Neighborhood Transformation

Neighborhood Transformation

Where Do We Go From Here?
Community Development in
Liberty City -Model City

Prepared for the Miami-Dade County Task Force on Urban Economic Revitalization

By Mark Weaver
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Click here to download the MLK Business Corridor Study

Liberty City is the heart of Miami-Dade County's largest African-American community. It is one of the county's poorest neighborhoods, yet it has significant assets and numerous development projects emerging within and near it. The community's continuing poverty, combined with its progress, make a strong case for a new burst of economic development to push it over the top into self-sustaining growth. The community is roughly bounded by 1-95 and NW 19th Ave. on the east and west and by State Rd. 112 and NW 71st St. on the north and south, although different government and agencies define the boundaries somewhat differently. The primary commercial corridor running through Liberty City is 7th Avenue: a recent (April 2004) market analysis of Martin Luther King Blvd. and 54th Street states "In fact, State Road 7/U.S. 441 (Seventh Avenue) and 79th Street serve as perhaps the two primary commercial corridors within the trade area". (1) The other four commercial corridors running through the community, 54th St., Martin Luther King Blvd. (62nd St.). 71 St. and 17th Ave., do not have the intensity of business activity that 7th Ave. does, hence the focus on development of 7th Ave. and the adjacent blocks of Martin Luther King Blvd. Planning is underway to revitalize sections of 17th Ave.

A Vision for Liberty City

Imagine this: extending several blocks out from the corners of Martin Luther King Blvd. and 7th Avenue wide sidewalks are paved with cobblestones and lit with flickering gas lamps (or colorful neon lamps if that is your preference). Lush landscape beds border the streets. A blues band is playing in an open air coffeehouse (locally owned with a local feel, not a Starbucks). A jazz trio is playing in the open windows of a soul food restaurant down the block The aroma of hickory smokin' ribs floats in the air from a busy BBQ that actually smokes its meats for 14 hours. And yes, a new franchise has come to town: Waffle House is packing people in from all of northeast Dade for breakfast. Two big hip hop clubs pull in a couple hundred night owls on weekend nights. A half dozen stores in one block have big new windows and a wavy line sculpture sticking out of the front of the buildings. A few ethnic restaurants have set out nice used easy chairs and sofas on the sidewalk Commuters on their way home to Broward are gawking and pulling into the small scale parking lots behind the buildings. The sidewalks are full of people strolling, many of whom drove in from North Miami and Hialeah for the scene, and many others who walked down from the second floor apartments and condos dotting the streets. A half dozen small parks and plazas are also full of people dotting the streets. Basketball, baseball and soccer leagues have formed, each playing in their own parks designed by and for them. Farther up the streets, outside the entertainment district other businesses are thriving from the spillover traffic. Other businesses are opening offices on the desirable streets. Along 1-95, and in the industrial zones of Liberty City, light manufacturing and warehouse businesses are thriving. New housing is going up all over the city. The poor can still afford to live here, but a lot of middle class people are moving in. The unemployment rate is half what it used to be. Ex-felons are given a break and helped back into the workforce when they can fit. Several civic groups are thriving the merchants and professionals association holds a networking social every month, so do the new Ladies' Club and the Arts League headquartered in the renovated Carver Theater. Crime is down because the community is so cohesive, and people can find decent paying jobs. The schools are improving because there are early education schools and parent training classes close to every family.

If you think this can't happen, it already did. Forty years ago South Beach residents drove to 7th Avenue for its lively night club scene instead of the other way around! There are two ways this past can be reinvented and this kind of future could happen.

One way, an entrepreneurial person with a small grant and a loan from the government jackhammers the sidewalk in front of her restaurant and gets some friends to lay some bricks down. She knocks out the front of the building and has a seven foot high bank of window-doors put in. She slaps some nice tile on the rest of the front and hangs a great looking carved wood sign over the sidewalk. She hires a jazz trio to play in the open front The place is a hit. Next day a nearby store owner gets the idea to fix up his place and the idea spreads, albeit haphazardly.

The other way is for the community to convene, envision and plan out its future so everything can move forward in a coordinated way. Then they go out and find the people and funds to implement It.

While the first way can happen, the second way is more likely to, and turns out better for everybody because everybody can build on each other's efforts in a coordinated way.

This paper describes how that has happened in other American communities, and how it could work in Liberty City.

Get Organized!

It takes organizations to get things done. To develop a vision for the future, and then make it happen, you have to be well organized. The development of Liberty City will start and grow from the stakeholders of Liberty City itself. Government and outside private sector investors will only invest in Liberty City to the extent that its leaders are organized, savvy, professional and initiating the process themselves. By functioning at the highest levels, Liberty City organizations wilt build and maximize the partnerships with the larger world necessary to invest in the community. The development that occurs, the buildings that are built, and the businesses that flourish, are a reflection of the strength of the organizations that are driving it. The National Council for Urban Economic Development Information Service recommends that neighborhood commercial revitalization projects proceed only in those neighborhoods which have a committed and organized neighborhood group, especially a legal entity that is in a better position to negotiate with politicians and municipalities.

Boost Organizational Capacities

At least a half dozen organizations are working in Liberty City, and making some progress. These organizations seek to drive the pace of economic activity in the area although their efforts are often hampered by their own need to maintain organizational viability, duplication of effort, limited financial and staffing resources and often well- intentioned projects working at cross-purposes. The continuing slow progress towards community development in Liberty City, and specifically its primary commercial corridors - indicates that its community development organizations would benefit greatly from professional organizational development consultation. Therefore the first and highest priority of the community should be capacity building of the local community development organizations, particularly building their capacity to organize better, facilitate meetings that produce results, develop strategic plans and build powerful public and private sector partnerships that get big things done. This can be accomplished by assessing the needs of local organizations and developing a plan to meet those needs.

In 2000, a national survey of metropolitan community development support structures conducted by the Urban Institute rated Miami-Dade County's among the weakest. (2) The corps of CDC's in 23 metropolitan areas was ranked on six indicators of organizational quality effective project delivery, strategic alliances, command of information technology, measures of community leadership, internal governance and management, and adequate funding and staff. The strongest CDC sectors were in Baltimore, Cleveland, New York City, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C., all of which can serve as models for an organizational assessment and capacity building project in Liberty City.

Improvement has occurred since then, especially as the result of new capacity building programs now in place; but capacity building is an ongoing process. South Florida LISC states that, "There is insufficient funding of CDC's for core operating support and for neighborhood planning, community building and organizational capacity building."

And it is not just CDC's that drive economic development. Every organization working for community development is vital to the overall success. This past year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development, through CMS Enterprises, has provided capacity building and leadership training to the county's 28-member Federal Enterprise Community Council as part of an effort to train economic developers to form community-based partnerships and establish consensus. The agency had found that while many members of the council held experience in economic development, most lacked consensus building, program analysis and strategic planning skills.

A recent paper on CDC's in particular observed that, "Because CDC's subsist mainly on project support, they find it difficult to invest in human capital development activities such as developing professional staff, providing a defined benefits structure that covers retirement, devising strategic planning procedures, and putting in place organizational policies and procedures. Many CDCs still do not have written job classifications and crucial documents such as a personnel manual. Cash-flow statements and other financial information are critical to effective decision making and organizational sustainabdity. If asked to produce monthly statements of cash flow, many CDCs would not be able to do so in a timely fashion. If statements were produced, they likely would not be understood and grounded in fiscal reality. Weak and ineffective boards, operating under limited external accountability, also represent a continuing challenge." (3) Another study states that "many community development organizations operate outside the norms of good organizational practice. Accounting is haphazard. Boards are weak and lack the diverse skills needed to guide an organization. Many are frustrating places to work because leaders are unable to nurture talent" (4)

An important way community development organizations can attract more operating funding is by participating in a capacity building program that increases their effectiveness and gains them greater credibility with a broader array of funders and development partners.

An organizational capacity building initiative for Liberty City's community development organizations is an urgent priority.

A Coordinating Community Organization

Strong, high performing organizations aren't enough though. Community development needs a guiding hand to coordinate the individual organizational efforts so they can complement one another and develop a coordinated plan that addresses the area's economic, social, and cultural infrastructure, which form the basis for a sustainable and viable community. It's the idea of "synergy", that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Liberty City needs such a "coordinating organization" that will bridge the various community development zones and programs that overlap it and convene the community for a sustained visioning, planning and implementation process. Otherwise community development in Liberty City will creep along as isolated, uncoordinated efforts of various programs and agencies that don't leverage each other in the broadest sense of the term.

The question is what shall be that coordinating organization? The leading candidate is the Liberty City Empowerment Zone Neighborhood Assembly, consisting of nine community leaders. The Assembly allocates the local federal Empowerment Zone funds. (See map of the Empowerment Zone in the appendix). In 2001 the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust conducted a strategic planning process with the Assembly that yielded the most extensive ideas in recent years for community development in Liberty City (reviewed below). (5)

Despite its prominent position, the Neighborhood Assembly has a number of limitations as a planning "hub" for Liberty City, largely because it represents one particular program and zone. The Assembly may well be dissolved in 2005 if President Bush is re-elected. Bush opposes renewal of the Empowerment Zone program when it expires in 2005. The Administration already cut back funding for the Zone, which was budgeted for $2 million a year for five years by the Clinton administration. While funding may be restored as a result of the 2004 election, it also may not.

Even if a President Kerry renews the program, the Liberty City EZ includes only about a third of Liberty City. It also oddly excludes the east side of 7th Avenue, the community's primary commercial district, a boundary the Assembly itself would like to change but lacks the power to. In addition, federal Empowerment Zone legislation mandates certain community development approaches that might not be the choice of the local community. One example is tax breaks to major corporations to locate in inner city sites, a valuable approach, but some experts believe that a more effective and feasible policy is to help small businesses survive by offering them economic incentives to keep them in operation. (6) Another example is that Empowerment Zone legislation emphasizes jobs for the chronically employed, a worthy goal, but in practice it impeded economic development in one EZ in Cleveland In 1986 the MidTown Initiative established a job Match program to better connect residents' skills with local business needs. But the establishment of the Empowerment Zone and its jobs mandate in the 1990's caused small business participation in the program to drop. (7)

Another potential leader for Liberty City is the three year old 7th Avenue Corridor Initiative, Inc. A vital 7th Avenue will keep local dollars in the community, bring them in from the outside, and entice people and businesses to move into the neighborhood. But several factors are holding the Corridor Initiative back. For one, it has no money and no staff to drive its mission on a daily basis. It is supported by Empowerment Trust staff whose duties are spread countywide. But it shouldn't be solely staffed or funded by a particular program in the first place. It needs to be independent. Furthermore, its focus to date has been exclusively on development of a transit village on the southeast block of MLK Blvd. and 7th Ave. to the exclusion of numerous other community development needs. At the same time, the transit village is moving forward in the absence of a coherent vision for the 7th Ave. and MLK corridors. Rather than be integrated into a master plan for the corridors, the transit hub may dictate the structure of the community, or end up as an anomaly poking oddly out from the rest of it. In addition, the Initiative's focus on 7th Avenue, while imperative, seems to exclude Martin Luther King Blvd. to which it is inextricably linked, and the broader needs of Liberty City for light manufacturing and more housing. Still, the Initiative can morph into such a body with a redefined mission and strong leadership that among many other things develops a diverse funding base. It takes just one effective leader to transform an organization.

Another contender for leadership of Liberty City is the Model City Revitalization Trust created in 2001 by the City of Miami to provide oversight and facilitate the revitalization of the designated Model City Community Revitalization District. Its seven member board, largely appointed by the Miami City Manager, is a good example of a brawny public- private partnership. Its chairwoman is a regional vice president of Fannie Mae. Another member is a general contractor and former vice chair of the county's Housing Finance Authority. A third is a land use attorney with Greenberg Traurig who represents major developers. Talk about high level connections! The Trust so far has focused almost exclusively on housing, but it has begun to expand its mission to economic development such as commercial revitalization.

An important new community group is currently forming to plan streetscape and fa~ade improvements on MLK Blvd. But its narrow mission and status as an ad hoc advisory group limit the role it can play, at least for the time being.

Unless the Neighborhood Assembly, 7th Avenue Corridor Initiative or the Model City Trust can expand its mission the need will remain for a new, more encompassing organization.

Whatever organization takes the lead for Liberty City's development needs to bring some muscular private sector partners into its economic development efforts. A strategy needs to be developed to identify potential private sector partners and how they can be engaged in the community's economic development. One model is the Midtown Cleveland Initiative, a 15 year old effort that has been a highly successful private sector-led revitalization of a depressed African-American neighborhood in Cleveland. It should be studied to identify the steps, strategies and modifications that could be used in Liberty City to attract private investment, the real engine of economic development. Another success story is Dallas, where the Dallas Community Development Partnership serves as a private sector mechanism to build CDC capacity so they can take advantage of the mayor's strong commitment to increased housing investment and improved coordination with the private and nonprofit development sectors. The partnership is led by the Enterprise Foundation, the Foundation for Community Empowerment and Fannie Mae Foundation. About 12 other local corporations and foundations support the partnership.

Despite the need for coordination, it may never happen because of cultural resistance to cooperation. Many people just want to do their own thing, carrying out their individual and organization agenda without having to deal with anyone else let alone keep them informed what they are doing. To a certain extent ego and organization-centricity is necessary. It keeps the organization focused on its mission and able to resist the constant pressures to expand its agenda which eventually will disperse it if not destroy the organization altogether. But there is a vital balance that can be struck. At a minimum, the various entities involved in an area could agree to share basic information on their activities, which could be distributed in a quarterly newsletter. The next step could be a community wide educational effort such as panels and workshops aimed at teaching leaders the advantages and modes of cooperation. Funders could mandate coordination as a business strategy. And a commitment to it could be used as an enticement for new funding. Hiring and recruitment processes need to be revamped to make collaboration a key criterion of job descriptions and hiring decisions.

Enhance and Recruit Leadership

A critical ingredient for community development efforts to coalesce in Liberty City and really take off is leadership. The community has many energetic, committed veteran leaders, who need reinforcements to infuse new energy, ideas, perspectives and talents to the process. A formal mechanism needs to be created to identify and recruit this new leadership, perhaps a leadership development committee composed of interested people from the various existing organizations. There is a lot of talented, latent leadership in the community. More leaders will step forward once they see change happening, either physical, or in terms of the community really beginning to organize and morale improving. In other cases, people simply need to be talked into becoming active. While there are many facets to good leadership, the basic qualities are the ability to communicate and get along well with people, self-discipline, energy, commitment and common sense. Once an excellent candidate is identified it can be very persuasive to put together a three-person delegation to approach the candidate and try to talk them into joining the cause. Finally, all leadership, new and veteran, can benefit from participating in one of the leadership development seminars available locally.

Deepen the Visioning Process

According to the 2004 Consolidated Plan of the City of Miami, "There is generally no strategy for using the scattered government investments in the distressed communities to spur economic growth in key corridors or business sectors. More needs to be done to educate businesses that low to moderate income communities are viable markets for goods and services.

Why wait for a citywide strategy? Liberty City leaders can create their own. Once the core leadership is in place, Liberty City needs to resume the strategic planning process begun the Neighborhood Assembly in 2001, this time broadening it, deepening it, and most importantly building a vigorous implementation component into it.

A state of the art strategic planning process begins with a community visioning process. Visioning is the grand design for local development. One visionary described it this way: "Vision is seeing beyond the immediacy of the day. It is understanding the temper of the times, the outlines of the future, and how to move from one to the other. Vision is having some sense of the inner impulse of the public soul and then giving it voice. Vision is seeing the potential purpose that's hidden in the chaos of the moment, yet which could bring to birth new possibilities for a people." Envisioning involves a belief that we can influence our destiny by what we do now. It is an ideal view of the future that gives a sense of purpose to the actions of the community and its organizations.

A written vision statement, often one page, sets the direction for the strategic planning process. A strategy is a pattern of action to address key issues, modify current circumstances and/or realize latent opportunities. It is a course of action laid out to reach a specific goal. Strategies are composed of a series of planned tasks, each carried out by an individual.

It may be premature for a master planning charrette, but stakeholders need to begin to develop Liberty City's sense of place, not just for planning purposes but to inspire them with their potential for the future and energize them to make it happen. A comprehensive, 3-5 year community strategic planning process that articulates the community's agreed-upon vision will guide and stimulate all revitalization activities.

Model City Empowerment Zone Strategic/Implementation Planning Document

Liberty City began a strategic planning process in 2001, but it hasn't gotten very far. The county Empowerment Zone Trust contracted the Kimley-Horn consulting firm to lead the Liberty/Model City Empowerment Zone Neighborhood Assembly through a community assessment process that yielded the "Liberty/Model City Strategic/Implementation Planning Document." That document, along with another plan formulated in 2003, "MLK Boulevard/7th Avenue Passenger Transfer Center Citizens Independent Transportation Trust Plan" establish a good foundation on which to build further.

The Empowerment Zone Plan is the more developed of the two, but it was not a complete strategic planning process. Its tide is noteworthy it is a planning document, not a strategic master plan. The planning document itself calls for development of a "comprehensive master plan (feasibility study)" (later referred to as a "Strategic Master Implementation Plan (Feasibility Study)". While a valuable and important building block, the Planning Document has several limitations. It was primarily an advisory process for utilizing EZ funds. The Planning Document covers the Liberty City Empowerment Zone, which covers a third of Liberty City. Specifically, it excludes the east side of 7th Avenue. Liberty City needs a community wide plan that transcends the various economic development zone boundaries. Nor was the EZ process a community-driven one that vested key stakeholders in its implementation. No formal prioritization process took place (it was informal), and no action plans and work programs formulated. The introduction to the Plan itself states that it is the opinions of the Kimley-Horn consulting company, not the Empowerment Trust or the Liberty City Neighborhood Assembly, let alone the public. The Planning Document also contains few details that would create a sense of place and look for the community. Few of its recommendations have been implemented. One of the key participants describes it as "just another study sitting on a shelf." A major reason is the defunding of the EZ by the Bush administration at the same time it has unfathomably spent $200 billion on Iraq, much of it to construct Iraqi schools, roads and the electric grid.

But that planning process was not intended to be more than what it was. The Planning Document states that its recommendations should serve as the basis for fulfilling the strategic master plan and concludes: "The foundation being laid, the (neighborhood) assembly members can now pursue whether their plans for improvement can be sustained in the area as reflected in the county's master plan. More important, the result of the empowerment planning to date may ultimately result in modifications to the overall master plan because the work of the assembly proved to be more realistic in scope." (The statement is confusing because the empowerment zone is located in the City of Miami and not subject to the county master plan.)

The Planning Document's limitations do not mean that it is not a very valuable resource. It should serve as the foundation on which expanded strategic planning takes place. The next efforts should flush out its emerging vision, with special attention to the look and theme of the community. And future action plans have to go beyond the scope of a particular government program, especially one whose future is so uncertain. The top priorities identified in the Planning Document, most of which still need to be implemented, are:
  • Create a formal business plan for the target area
  • Educate the business community
  • Develop a block by block plan to develop the business corridor
  • Identify specific business needs that should be in the zone
  • Establish a light manufacturing zone at Poinciana Park
  • Improve security and lighting for public safety
  • Coordinate housing and other programs
  • Leverage EZ money with Brownfield, Everglades restoration and Eastward Ho projects
  • Beautification projects along the business district corridor
  • Ensure that the contracted vendor, PAVE, has a marketing campaign that is tailored to the area with an emphasis on youth and ex-offenders, and strategies for the vendor to educate prospective employers about ex-offenders
  • Enlist the involvement of Tools for Change to educate employers on the benefits of employing the residents of the target area
  • Compensate residents for the time that is spent on the job training
  • Code enforcement for buildings in target area (zoning violations)
Specific projects that were identified were:
  • An incubator facility to house businesses and/or warehouses, perhaps in Edison Plaza or the Poinciana Industrial Park.
  • A major supermarket
  • Creation of a distribution center to enable volume discounts for neighborhood grocers and other commodity vendors
  • Promote technology training through the charter schools in the zone and build a tie-in to the information technology industry or the Network Access Point
  • Maximize community and entrepreneurial education and technical assistance at Miami Northwestern Senior High School, Miami Dade College Entrepreneurial Education Center and Florida Memorial College.
  • Redesign Liberty City's business district as a destination point as opposed to a district to pass through. (The actual street(s) are left undefined but the implication is 7th Avenue and MLK Blvd. from 7th Ave to 12th Ave., although the Planning Document also identifies 71st St. as a focus area.) This would include a restaurant that rush hour travelers would patronize, and a bakery (wholesale/retail) - cafeteria. In addition, create a cultural corridor such as an entertainment and cultural arts district, including an artists' loft and renovation of the Carver Theater.
  • The closest the Planning Document comes to visualizing that district was this statement: "Beautification projects should address the type of theme that the assembly members want to have along the thoroughfare; for example, streetlight, sidewalk, crosswalk and foliage designs along the corridor. Trash receptacles and bus stops designed to reflect the flavor of the area should also be taken into consideration. Gateway signs that let pedestrians and commuters know that they are now in the Liberty City/Model Cities Empowerment Zone." (Editorial comment this last statement is revealing of the bureaucratic mindset of the EZ Planning Document; why the public would care that they are entering an Empowerment Zone is beyond me. On the other hand, if attractive ground monuments welcomed you to "Liberty City" and included a thematic slogan, people would take note). The Planning Document notes that area artists made a proposal to the Assembly to develop a community beautification plan including the development of a consistent theme for the business district. This group certainly needs to be brought into the strategic planning process.
  • Key recommendations for 7th Avenue were
    • Creating an artists' loft at the Carver Theater
    • A facade improvement plan
    • Develop a comprehensive streetscape plan with city staff and other government agencies
  • The key recommendation for 71st St. (7-10th Avenues) was to establish a business incubator and technical assistance center to house fledgling businesses and support components, including retail, professional services, wholesale and distribution technology to serve the entire community, create jobs and recycle income. Wholesalers could sell to retailers.

New City of Miami Consolidated Plan

Liberty City's strategic planning process will take place in the context of the City of Miami's new (2004) five year community development plan. The Plan for 2004-2009 shifts the City's community development approach to a two-tier strategy that designates Neighborhood Development Zones (NDZ's) and smaller Model Blocks within each zone. Each Model Block contains a Business Development Corridor. (See map of the Model City NDZ and its Model Block in the appendix). Two Business Development Corridors are designated for Model City the Model City Corridor is NW 17th Ave. from 62nd St. to State Road 112 the Martin Luther King Blvd. Corridor which runs from 1-95 to NW 17th Ave.

It is noteworthy that the City is no longer targeting the 7th Ave. corridor, however, it remains an Economic Opportunity Zone. The 1999-2004 Consolidated Plan established the Model City Economic Opportunity Zone, consisting of 7th Avenue from 54 St. to 71st St. and 17th Avenue from 50th St. to MLK Blvd. The city's Request for Proposals for the FY 2004 federal Community Development Block Grant program stated that "considerable effort will be devoted to those businesses operating within the Economic Opportunity Zone." The wide variety of services to be provided includes review of business operating systems, development of business plans, marketing plans, budget analysis, accounting and risk management procedures, insurance and bonding procedures, inventory control, personnel management arid customer relations; preparation of loan applications, personnel screening and all other requirements for opening a new business; facade improvement, sidewalk repair, new signage, parking and coordination with the County in road improvement A coordinated effort to provide a "marketing theme" for the business corridors will be explored and the development of a joint marketing campaign to bring new customers into the zone will be planned.

The new approach is to concentrate Community Development investments and incentives in the Model Blocks to provide a visible and concentrated revitalization initiative that can serve as a catalyst for further private investment in the rest of the NDZ. The Model City Model Block area will receive infrastructure and streetscape improvements, code enforcement and removal of shim and blight, housing rehabilitation and new construction assistance; facade improvements and other targeted business assistance and social service assistance to the residents. In 2004 the City issued an RFP for a business assistance program but did not receive a proposal for any Model Block. Proposals for other areas scored too low to be funded. This suggests the need for Liberty City organizations to solicit or develop a proposal for future funding cycles. It also implies that area organizations need greater capacity in order to take advantage of such opportunities.

Within the Commercial Business Corridors, the City is concentrating resources for economic development public infrastructure improvements and commercial rehabilitation. The criteria for selecting Commercial Business Corridors were existing market conditions, planned capital improvements, likelihood of future development, proximity to Model Blocks and City commission and staff recommendations. In order to become a priority, 7th Avenue interests will have to mount a sustained lobbying effort to become a targeted Commercial Business Corridor.

The NDZ concept is a comprehensive long-term approach to neighborhood revitalization that focuses on community assets as a means of stimulating market driven redevelopment. It is a holistic approach that calls for sustained, multiyear commitments from local government, the private sector, foundations, and community based organizations. The goal is to transform each zone from a fragmented set of residential, commercial and industrial sites with a reputation as being dangerous and undesirable into a cohesive neighborhood. As part of the effort the Community Development Dept. has developed an extensive archive of neighborhood level data including maps using Global Information System technology. The Department has also inventoried the assets of each neighborhood. The first step in creating a sustainable development plan for these neighborhoods is the development of a coordinated plan for infrastructure improvements and public services in the NDZ's. An MLK Blvd. streetscape advisory committee is in the process of organizing.

The Consolidated Plan's neighborhood public involvement process yielded the recommendation that economic development in the 5th commission district concentrate/leverage funding on MLK Blvd. and in Overtown. This suggests that in order for the 7th Avenue corridor to receive more attention, its interests need to participate more vigorously in community planning meetings. Such turnout has to be organized by local organizations. Few isolated individuals show up at these meetings on their own.

The Strategic Planning Process

There are weak strategic planning processes and great ones. The keys to a community-changing one are recruiting a broad, energetic and talented swath of stakeholders to the process before it begins, facilitating the meetings expertly, and culminating in specific implementation work plans.

The planning process should be convened by a committee comprised of up to 20 of the key stakeholders in the community. (8) The key sectors to be involved are financial institutions, local businesses, government, manufacturing, social services, youth, senior citizens and the churches. One of the challenges facing Liberty City is that none of the leading organizations includes the churches, let alone the private sector. The Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and Church of the Open Door have formed the Collective Banking Group, an ecumenical organization that is advocating for positions on the boards of local financial institutions. Yet, this vital initiative is not included as part of a coordinated community planning body.

Great care has to be taken in deciding the membership of the stakeholders committee, for this decision will determine the fate of Liberty City. Each additional member of the committee will slow the process and add complexity, yet it is Imperative to include every sector of community development to marshal and leverage the maximum forces. The individuals chosen must be personally interested in the future of the community, knowledgeable about it, believe in the strategic planning process, willing to communicate and cooperate, willing to take risks and support desirable change and be committed to action. Each candidate should be carefully evaluated on each of these criteria. If the preliminary discussions with local leaders indicate that many are unwilling to commit to this planning effort, the process should be postponed until a time when community leaders are ready to move forward.

If the leadership is committed, a professional, paid community development consultant with highly rated strategic planning facilitation experience should be retained by the organizing committee to support the team members' work and be responsible for implementation of the strategic planning process.

The next step is to conduct three written surveys: one of the identified leadership, one of the interested public, and one of business owners and managers. Sample surveys can be found in the appendix. The Miami-Dade Urban Task Force is planning a business survey. With regard to the leadership survey, in addition to the standard visioning questions, two key questions especially relevant for Liberty City that must be asked are: why do Liberty City's community development problems persist and what can be done to resolve these problems?

In addition to these surveys a more objective assessment of Liberty City is needed. This data has already been generated and is available in the various studies cited in this paper. It can easily be photocopied or collated into a data manual for the participants of the planning process. Two common assessments are an economic base analysis and a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The base analysis provides base data while a SWOT analysis illustrates how the community appears to a business or visitor looking at it from the outside and comparing it to other locations. The Empowerment Trust has already performed a SWOT analysis of its zones.

Once all data is collected, a one-day overnight workshop for all stakeholders should be held in Key Largo. The workshop should be well publicized but not presented as a general public meeting. However, any interested individual should be included. The workshop must be professionally facilitated. Stakeholders will break down into four small groups concerning the areas of community development: I) housing 2) public infrastructure 3) economic development and 4) public services. Each group envisions their future and rates their priorities. The small groups then convene in a plenary session where the various priorities are voted upon as part of a grand vision. The visioning should include some preliminary visual designs for the key public places identified. This makes the visioning more concrete, galvanizes and energizes people, recruits new activists and builds public support for the process. This need not be an expensive charrette-type exercise. The Liberty City artists group has already offered to participate and graduate students from the University of Miami's Center for Urban and Community Design and the School of Architecture also engage in design studios. Finally, a strategic action team is established for each of the 6-8 top priorities. The steering committee must identify a highly effective leader for each team. Additional community leaders are then identified and appointed to each team. Again, it is extremely important that each person admitted to a continuing role in the process be thoroughly reviewed for their ability to contribute positively, especially their social and communication skills and the time and energy commitment they can make.

Within a month, a half-day workshop should be held by each team to "troubleshoot" each priority and determine the causes of the problem and barriers to solution. The teams then begin to identify actions to solve the problems. The teams will have to meet every other week for several months to complete this stage. Each team member should develop their own action plan for the research they will conduct and contacts they can make to answer questions raised in the workshop. The team leaders and main coordinator must follow up weekly to monitor the progress each team member is making. No one should be allowed to drop the ball as it weakens the entire process. Team members must be pressed to make a commitment to the process before they are invited to join. Another suggestion is that they commit to compressed time frames which means they will respond to email and phone messages immediately (rather than a day or week later or not at all) and when accepting a task, begin its execution the following day.

Each team member should be provided with a comprehensive list of the community development organizations, programs and experts in South Florida and key organizations nationally as a resource. Greater Miami is fortunate to have dozens of community development experts who know what works. They are waiting to be tapped.

The key factors to be determined are which organizations and agencies should be responsible for carrying out each action, how much it will cost and what the sources of funding are. Finally, the actions should be prioritized. Only the most important and cost-effective should be incorporated into the strategic plan, although all should be noted.

Next, the steering committee will write the strategic plan. Each problem is converted into a specific goal statement that bridges the problem and its priority strategic action. The final draft will include an explanation of the local strategic planning process, a summary of the community assessment data, the vision statement, the goals and strategic actions and the implementation procedure for the plan. The draft is reviewed and revised in a meeting of all of the strategic planning participants and then presented to the general public at several community meetings for final revision.

Once adopted, the most critical stage of the process, and the one at which most strategic planning fails, begins. If Liberty City leaders begin the strategic planning process with an understanding of and commitment to this implementation phase, they will at the very least win some victories that will move the community ahead, if not catalyze its renaissance. The three key elements of the implementation stage are 1) the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement with each responsible company, organization or agency: 2) conversion of the strategic action teams into task forces that will monitor and coordinate implementation of their sector of the plan and issue quarterly progress reports to the community; and 3) the steering committee defines milestones or benchmarks for each goal and reports annually on progress towards their achievement The strategic plan should always be revised as needed. Periodic, graphically interesting, simple "scorecards" charting the progress should be widely distributed in the community in order to encourage intervention in areas lagging.

Strategies to Consider

The participants of the planning process have a wealth of resources to draw on. They should consider the following best practices identified in the interviews and research for this paper.

Go for an Early Visible Victory

The immediate and number one priority of a strategic plan should be to achieve some small but highly visible improvements on the 7th Avenue/MLK corridors. This will energize people for further action, gain the attention of the outside world, and just look good. They can begin by choosing one block to focus most initial energy in order to catalyze development on the adjacent streets. A good start might be the creation of a community gathering place that would offer foods, coffees, beer, wine (and perhaps liquor), live music, poetry readings and standup comedy in addition to community meeting space. But keep in mind that, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a single project cannot revitalize a commercial neighborhood. An early victory is only the beginning of a long series of sustained initiatives.

Coordinated with this renovation should be dramatic facade refacing, sidewalk repaving and aggressive landscaping. The City of Miami provides federal COB grants for pressure cleaning, painting, awnings, doors, store showcase windows, signs and shutters. The emphasis of the program is to correct code violations. Unfortunately, the City excludes the most important and dramatic element of facades: resurfacing the front of the building with tiles, bricks or wavy protrusions. Liberty City organizations (along with those citywide) need to lobby for a meaningful expansion of the city's facade grants. One person needs to take responsibility to coordinate this lobbying effort

In June 2004 Tools for Change proposed a more comprehensive, very promising community organizing campaign that has the potential to galvanize the community for action and convene a renewed strategic planning process. Named the "Liberty City Project Revitalization and Neighborhood Enhancement" Project, Tools proposed a budget of $418,000 for a staff of 11 and the subcontracting of pressure cleaning, painting and landscaping. The project's mission is to create a "financially healthy, respected community which has made a measurable difference in the appearance of the community (e.g. less trash) and the safety of the residents and business owners. Improving the appearance of the community by picking up garbage, working with volunteers and property owners to improve the use of existing facilities and services will bring pride to its residents and visitors."

The primary partners would be residents and homeowners, business owners, community leaders, the city, county and state, religious organizations, City of Miami planning, building and code enforcement, neighborhood services and profit and nonprofit organizations. The goals are:
  • Safer and more attractive residential streets through sidewalk cleaning, landscaping and educating citizens to take greater responsibility for the safety and attractiveness of their streets.
  • Cleaner neighborhoods through collaboration with Code Enforcement Increased neighborhood clean ups, anti-litter campaigns and continuous maintenance plans build residents' capacity to make their neighborhoods more beautiful.
  • Vital business districts. Business owners and the community would conduct trash pickup and removal, pressure cleaning sidewalks and walls, landscaping and painting on 7th Avenue from 54-62 Streets.
  • Encourage and involve existing business owners in maintaining their establishments in a clean and attractive manner.
  • Affordable housing. Work with nonprofit groups and neighborhood leaders to implement a wide range of reinvestment strategies to preserve existing affordable housing to include home improvement grants, restoration of abandoned housing, community paint days and private investments.
  • Job trade. Teach youth trades in building and repair of masonry, carpentry, painting, electrical, plumbing, etc.
  • Public relations and community liaisons for project revitalization and neighborhood enhancement

A Main Street Strategy

A Main Street strategy uses historic preservation to draw people back to once thriving central business districts. As has happened in Miami Beach and Little Havana, and many places around the country, historic preservation and cultural heritage programs can serve as a catalyst for economic revitalization, creating opportunities for dining and entertainment destinations. The City of Miami has developed a list of the historic sites in its Neighborhood Development Zones, although none are in the Liberty City NDZ, and operates an historic preservation and facade improvement program. The City has targeted MLK Blvd. from 7-12th Avenues for an historic/cultural district. The 7th Avenue corridor needs to pursue a similar strategy.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has operated its Main Street Program since 1980, which assists communities revitalize their commercial areas. The program has a four point approach that consists of Design that enhances the look of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings; Organization through consensus building and cooperation between groups and individuals; Promotion by marketing historic districts' assets to the public and investors; and Economic Restructuring that strengthens the district's economic base and helps it compete with outlying development. The program's philosophy consists of incremental small projects that are part of a long-term comprehensive series of initiatives; self help through local leadership and community involvement; public/private partnerships; capitalizing on existing assets; quality in all phases, from storefront design to promotional campaigns and special events; changing negative attitudes, habits and perceptions to positive ones about the future; and action- oriented, small, dramatic, frequent and visible changes in the look and activities of commercial districts.

An obvious strategy is to start at the heart of Liberty City and build outward, lot by lot, block by block. The heart of Liberty City is the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (NW 62nd St.) and 7th Avenue, which is currently the focus of intense development planning. Miami Dade Transit has begun the design phase for a multi modal transit hub that will demolish the southeast block of the intersection. If financing can be nailed, the hub will be expanded to street level retail space, an office tower and four story parking garage. On the northeast block of the intersection, Tacolcy Economic Development Corp. is working to demolish and reconstruct the Edison shopping plaza with 72,000 sq. feet of retail space and return a major supermarket to the neighborhood. Both of these major developments need to be integrated into a Main Street strategy across and up and down 7th Avenue and westward on MLK.

Major developments always need "anchors" -- high volume businesses that draw people to the area who then patronize the smaller stores. The MLK/7th Ave. intersection already has a major anchor - the Miami Dade College Entrepreneurial Education Center, which brings hundreds of students to the neighborhood every day. But the surrounding businesses are not capturing this tremendous traffic - most students come and go without venturing up and down the street The area is ripe for the development of an appealing student scene such as a coffee house, food hangout, bar, bookstore and some shops that cater to youth culture. This untapped demand is heightened by the lack of a student union and food and drink facility on the campus. All of this is another example of a synergy that needs to be exploited by a conscious planning body - while the college is too small to support a thriving street scene by itself, it can provide the core customer base that will draw non-students into neighborhood businesses. The Main Street strategy is a "mixed-use' strategy that would bring low rise town homes and apartment buildings to 7th Avenue and MLK Blvd. and create residential space above street level commercial space. This would bring more people to the corridors to support retail expansion. Moreover, affordability and homeownership must be part of the mix. An innovative program being instituted at the new Allapattah rental town homes places $100 of a $650 monthly rental payment into a sort of escrow account which the renter can eventually use for the down payment on a home.

The most significant competitive disadvantage of the 62nd and 54th streets trade area (which heavily overlaps the 7th Avenue trade area) is the comparatively low residential density. (9) Simply put, there aren't enough people living in the area to support much retail expansion. The trade area's population is 35,810. In comparison, the 79th St. corridor convenience goods and personal services trade area has a population of 89,444. The low population density coupled with low household income minimizes the total expenditure potential of the trade area and therefore the demand for retail goods and services. Hence, a critical strategy for 7th Avenue corridor revitalization is to build substantially more middle class and low income housing in the trade area, including on 7th Avenue itself.

How do we implement a Main Street strategy? An excellent model is the Neighborhood Main Street Initiative established in 1996 by the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) and the National Main Streets Center (NMSC) to help community development corporations (CDC's) rebuild business districts in urban areas. Six urban neighborhood business districts were selected as demonstration projects because they had CDC's with strong records of commercial development and community participation. The demonstrations were so successful that 22 more sites were added to the initiative. LISC and NMSC offered intensive, on-site expertise and training for CDC staff, business and property owners and community residents. To make it work, business and property owners and associations, residents, financial institutions, churches, politicians, policymakers and police organized around a common vision for revitalization and then develop a strategy to realize the vision. Working with a CDC at each site LISC and NMSC helped form leadership teams to recruit volunteers and commercial district managers and identify potential committee members with backgrounds in economic development, community organizing, small business development, real estate and urban redevelopment. Strong volunteer committees provided local oversight and community leadership. A neighborhood business district manager took responsibility for day to day program administration. The best managers balanced business skills such as real estate development, marketing and finance with community politics and cross-cultural communications. Each community identified its assets and created a plan based on their assets. LISC and NMSC helped committees conduct training and planning workshops, recognize market engage local government.

A big question for the Initiative was how well CDC's that had focused on housing could succeed with new constituencies on new turf and integrate commercial development with their other community development activities. LISC found that CDC's redevelopment of highly visible properties in a business district would motivate surrounding businesses to expand, and that organized and consistent design and promotion among existing businesses spurred restoration and new construction of commercial properties. All these are examples of development synergies. CDC experience with housing could be applied to mixed-use projects combining ground floor commercial with second story lofts and apartments. LISC found that CDC's can revitalize business districts as effectively as they can residential areas.

Some of the major barriers to a Main Street initiative are mistrust between newcomers and old timers, the fact that many merchants don't own their space, and a climate of resistance bred by previous failed initiatives. LISC was able to overcome these in large part because the local program manager drove the process by conducting extensive community outreach within the business community to encourage the involvement of business owners, property owners, tenants, law enforcement and public officials and other stakeholders. Local stakeholders attended meetings and began to work together because they wanted access to resources such as a national network of experts and funding as well as ongoing assistance from local LISC offices to grow their businesses. Another key strategic component was restoring quality of life by eliminating physical decay and other markers of abandonment This minimized fear and built community, generating both community pride and broader support for business district revitalization.

Establish a Liberty City Design Center

Visions need a place to make them real. The community needs a space to house its community development campaign, similar to the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center. The place would serve as a new "town hall" where the community can meet, convene the process and provide institutional memory. It would serve as a source of information and technical assistance. It should be equipped with geographic information systems (GIS), planning simulation and indicators software linked to local databases so that participants in the strategic planning process can easily conduct and visualize their research. Such design centers can be formed through partnerships with organizations holding expertise in the field. The state of the art Overtown website at www.overtown.org features a neighborhood fact sheet, demographic data and GIS mapping.

Establish a Business Depot

The City of Miami's Consolidated Plan concludes that there is a vital need for connecting business owners and managers with assets in and around their communities. While several non-profits already provide business start up assistance, many small business people are unaware of these services. Liberty City clearly should pursue the establishment of a business development center that co-locates private, public and non profit resources engaged in business development and new venture creation such as the Renaissance Center in Oakland, CA and Springfield Technical Community College in Massachusetts. The Liberty City Neighborhood Assembly also proposed a business center with a location on 71st St.

Miami-Dade College is proposing a comprehensive 45,000 sq. ft. Business Depot to provide business assessment, training and support for entrepreneurs to augment Its existing programs at the Entrepreneurial Education Center on 7th Ave. near MLK Blvd. The EEC has no room to expand and proposes a location in the proposed Martin Luther King Transit Village. The Depot would include (10) multimedia classrooms, two computer labs, a business resource courtyard with a library and 70 high end computers, a conference center with a 110 seat auditorium and office space for faculty and technical personnel serving small business owners. It would house a Business Development Engine, an incubator without walls program, and the Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship now based at the EEC. The Depot would identify the training needs of business owners and prospective entrepreneurs and bring together EEC and community resources in an instructional setting. It would develop strategic alliances with community organizations and entities to enhance programs and services available to businesses. It would develop a cadre of entrepreneurs and business instructors to nurture entrepreneurial skills.

Establish a Business Improvement District

One of the trends in community development over the past 15 years has been the spread of Business Improvement Districts (BID's). A BID is established by petition of local business or property owners to levy a tax on themselves and create a fund the local BID board would use to finance infrastructure improvements and image enhancement efforts. Local government collects the assessments but the local BID board controls the spending. BID's have operated for many years in Miami Beach and Coral Gables and a recent Coconut Grove market analysis proposes the creation of a BID in the downtown Grove with an annual budget of $250,000. An important advantage of such a district is that it would enhance the political power of local businesses with local, state and federal government, foundations and private sector investors, and leverage further attention for the area. The BID could also fund an Ambassador program that employs local residents to maintain public spaces and enhance security. Another common BID function is to act as a central clearinghouse for a business district master plan and otherwise work to attract new business and services to the community. Tools for Change's "Liberty City Project Revitalization and Neighborhood Enhancement" proposal contains many of the elements of a typical BID.

There is a question of whether 7th Ave. retail sales can support a BID, an obvious issue for exploratory research. Nevertheless, the tax assessment could initially be set at a very low level and the revenues leveraged with other funds. As initial improvements generate more business revenues, the assessment could be raised to generate more revenue in a bootstrapping process. Another barrier is that some businesses in impoverished areas do not hold business licenses. A further issue is what organization should found the BID. The National Council for Urban Economic Development Information Service has argued that neighborhood commercial revitalization projects should proceed only in those neighborhoods which have a committed and organized neighborhood group. The Vanguards of 7th Avenue business association is one obvious candidate, among others. A capacity building project being developed by the Urban Task Force for several Liberty City organizations will help determine which organizations have the best potential to serve in such a role.

Better Marketing

Another key to commercial revitalization is a well thought out, thematic marketing campaign. The City of Miami Department of Community Development is beginning just such a business assistance service, but Liberty City needs to take the initiative in marketing itself. Marketing costs can be reduced by implementing self-help efforts such as a neighborhood business directory, a monthly newsletter promoting the businesses, newspaper advertising, radio spots, direct mail and door-to-door flyering campaigns. One possibility is to work with the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust to build on their countywide 2002-2003 "Black Resource Directory, The Real Black Pages," and develop neighborhood edition updates. In Miami Shores, the local chamber and village government partner to distribute monthly to every home a highly effective plastic bag containing the chamber and village newsletters and paid advertising flyers.

Build Strong Social Networks

Social networks are a critical but forgotten ingredient of community development because they bring people together for social and political action and create a community consciousness. They are also important in fighting crime because they contribute to a sense of ownership and territoriality of the locality shared by neighbors who feel responsible to watch out for one another. They would also facilitate an organized community development campaign. One example would be a business and professional cocktail mixer once a month. John Mills at Tools for Change points out the need to organize local sports leagues such as basketball and baseball. Local musicians could also network and work collectively to build a local music scene that nurtures the artists, develops venues and promotes their gigs.

An Industrial Policy

The large majority of businesses in Liberty City are retail or wholesale. The City of Miami recommends that the focus needs to be on building industries, not just businesses. Industries are selfsustaining niche markets in which it is possible to control all facets of trade, including production, distribution, and retail. There are many opportunities to create industries that cater to specific niche markets. One example is the Black beauty industry. Some existing beauty salons could become manufacturers and distributors of beauty supplies. Rather than focusing on individual business development, economic development efforts should support the development of industries. Liberty City leaders need to develop a work plan to bring more industry to the community. The City has targeted the following industries because they are located in Miami's Neighborhood Development Zones and have great potential for growth: furniture, fabricated metals, plastics, motion pictures and entertainment

Gazelle Businesses

Recent studies have concluded that Liberty/Model City also needs to develop business-service companies and high-growth, high-employment businesses rather than additional retail. In addition, Liberty City needs to position itself to join the expansion of African-American-owned businesses in the U.S. During five years in the late 1990s, there was a 46% increase in Black business ownership compared to a 24% increase in the number of majority owned firms. There are now over 880,000 Black owned businesses in the U.S. 10 An ING survey of 350 African-American CEOs of high growth companies revealed that Florida ranked second only to Georgia as the state most attractive for starting a new business or expanding their current business. (11)

Special attention should be paid to the development of Gazelle businesses. So named because they run fast and leap in great bounds, Gazelles are businesses that experience 20% sales growth a year for at least four years (another source cited five years) from a base of at least $100,000 in revenues and have 10-100 employees, according to a widely accepted definition by the inventor of the term. (12) "If you want a lot of new jobs, you want a lot of the fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses known as "Gazelles'" stated one writer in Inc. Magazine. (13)


The top ten Gazelle industries (2003) are
  • Building and maintenance services
  • Computer and data processing services
  • Management and business consulting services
  • Specialty trade contracting
  • Engineering and architectural services
  • Heavy construction contracting
  • Personnel supply services
  • Trucking and courier services
  • Industrial supplies and equipment
  • New and used car dealers
Only about three percent of businesses are Gazelles. Three to five percent of small firms account for three fourths of jobs created in the U.S. Half of the country's economic growth comes from companies that did not exist ten years ago. America's Gazelles are much less likely than other small businesses to fail, they create considerably more wealth in the form of profits, sales and value: pay higher wages and greater benefits and are much more likely to export products and services" Estimates of the number of Gazelles range from 200,000 to 350,000. Most Gazelles are not high tech, but in low- tech or traditional industries and serve local markets, concluded two researchers in the Economic Development Review. Almost 30% are in wholesale and retail trade and another 30% are in services such as medical transcription (some of which are high tech). Only a few percent of Gazelles get venture capital funding. Gazelles are somewhat older than small companies in general. Nearly a fifth have been in business for 30 years or more. Commonly, says the research company Cognetics, Gazelles go through a gradual development phase followed by a robust (but not explosive) growth." New Gazelles are small, but as a group they include all sizes and the large ones while small in number account for a sizable share of jobs created.

The pursuit of Gazelles as a Liberty City development strategy should be cautious and researched comprehensively, along the lines outlined here, because it is a demanding and high-risk strategy. The Gazelle business environment is ever and rapidly changing. Constant adaptation is required. One expert describes their psychological environment as one of continual terror. Flexibility and rapid response are essential. The traditional long range business plan of five years becomes a one to three year plan with a one year plan culminating tomorrow. For the business owner, life is stressful and the risks of bankruptcy and burnout are high. (14)

One researcher instead advises a "bullfrog" strategy for "the vast majority" of small businesses, that takes shorter jumps with a good rest between them. She suggests that businesses plateau periodically for a limited time to maximize planning so that decision making does not become reactionary and resources can be gathered for a rapid growth leap. She calls the Gazelle concept "almost too simplistic" and more useful as a "mindset that fosters growth". She cautions that sustained rapid growth is not always feasible or desirable. (15)

The mindset of the entrepreneur is a key factor in the extent and rate of Gazelles' growth, she stresses. Gazelles seek to create wealth in the marketplace often by foregoing their own immediate income. The Gazelle mindset is always forward thinking and requires a very high level of self-sacrifice by the entrepreneur to feed the growing business. Thus, a Gazelle strategy needs to not only identify this personality type but support it during incubation. Growing for protracted periods of time can cause the business to suffer for lack of capital, human resources and/or the ability to respond rapidly to a constantly changing environment Capital for acquisition of resources becomes a major priority. Mistakes can be extremely costly and the growth "window of opportunity" may only be open for a very brief period of time.

Thus a Gazelle strategy has to continually assess all areas requiring capital, plan for future increased cash flow needs, investigate the feasibility of outsourcing to limit the investment of capital, and establish and reinforce ongoing relationships with bankers and other potential future capital sources. Human resources are also critical to a Gazelle strategy. Expansion can be so fast that merely finding increasing numbers of qualified and affordable employees becomes a difficult and potentially expensive process. There is no time for personnel problems or training. Thus a Gazelle strategy has to have in place a workforce system that has planned for and delivers the specific knowledge, skills and abilities essential for growth. Relationships with area high schools, technical schools and colleges have to be in place and specific courses may have to be designed to meet the needs of incubating Gazelles. Relationships with specialized recruitment firms and military outplacement services need to be developed. Competitive compensation packages must be researched and designed to attract the number of qualified employees required. Further research is needed to identify any existing Gazelle support programs at any of Miami-Dade County's economic development and workforce organizations. A program specializing in Gazelle planning, and workforce-capital pipelines would have to be established. We should be aware that Gazelles tend to move around a lot in the process of growing. They are the main force behind business migration within metropolitan areas and regions. Thus a Gazelle strategy should be forward looking and designed to retain Gazelles in Liberty City over the long term rather than merely incubate them only to watch them leave when they become successful. Special attention should be paid to incentives for the Gazelle to stay and planning for its physical expansion needs.

The Economic Gardening Model

Closely related to the Gazelle strategy is the "economic gardening" approach pioneered by the City of Littleton, Colorado in 1989 and being adopted by Georgia and North Carolina, with small pilot projects in Oakland, Berkeley, San Bernardino, Chico and San Luis Obispo, California, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Littleton's program won the National League of Cities national award for innovation in 1998 and was cited for innovation by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the University of Minnesota. The strategy developed in response to the difficulty depressed communities face when they try to recruit businesses to their community. Instead, the community "grows" its own jobs through entrepreneurial activity instead of recruiting them. The concept was based on the research of David Birch at MIT, the inventor of the Gazelle concept. Birch found that often less than five percent of job creation in most local economies occurred through "recruiting coups". Successful recruiting efforts tend to be in areas that attract new business anyway or they attract low-cost-seeking businesses in search of cheap land, buildings and labor, and tax abatements. When costs eventually rise, such businesses leave.

While economic gardening may be the best emphasis for Liberty City given its historic struggle and continuing poverty, a dual-track policy that keeps an eye out for worthy recruitment opportunities may be the ideal strategy.

A compelling case for the economic gardening approach is laid out in a brilliant paper by Christian Gibbons, Director of Business/Industry Affairs for the City of Littleton, titled "An Entrepreneurial Approach to Economic Development." (16) In it Gibbons chronicles the evolution of his colleagues' thinking about economic development over twenty years.

One of his early revelations was that it wasn't small businesses that were driving job creation but rather a few fast-growing small companies that would soon be large companies. The real issue was rate of growth, not size. Moreover, there was a high correlation between growth and innovation in these newly dubbed Gazelles'. New products and processes were their lifeblood. Ideas are what really drive companies and economies.

So Littleton developed a full blown 13-part seminar series to expose local business people to state-of-the-art business practices with a focus on innovation. Great idea, huh? Nope. After four years it turned out to be "a miserable failure". You can't make superstars out of small business people, the Littleton team concluded.

That led to their "most profound insight about business": the temperament of the CEO is one of the major factors in the growth rate of a company and temperament is not amenable to change. A study of the leadership of the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies found that 75% had two temperament types (Sensing-Thinking-Judging, and more importantly, Intuitive-Thinking-Judging) in contrast to 25% of the general population.

By the mid 1990's another major factor became apparent high growth companies were biological as much as mechanical. The emerging science even had a name: "Complex Adaptive Systems" and one of its rules of thumb was "edge of chaos", the fine line between stability and chaos where innovation and survival are most likely to take place. Gibbons and team saw it operating in Littleton's business community. Very stable small retailers could not adjust to a fast changing world and were being destroyed. But the high growth businesses were innovating quickly. They sensed the changes going on and responded rapidly. Sometimes they would fall into complete chaos but most often they would ride the very edge of chaos like a seasoned surfer. The companies were experiencing lots of changes and experimentation and making lots of little mistakes. The mistakes that accompanied the process of innovation were like earthquakes: you had to have a lot of little ones to avoid a big one. A study in Dallas indicated that the best job- producing economies were highly unstable: they had the highest rate of business start-ups and business failures.

Another important principle of Gazelles is their self-organization. Most large organizations work on a command and control model whose costs of coordination and communication eventually outweigh any benefits of specialization and economies of scale, grinding things to a halt. Gazelles are self-organizing. They "just do it" and yet it all comes together. It's a little more chaotic than command and control, but it is also more robust, more redundant and more likely to survive. Urge, stable companies "just ordered it" and put into motion large numbers of meetings, committees and report generation.

By the late 1990's Littleton's Internet mail list had transformed into a high-level discussion of 300 talented people and Littleton's staff realized "we had only the most rudimentary understanding of entrepreneurial activity and were working with the simplest of frameworks (support entrepreneurs and things will get better)." "Even though we knew the tools and techniques that helped make entrepreneurs successful, there was another intangible (but very real) factor keeping local economies from improving ... the way that entrepreneurial activity and risk and innovation and even diversity and newness are viewed by local people." An entrepreneurial culture had to be nurtured that included intellectual stimulation, openness to new ideas, and building the support infrastructure of venture capital and universities, information and community support.

Today, Littleton focuses on three main elements to create a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs.

One is Information. Littleton spends three-quarters of its time providing tactical and strategic information (and it is in that spirit that this paper is written!). For a business to thrive it needs critical information. The city has developed very sophisticated search capabilities using tools often available only to large corporations: ten database services and CD ROM's with access to over 100,000 publications worldwide. These tools are used to develop marketing lists, competitive intelligence, industry trends, new product tracking, and legislative research. They track real estate activity and new construction. GIS software can plot customer addresses and provide demographic, lifestyle and consumer expenditure information, monitor local businesses and vacant buildings and projects. The city also provides training and seminars in advanced management techniques such as systems thinking, temperament, complexity theory and customer service strategies.

The second element is Infrastructure, particularly quality of life and intellectual infrastructure. QOL means parks and open space, trails, sidewalk widening in downtown neighborhoods and historic restoration. Intellectual infrastructure includes the curriculum, courses and training and introduction of best practices that help keep companies competitive. Littleton helped build a telecommunications curriculum and e-commerce course at the local community college. Economic development and community development are two sides of the same coin. In an era when wealth and jobs are created by knowledge firms, creating a community that is attractive to entrepreneurs and the talent they hire is critical.

This is an important point for Liberty City. The creation of a small, pleasant entertainment district on 7th Avenue/MLK Blvd. interspersed with new parks isn't just for fun and it's not just to catalyze businesses farther up and down the streets. It is part of a grander strategy to create a climate that will encourage entrepreneurs to move here and open businesses here.

Littleton's third element is Connections - to trade associations, think tanks, R&D, academic institutions and industry clusters. Research demonstrates that an increase in the number of business connections increases the innovation levels of companies. Hence the recommendation earlier in this paper for the establishment of a Business Depot in Liberty City. Littleton believes they are finally "closing in on the answer" to economic development. "We think it involves slow, painstaking community development with an eye on the innovators. We think the Gazelles are critical drivers. We think increasing connections and the flow of information helps and we think the greatest opportunity is during periods of chaos," Gibbons writes.

"We also know complexity science contends you can't control or predict complex adaptive systems to any great degree. The goal is no longer control, it is adaptation through innovation. When organizations and local economies move toward the edge of chaos, adaptation and competition improve and the chances for survival improve. Hence, anything that increases the flow of information and ideas and anything that increases the number of connections is worth undertaking."

"After over a decade of very intensive experimentation, investigation and observation, we have come to a sobering conclusion: economies are massive biological organisms and not very amenable to control by anyone. Neither economic gardeners, nor economic recruiters nor politicians nor anyone else is running them. At best, we are adapting to everyone else's adaptations."

A Miami-Dade Gazelle program should probably be centralized, with satellite offices in targeted neighborhoods. The components of a Gazelle program would include: an outreach effort to identify and recruit entrepreneurial Gazelle personalities that includes a personality testing component easy access to a rich information database including market research; coursework and consultation in fast-growth business strategy by stimulating and creative faculty and entrepreneurs; planning for rapid growth; support structures for Gazelles that find themselves in rapid growth phases; planning and establishment of a workforce pipeline that can deliver large numbers of qualified employees on short notice to a Gazelle in an expansion phase; short term loans to finance growth spurts; and lastly, a program that encourages risk taking and expects a lot of failures buts plan for their mitigation.

Recent Studies and Market Analysis

Two recent market analyses in Liberty City and two statewide studies shed light on the community's current state and recommend strategies for progress.

A: Martin Luther King Blvd. and 54th Street Commercial Corridor Study

A market analysis (17) of the trade area that the 7th Avenue corridor lies within, surveyed the NW 54th St. and Martin Luther King Blvd. corridors from Biscayne Blvd. on the east to NW 12 Ave. on the west, running through Liberty/Model City. The study inventoried all businesses along 54th and 62nd streets by type using Bresser's Business Directory 2002, but interviewed only five business owners and managers, between NW 2nd and 10th Avenues; it also identified all vacant lots in the area bounded by those streets, and provided data on the market demand within a two mile radius of the streets, which would include the 7th Avenue corridor. (18) The study, however, did not survey 7th Avenue, which runs through the study area. However, the study included a breakdown of businesses by industrial classification of the 33150 zip code (North Little Haiti and East Liberty City) and 33147 (North Liberty City). It also covered zip codes 33127 (Model City, South Little Haiti & Wynwood). 33137 (East Little Haiti, Wynwood and Edgewater) and 33142 (Allapattah).

The 54/62 St. Study found a $96 million negative gap between the trade area's consumer demand and the area's annual sales from convenience goods and personal services. A negative gap indicates that there is no demand to support new convenience goods and personal services unless they cater to niche consumer markets.

The 54/62 Street study concluded that the two corridors are "not ideal" for destination oriented entertainments and shopper goods retail but that there are opportunities for restaurants and other entertainment and shopper goods that cater to local culture and ethnicity. The next step is to inventory the 7th Ave. business mix, and analyze all three corridors to identify these niches.

Much of the 54/62 St. market data overlaps the 7th Avenue corridor. The study calculated the retail demand from 1) the existing retail mix on 54/62 streets, 2) the existing retail in the local trade area, and 3) the demographics of that trade area. It defined the trade area for convenience goods and personal services as a two-mile distance from the two corridors: the trade area for entertainment as ten miles; and the trade area for shopper goods as five miles.

The MLK/54th St. market study surveyed only five businesses on MLK Blvd. from NW 2nd Ave. to 10th Ave. The key issues that surfaced, which could be applicable to the 7th Avenue corridor are:
  • Pride in the community, strong motivation to serve it, and a feeling of wanting to empower the African-American community
  • Awareness of economic development organizations and desire for help from them
  • Belief that crime is not a serious problem but that the area's image needs to be changed through beautification
  • 50-80% of clientele is local
  • Supplier base is outside the area
  • Owners do not feel need for assistance with business skills except for getting grants and loans; some would like help with marketing

Model City Market Analysis and Implementation Strategy

A second recent market analysis (19) conducted in Liberty City, completed in January 2003, is a detailed market assessment of the opportunities for commercial and residential activity in the Model City area. The study consisted of a business survey of 100 owners and operators in the community, a survey of 400 City of Miami employees (assumed to be reflective of the overall south Broward County and north Dade County housing market) and a telephone survey of 500 households in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

The study concludes that 150-200 owner-occupied, single-family homes are likely to be marketable in the Model City area every year for five years starting in 2003 or 2004, totaling 750-1000 homes after five years, clustered in a new neighborhood within Model City. However, the area may not be able to physically accommodate the total number of units that is marketable. The forms of housing likely to be in an advantageous market position are detached, semi-detached, or small clusters of townhouses. The housing will be targeted at "successful, mid-level management professionals who desire to live near their employment" with household incomes between $60,000 and $100,000. The targeted residents are employees of the City of Miami in particular, and employees of nearby medical institutions. In a limited number of cases, the units can be marketed to select sections of Broward County, presumably to people who want to live closer to their Miami-Dade workplaces. The Model City neighborhood where the housing will be built would be identified as a new "middle class in-town residential community" to distinguish it from other inner city urban enclaves in south Florida.

The study refers to "a weak commercial community within and around the target area", consisting largely of small convenience retail and service establishments located in Model City's neighborhoods. A survey of 100 of these businesses revealed that most owners expressed interest in improving and expanding their businesses and properties, purchasing the property that they currently rent, and reinvesting in the community.

"Yet, there is reasonable probability, based on the combined factors of (many owners approaching retirement age), declining revenues and renter positions, that a significant number of the current operations are unlikely to survive until growth in the market occurs through new housing added to the community". (20) Thus, "an apprenticeship entrepreneurial program could assist in maintaining viable businesses and enhancing a turnover in ownership of those viable businesses as the operators reach retirement"


The study recommends that "where commercial abuts the proposed residential, the amount of commercial be diminished through acquisition of property and other means that may be available" and for businesses that do not interface, "that an apprenticeship, entrepreneurial development program be pursued ..." that includes business scholarships in business management, specific industry skills and entrepreneurship skills and cooperative partnerships with banks and other financial entities to sponsor the student apprenticeships and assist with financial planning and procuring resources for the purchase and financing of businesses."

The study also states that "no business recruitment is suggested until the residential development is well under way.

The Model City area retail market is minimal in part because it has been "severely impacted by the removal of housing units and vacancies in existing units for many years." Expanded retail activity will be dependent on the creation of new housing in Model City (21)' The addition of every 500 new housing units would generate $7.5 million in annual retail and related services sales requiring 21,600 square feet of space. The addition of 500 units is sufficient to potentially support one new restaurant, some related food activity, and potential gift, novelty, paper goods and related operations. It is unclear from the study whether these figures are in addition to slack demand that could be taken up by such existing business; the study conducted an "analysis of opportunity for in-fill development of the Model City area" including both commercial and residential development But the study concludes that because of the "minimal potential retail and related services demand associated with new housing, the focus of commercial enhancement in the Model City area should be on mitigation of marginal operating conditions and business retention activities ...". (22)

Growing the Middle Class in Miami-Dade County

A new Brookings Institution report, "Growing the Middle Class in Miami-Dade County" (2004), concludes that the fundamental problem facing the county is its failure to build and maintain the middle class. The key reasons: most jobs in the county are in low paying retail and service sectors, housing costs are high relative to such incomes, educational levels are low and many immigrants leave the city and county when they achieve middle class incomes.

The problem is even more severe in the City of Miami. Not only is the city the nation's fourth poorest, while 20% of the nation's households make between $34,000 to $5 1.000, only 15% of Miami's do and that share has shrunk over the past twenty years. Only 16% of the city's adult population has a Bachelor's degree when the life time earnings of a person with a high school degree are one million dollars less than a person with a college degree. Even an Associate's degree adds $400,000 to a high school grad's earnings.

The situation is even worse in Liberty City, where forty-four percent of its residents and eighty percent of children in female-headed households live below the poverty level. The median household income is one-third the County average and the average unemployment rate is 13% compared to the county's 7.7%. The area's population, which is predominantly African American, declined 11% in the 1990's.

"Addressing the failure to retain middle-class residents in the county and to move low income residents into the middle class may be the single most critical intervention the region can take to improve its future," the report states. "One of the region's top priorities should be to invest in its educational institutions." "With better skills," the working poor "might contribute to the economy at a higher level, and bring home larger paychecks at the same time - thus building the middle class."

"An important part of the higher education landscape in Miami-Dade is the community colleges. Community colleges are seen as an entry point for low income, minority students to access four-year degrees. Miami-Dade College is one of the best community colleges in the country." Moreover, workforce development organizations such as the community colleges "can also play a role in connecting employers to employees. Workforce intermediaries specifically focus on low income residents' career advancement Besides basic job placement, workforce intermediaries provide services to help ready low income workers for jobs, including occupational skills training and counseling. Currently, there is a limited presence of workforce intermediaries in Miami-Dade and this model may help connect LOW income residents to better jobs."

"Miami-Dade should incorporate a deep awareness of the interconnectedness of family and neighborhood health and student achievement into all of its efforts to improve educational attainment. It should make itself a national leader in defining a new educational attainment agenda that integrates traditional school reform strategies with strategies for building quality neighborhoods and supporting working families."

"Creating quality neighborhoods also reduces some of the 'push factors' that lead to middle class flight."

The study urges the county to "grow" its middle class by

1. developing an educated, skilled workforce

2. improving access to quality jobs

3. making work pay, by raising wages

4. helping families build assets through home ownership and better participation in government support programs and mainstream financial institutions

5. building quality neighborhoods

New Cornerstone Study

The Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2004 completed its NEW CORNERSTONE initiative (an update of its original 1989 CORNERSTONE study), which defines a new set of strategies to guide the state over the next decade. The report envisions a new Florida economy by identifying the industries with the greatest growth opportunities as part of a comprehensive economic development plan that includes development of human resources, technology, finance, infrastructure and quality of life. While its perspective is statewide, the study makes a number of recommendations relevant for South Florida, the City of Miami and Liberty City in particular.

"The metro (Miami) area is hampered by concerns about its reputation as a place to live and do business," the report states. "The quality of schools is generally regarded as low, diminishing the quality of the workforce both directly (by supplying less-skilled workers) and indirectly (as families move elsewhere, often just a few miles north to Broward County, so their children can attend better schools)."

The biggest global opportunity facing Florida is its relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean, and Greater Miami is the prime location to take advantage of this. China in particular, "shows the most potential to become one of Florida's top 10 export destinations within the next decade." At the same time "the quality of the state's educational system and workforce have made it difficult to produce skilled workers or attract the companies that require them ... it is imperative that the state increase its pool of highly educated, technically savvy workers either through improved training programs or stepped-up recruitment"

According to the study, the intellectual infrastructure "may be the critical determinant of the state's competitiveness in the 21st century economy. "Intellectual infrastructure is the workforce skills, education system and research and development capacity that determine the health of existing businesses. In Florida, "productivity industry by industry is generally below that of the nation or Florida's key competitor states - suggesting a deficiency in workforce skill levels." Florida businesses produced an average of $60,000 in gross state product per worker in 1999, about 20% below the national average.

Intellectual infrastructure determines the growth capacity for the state's emerging industries. Four out of five new jobs over the next decade will require some form of postsecondary education and training. Half of the 10 occupations where demand for workers is projected to increase most rapidly through 2008 will require a bachelor's degree or higher and three will require other post secondary training. Only two will require no education beyond a high school degree.

Intellectual infrastructure determines individual and society-wide income levels. "Each one percent increase in the share of the adult population with a college degree boosts per capita income by $750 - suggesting that one way to raise Florida's per capita income level to the national average would be to boost the educational attainment of the state's population," the study states.

Furthermore, future job opportunities in the new economy are also tied to education. Growth in occupations requiring postsecondary training and degrees is greater than that of occupations that require a high school degree or less. For example, the typical minimum educational requirement for eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations in Florida is postsecondary education and above. These occupations would support the state's emerging high-tech industry (computer support specialists, systems analysts, computer engineers, instructional coordinators, and database administrators), or its burgeoning health care and professional services industries (surgical technicians, paralegals and medical records technicians). Only two fast-growing occupations (medical assistants and packaging and filing machine operators) require no education beyond a high school degree. None of the fastest growing occupations in Florida requires less than a high school degree.

The New Cornerstone conclusions are of special relevance for Liberty City because levels of educational attainment within the community are lower than statewide averages, which suggests not only the need to boost traditional academic achievement levels, but that there is a special need in Liberty City for non-academic educational programs such as vocational training and entrepreneurial education to "capture" those students either uninterested in or incapable of standard academic achievement and who need a more job-oriented curriculum.

The New Cornerstone study found that. "Throughout the state, business people stated that education programs need to address the lifelong learning requirements of entrepreneurs who need more assistance with business skills related to management and finance (creating business and growth plans, tapping resources, dealing with regulations) and with business mentoring opportunities."

"Business and community leaders throughout Florida express concern about the low literacy and poor math skills of their workers" the report states. An additional concern was the lack of "soft skills" such as attendance, punctuality, appearance and work ethic, especially among younger employees.

businesses have great difficulty in finding job applicants with basic skills or the commitment to persist through training programs designed to raise their skills to a level where they can contribute to the productivity of the business."

In recent years, community colleges and business in Florida have formed an array of partnerships to address the challenge of preparing workers for the jobs of tomorrow. That should help bridge the gap between current worker preparedness and the skills and knowledge needed for jobs in the new economy, the report says.

One of the weaknesses in Florida's intellectual infrastructure identified by the report is geographic access to Baccalaureate degree programs. Addressing this issue, the legislature in 2001 authorized community colleges to offer specified Baccalaureate programs for which local demand is identified and the college has the faculties and academic resources needed.

Another weakness cited is that "Employers perceive that a disconnect exists between preparation programs and completers and available jobs". In the clinical/health fields for example, there is a lack of semi-skilled, skilled-trades and skilled workers. And while the opportunities for promising jobs and earnings exist with vocational/technical training, they are not broadly recognized. Such programs "too often are viewed as being a last resort for high-risk students, rather than sound preparation for promising careers.

The demand for high-tech workers is significant and growing but many of these jobs require vocational or technical training.

The report identifies several industries that are key to the state's economic growth over the next ten years because they have an important historical or future role in the economy through either a large employment share, rapid growth or a focused concentration within the state. All of these need to be targeted for Liberty City.
  • Business services. One of the fastest growing sectors, with an extraordinary projected annual growth rate of 6.6% as companies increasingly rely on outside firms for support work such as management and consulting services, and temporary employees. Policy makers, however, should be wary of encouraging the growth of temporary employment where that means lower wages, job insecurity, lack of health insurance and pensions. Except for situations where flexibility is genuinely required, temporary employment should not substitute for permanent employment that fosters institutional experience and loyalty and provides health insurance and retirement benefits.
  • Financial services. The most productive of these are real estate, computer processing, security and commodity brokers, banks and insurance carriers.
  • Health and biomedical. Employment in the home health care services is expected to lead all other key industries, with other medical care services also experiencing rapid growth as the state's large and growing elderly cohort ages.
  • Telecom and information services. The computer processing and software industry is one of the most rapidly growing employers. However, the quality of the local workforce has been one of the biggest detriments to high tech growth in the state. The state lacks the clusters of firms preferred by the industry and venture capital funding has been relatively weak.
  • Tourism. Amusement and recreation are among the most rapidly growing employers but there is concern that the industry is oversaturated with seven major theme parks in central Florida.
  • Transportation and distribution. Air transportation will be a leader in employment growth over the next ten years.
Notably, the report calls for new ideas to create economic opportunity in Florida's inner cities, all of which are applicable to Liberty City. It recommends:
  • The creation of a State "Urban Areas of Critical Economic Opportunity" program patterned after the existing "Florida's Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern", The program would provide economically distressed central city communities, based on such measures as unemployment, per capita income and poverty rate, with incentives and technical assistance to encourage the expansion and formation of businesses. The initiative would include strategic planning, stronger incentives, a requirement that state agencies incorporate depressed urban area needs into their plans, and streamlined funding programs.
  • Coordination of area-wide strategic plans and visions. Strategic planning today is carried out at a variety of levels ranging from a few city blocks to city or county-wide. Florida's inner cities need a more cohesive visioning process and efforts must be made to better coordinate the activities of different groups to that end. Improved coordination is also needed among government agencies, private and nonprofit organizations and urban/regional economic development organizations. However, the resources earmarked by these various jurisdictions need to be organized so they complement one another to meet defined community goals. New Cornerstone concludes that the Governor's Front Porch Initiative could provide the institutional structure and vision for this planning. That Initiative brings together community leaders, citizens and service providers along with state agencies to develop a Community Action Plan for their neighborhood using a holistic approach to community development This is another model Liberty City might use or study. The Initiative requires communities to match state funds with other funding sources.
  • Leadership development Efforts should be made, as is already being done in the rural counties, to develop local leaders who can recognize opportunities, envision a robust economic future and implement initiatives that can move urban areas forward. A coordinated effort to identify and prepare new leaders should be made by nonprofit, faith-based, public and private organizations.
  • Development of innovative financing partnerships and targeted incentives for business investment New Cornerstone recommends leveraging public, nonprofit faith- based and private dollars, and creating funding streams to support the formation and expansion of small businesses in inner cities, proposes the establishment of a State Inner City Opportunity Fund similar to the Rural Opportunity Fund to provide the resources, coordination and flexibility to address urban issues.
  • Implement "creative community" solutions. More attention needs to be paid to the enhancement of the social environment of urban neighborhoods since this will attract a more creative and energetic workforce, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Investments should be made to expand state and regional funding programs for arts, culture, historic preservation, parks, recreation and other amenities that enhance community livability. This involves expanded personal mobility linking arts and culture programs with economic development, maintaining safe neighborhood-oriented public spaces, integrating universities with surrounding neighborhoods and ensuring access to health care, child care and dependent care services.

Model Initiatives

Several redevelopment initiatives in distressed urban neighborhoods are worth noting as models for Liberty City. These initiatives should especially be studied with regard to how they have been organized and moved forward.

79th Street Corridor Neighborhood Initiative

Liberty City can look a few miles north to the 79th Street Corridor Initiative for a model to borrow from. There are major differences between the two areas, but there are also similarities particularly with the western end of the corridor. The initiative released a detailed "Redevelopment Plan" in December 2003 prepared by Zyscovich of Miami, which is part of the larger Sustainable Development Plan for the Corridor. The study area is adjacent to the north boundary of the Liberty City Empowerment Zone and Targeted Urban Area (71st St.). It is bounded by 87th St. on the north, 22nd Ave. on the east and 42nd Ave. on the west The area has a population of 21,077. A small portion of the area overlaps the City of Hialeah. The Initiative is led by a partnership of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc., Miami-Dade Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. and Dade Employment and Economic Development Corp. The goal of the Redevelopment Plan is "to transform the western portion of the 79th Street Corridor (NW 22nd Ave. to NW 42nd Ave.) from a fragmented set of residential, commercial and industrial sites with a reputation for being dangerous and undesirable, into a cohesive neighborhood." It is viewed as a laboratory for urban infill development

The Redevelopment Plan was funded by the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, Miami-Dade County Office of Community and Economic Development, Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. The fundamental recommendation of the report is that a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) be created to provide governing agencies redevelopment powers. The area would be within unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

The plan contains a large portion of the data that would be needed should the Initiative and governing agencies decide to implement a Tax Increment Financing District in the community. The plan relies heavily on the implementation of catalyst development projects as a foundation for redevelopment These are transit oriented redevelopment for Northside Shopping Center and the areas surrounding the Tri-rail/Metrorail/Amtrak stations consisting of mixed-use transit oriented housing, retail and office development The plan also includes the creation of active green spaces, streetscape and landscape improvements, infrastructure improvements such as sewers and fiber optics, and a conceptual framework for infill development The market assessment indicated that the strongest economic market within the study area is industrial and proposes a new industrial development of up to 200 acres.

The economic incentives envisioned are
  • Community Redevelopment Area (CRA)
  • Community Development District (CDD)
  • Community Development Block Grant Loans
  • The Beacon Council's Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund

Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center

Just south of Liberty City is another worthwhile model for revitalization: the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center. The initiative, headquartered in the renovated Dorsey House, assists neighborhood residents and institutions to visualize, plan, and execute a comprehensive community and economic development program to create a vibrant mixed-income, and mixed-used neighborhood. The Design Center operates an excellent website at www.overtown.org which includes updates on the burgeoning construction projects.

An initiative of the Collins Center for Public Policy with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center was founded as a joint effort between Bethel AME Community Development Corporation, Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida. Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Overtown Youth Center, St. John Community Development Corporation, and the Trust for Public Land. In 2003 the St. Agnes Community Development Corporation and the Mt. Zion Community Development Corporation joined the partnership.

That year, the Partnership convened a 25 person Developers Steering Committee to promote a dialogue among private developers and major land owners within Overtown. The committee enabled OCP and committee members to engage in a series of conversations to discover opportunities for connectivity and compatibility between current and proposed development projects. In addition, the Center wanted to share its vision and gain input on how that vision could be incorporated in members' visions for the area and their projects. The same year, the Partnership convened a working group comprised of officials from the public and non-profit sectors to promote a dialogue about how to better mobilize and share resources to redevelop Overtown. The group enabled OCP and working group members to dialogue and discover opportunities for connectivity and cooperation between existing and proposed programs. In addition, the Center wanted to share its vision and gain input on how that vision could be implemented in partnership with the respective organizations the members represented.

Since its inception the Partnership has worked with residents and local institutions on planning and visioning efforts in Overtown. Three notable planning documents have been produced.

The Collins Center for Public Policy, the parent organization of the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center, hired Ray Gindroz of Urban Design Associates, one of the nation's premier urban designers, to lead a visioning project for Overtown. His final report, "Overtown: A Look Back, Connections to the Future", took a sensitive look at Overtown's history, a critical view of the realities imposed by the development of the city around it, and a forward vision of what the community can become. At each step, the process considered the views, ideas, and input of residents and other stakeholders with the goal of making Overtown a destination of choice.

Second, the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) hired the planning firm Dover. Kohl & Partners to update its master plan. Components of the plan include a physical plan, a housing plan, an economic analysis and an expansion of the current areas boundaries. Throughout the process the Overtown Civic Partnership and Design Center staff actively worked with the CRA and its planners to ensure that community concerns about density, design, historic preservation and other issues were addressed. The Center is listed as a key stakeholder in the plan.

Third, the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council conducted The Overtown Design Charrette. The mission of the charrette was to engage the entire Overtown community in creating a unified vision for the residential and commercial renaissance of Overtown. The vision aimed to restore Overtown as a destination and to higher levels of self-sufficiency and economic and social viability.

Community Capitalism: The MidTown Cleveland Initiative

Community capitalism was conceptualized in 1997 to use the often overlooked competitive advantages of inner cities to drive their revitalization. It stresses for-profit, business-driven expansion of investment, job creation and economic opportunities in distressed communities. The MidTown Cleveland Initiative demonstrates that the private sector can play a vital role in urban revitalization, but it needs local government and community entities as its partners. The MidTown model is a notable departure from conventional economic revitalization models. Launched in 1983, the MidTown initiative reinvented a blighted 55 block industrial and commercial area just east of downtown Cleveland utilizing four key strategies.

The first was to develop strong community leadership and an organization. Forty six corporate, small business and institutional stakeholders founded a nonprofit organization to deal with direct concerns such as security, neighborhood appearance, public image, the productive use of land and buildings and the development of a cohesive business community. They also established a municipal Business Improvement District that assessed property owners and seeded redevelopment Modest goals were set and achieved to build confidence and capacity.

Second, they shaped a competitive market environment in the inner city to appeal to companies that benefit from proximity to downtown business districts. MidTown had great strategic location, but it was a disaster area Community leaders worked with city police to make the sidewalks safe. They defined an agenda for physical development, established design standards and sought state and federal grants and loans for a land banking project that would make central city brownfields more competitive with suburban greenfields. Another key factor was breaking up or preventing the concentration of social services in the central city because, in one author's words, "it is an enormous constraint on competitiveness." (23)

Third, they marketed the changes. Their most effective tool for attracting new investment was an in-house Marketing Information Center that responded to requests for information on space, buildings and land and provided access to financial and technical assistance including government loans and grants to broker and package deals.

Lastly, they developed a targeted job creation strategy that involved businesses in all stages of local employment programs so that business needs were met and people obtained good jobs.

The results were spectacular: $500 million in largely private sector investment, 425 new companies, 400 revitalization projects, 6,000 jobs retained and 5,500 created.

While Liberty City isn't MidTown Cleveland - its farther from its downtown, is heavily residential, and not anchored on two ends by a large university complex and medical center - many of its lessons and strategies can be borrowed and adapted.

APPENDIX

Liberty City Organizations

Belafonte Tacolcy Center: Belafonte is a 35 year old youth services provider in Liberty City that founded Tacolcy Economic Development Corp. after the 1980 riots to develop and manage the Edison Plaza shopping center and implement an economic development strategy in the 7th Ave/MLK Blvd. business district. Belafonte owns the now vacant Edison Plaza.

Liberty City Empowerment Zone Neighborhood Assembly: This nine member body allocates federal funds in the Liberty City Empowerment Zone. It may be disbanded in 2005 if Bush is re-elected, but it could be revitalized under Kerry.

Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp.

Miami Dade College Entrepreneurial Education Center: In addition to a full complement of general education courses, the Center, on 7th Avenue near MLK Blvd., offers two comprehensive entrepreneurial development programs. FastTrac helps entrepreneurs create, manage and grow their businesses through feasibility planning and operations, marketing and business planning skills. The Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship teaches essential academic, business and technological skills to high school students in Liberty City and surrounding communities and supports them with mentoring and access to $500 business start-up loans. The Center also offers Associate in Science degrees in Microsoft Database Administrator, Network Services Technology, Child Development and Education, and Certification for Childcare Professionals.

Model City Revitalization Trust: Created in 2001 by the City of Miami to provide oversight and facilitate the revitalization of the designated Model City Community Revitalization District, one of seven in the city and the lead pilot project. Its core mission is to provide home ownership opportunities. Its seven member board is largely appointed by the Miami City Manager.

Neighbors and Neighbors Association ("NANA"): This 501c3's mission is to help small, Black owned businesses in inner city communities. It provides technical assistance, develop business plans and submit grant and loan applications on behalf of member businesses.

Tools for Change (Black Economic Development Coalition, Inc.): Tools for Change provides business development consulting which includes: legal counseling on business formation, marketing, government certification of businesses, preparation of bids for the public and private sector, customized job training, and loan facilitation of business loans from banks, SBA and other sources.

Tacolcy Economic Development Corp.: One of Liberty City's two community development corporations and active for decades, Tacolcy has built thousands of housing units in Liberty City and South Dade and is currently working on demolition and reconstruction of the Edison Plaza shopping center at MLK Blvd. and 7th Ave.

Weed and Seed: Working in conjunction with local law enforcement and government Weed & Seed conducts grassroots organizing of Liberty City residents to promote infill housing, code enforcement, youth leadership training, crime prevention and rehabilitation, homeownership training, small business development counseling and has assisted over 200 residents with job training and placement

7th Avenue Corridor Initiative, Inc.: Closely tied to the Neighborhood Assembly, the Initiative was formed in response to the "7th Avenue Corridor Transportation Study", which supported the need for a multi-modal passenger activity center to improve the efficiency of the area's transportation system and stimulate private sector development The Initiative's "mission is to act as a catalyst for the revitalization of the 7th Avenue Corridor". (24) The "initial geographic focus area" is the 7th Ave. corridor between 54th St., and 79th St., its board represents many Liberty City stakeholders and 7th Ave. is one of the major economic engines of Liberty City

RECOMMENDED READING

"Strategic Planning for Community Development A Manual for Community Leaders," prepared by the Leadership Initiative for Community Strategic Planning for the State of North Dakota, December 2001.

"Liberty/Model City Strategic Implementation Planning Document" prepared by Kimley- Horne Associates for the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust

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FOOTNOTES


1. 62/54 Streets Market Analysis, P. 26.

2. Christopher Walker, Community Development Corporations and heir Changing Support Systems, 2002, The Urban Institute, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center.

3. "Limitations to Organizational and Leadership Development: An Overview, by Roland Anglin and Rolando Herts in Building the Organizations that Build Communities, PD&R, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2004.

4. Expanding Organizational Capacity: The Human Capital Development Initiative, by Norman Glickman, Domta

5. "Strategic/Implementation Planning Document" for the Liberty/Model City Empowerment Zone Neighborhood Assembly.

6. Miami-Dade Task Force on Urban Economic Revitalization, Urban Summit, Conference Manual, 2003, P. 40.

7. "A Private Sector Model for Rebuilding Inner-City Competitiveness: Lessons from MidTown Cleveland," by Margaret Murphy, Brookings Institution, 1998.

8. The following strategic planning process is based on the best practices recommended by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and detailed in "Strategic Planning for Community Development: A Manual for Community Leaders," prepared by the Leadership Initiative for Community Strategic Planning for the State of North Dakota, December 2001.

9. MLK/54 Street Corridor Market study, P. 28.

10. Economic Census data cited in a press release from Atlanta based ING U.S. Financial Census, "ING Gazelle Index Survey Reveals Many African-American CEOs feel Business Activity Increased in 2003"

11. Ibid.

12. Birch, Cognetics

13. "The Gazelle Theory," by John Case, Inc. Magazine, May 2001.

14. Terry Buss, "Emerging High-Growth Finns and Economic Development Policy," Economic Development, Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2002, pp. 17-19.

15 Leanne McGrath, University of South Carolina - Aiken, "Growth, Bullfrogs and Small Businesses," The Coastal Business Journal, Volume I, Number I.

16. www.Iittletongov.org/bia

17. "Martin Luther King Blvd. and 54th Street Commercial Corridor Study, FlU Metropolitan Center, 2004.

18. The market study analyzed the 62 and 54 St. corridors using both U.S. Census and U.S. Postal Zip Code data. Census block groups are the primary data source. The study area is fully captured by U.S. Postal zip codes 33127 and 33137. For comparison purposes, adjoining Census Tracts and Zip Codes are utilized as well as City of Miami and Miami-Dade County U.S. Census 2000 data. The study includes population and household characteristics, income and employment characteristics including employment industry, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment.

19. "Model City Market Analysis and Implementation Strategy, The Chesapeake Group, Inc., 2003.

20. Ibid. P. 74.

21. Ibid, p. 52.

22. p 54

23. "A Private Sector Model for Rebuilding Inner-City Competitiveness: Lessons from MidTown Cleveland," Margaret Murphy for the Brookings Institution, 1998.

24. "MLK Boulevard/7th Avenue Passenger Transfer Center Citizen's Independent Transportation Trust Plan"