Google Ads help pay the expense of maintaining this site
Click Here for the Neighborhood Transformation Website
Miami Herald - November 9, 2006
Study examines Miami's inner-city potentialA new study aims to paint a truer picture of the population and purchasing power in Miami's inner city to entice investments.
Fair Use Disclaimer
Neighborhood Transformation is a nonprofit,
noncommercial website that, at times, may contain copyrighted material
that have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. It makes such material available in its efforts to advance the
understanding of poverty and low income distressed neighborhoods in
hopes of helping to find solutions for those problems. It believes that
this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Persons wishing to
use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that
go beyond 'fair use' must first obtain permission from the copyright
BY ELAINE WALKER
anyone who has walked the streets of Overtown, Liberty City, Wynwood
and Little Haiti, there is no denying that these Miami neighborhoods
have a vibrant underground economy.
The big challenge always has been quantifying that economy in terms of population and purchasing power.
problem: Data from the U.S. Census or traditional sources like Claritas
don't tell the full story. They often don't account for multiple
families living in one house or people who work off the books and pay
their bills in cash.
Yet, without a true picture of the
population and purchasing power, it's hard to convince developers,
retailers and banks there is a strong business case to warrant their
investment. It's one of the many reasons these neighborhoods tend to
lack many of the services found in suburban or wealthy urban
communities, ranging from grocery stores to banks, movie theaters and
''In Miami Beach they've got everything they
need, but we don't,'' said Jafford Tucker, a Miami resident, who
regularly takes the bus to the Shoppes at Liberty City. ``People don't
want to go too far just to get a shirt.''
believes it can provide the data that can persuade more retailers and
banks that there's plenty of people like Tucker eager to shop or do
business in their neighborhood.
The Washington, D.C., nonprofit
research group last month launched a major research effort designed to
quantify the buying power of Miami's underserved, urban markets. The
study, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will cover
Overtown, Liberty City, Wynwood, Little Haiti, Model City, Allapattah,
Edgewood and Wynwood.
''We're trying to really change these
cities,'' said John Talmage, chief executive of Social Compact, whose
leaders include executives from some of the country's largest financial
institutions. ``You may not see the paradigm shift this year or next.
But in five years you will. It's too big of a market that's being left
Since its first study in 1999 in
Chicago, Social Compact has done similar research in eight other cities
across the country including New York, Houston, Jacksonville and
Oakland. The results have led to investments including retail
development, new bank branches and more small-business lending.
Compact's ''Drill-down'' methodology combines dozens of wide ranging
data sources that individually may not reveal a lot but when combined
provide an insightful and localized picture of a neighborhood. Research
could include a combination of building permits, driver's licenses,
utility records, school enrollment figures, credit bureau reports and
''These communities really are misunderstood,'' Talmage
said. ``The lack of data becomes a structural barrier to entry.
Businesses want to be there, but they can't make the dollars-and-cents
While nationally more retailers and banks are starting
to realize the potential for doing business in the inner city, the
investments haven't even scratched the surface. The Initiative for a
Competitive Inner City run by Harvard Business School Professor Michael
E. Porter has estimated the gap between retail supply and demand in the
100 largest inner city markets at $42 billion.
The Shoppes at
Liberty City, which opened in October 2000, marked the area's first
major commercial development in about a decade. The 79,000-square-foot
strip center includes big tenants like Winn-Dixie, Radio Shack, Payless
ShoeSource, Simply Fashions and Wendy's.
President Debra Sinkle Kolsky, who developed the Liberty City project,
believes the Social Compact research will go a long way toward helping
to change the perception in Miami of these inner-city communities.
people are not splurging on luxuries, but they're spending money on
every day basic needs,'' Kolsky said. ``I barely made a dent in the
market. There's a tremendous opportunity to improve the quality of life
in these communities.''
Social Compact's introduction to Miami
came from former Miami Herald Publisher Alberto IbargŁen, now president
and chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
IbargŁen heard one of the group's presentations years ago and in his
new job made the introduction to Miami Mayor Manny Diaz that led to the
The Knight Foundation is also supporting a big chunk of the research cost with a $100,000 grant.
particular neighborhoods are areas that business people often don't
consider when they look to do business,'' IbargŁen said. ``You want to
help leverage investment that leads to rational development.''
HAVING A CONSCIENCE
Rodriguez, community affairs relationship manager for Washington
Mutual, believes the key is making sure the efforts in these Miami
neighborhoods lead to ``redevelopment with a conscience.''
is a long time coming,'' said Rodriguez, whose bank is considering
whether to make an investment to support the study. ``We need to do it
in such a way that we're helping the folks that live there. That's the
double-edged sword of development and gentrification -- people do
ultimately get pushed out. We can make efforts to avoid that.''
Compact executives say that in effect their efforts mitigate against
gentrification because they spur more local investments.
Miami study is part of the Social Compact's plan to conduct 30 studies
within the next two years to build a broader picture of trends within
inner-city communities and bring those to the attention of national
retailers and financial institutions.
In each community, Social
Compact seeks to identify ''commercial leakage,'' areas where local
residents have to go outside of their communities to get certain basic
goods and services.
The group was attracted to Miami because of
the current development boom, diverse immigrant population and the vast
number of small firms.
''Miami is really a tale of two cities,''
Talmage said. ``On one hand, everyone wants to be in Miami. But there
are some dramatic parts of the city that aren't involved in the
Miami economic development director Lisa
Mazique believes the timing is right, as skyrocketing land prices and
overdevelopment in some of the city's prime areas are putting the
brakes on investment.
'Even the best of investors are finding
themselves priced out of the `sexy communities,' '' Mazique said. ``The
goal is to widen the path of where these investments can be steered.
Once you make it apparent that we've got the buying power to sustain an
operation, they'll come.''