land Institute. ULI Community Catalyst Report Number 5: Managing Gentrification. Washington, D.C.: ULI–the Urban Land Institute, 2007. Viglucci, A. (2015). National preservation group: Miami's Little Havana endangered. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/littlehavana/article25371145.html Sociospatial perspective (2013). Urban Securipedia. http://securipedia.eu/mediawiki/index.php/Sociospatial_perspective
This thesis paper analyzes the community of Little Havana and identifies its unique characteristics. It then provides policy/design guidelin...
Published on Aug 2, 2016
This thesis paper analyzes the community of Little Havana and identifies its unique characteristics. It then provides policy/design guidelin...