Just when it seemed the wheels of economic justice in Miami-Dade County had ground to a halt, they began revolving again -- at least for thirteen small businesses located in some of the most blighted parts of town. Last year their owners applied for commercial-revitalization grants from the county's Office of Community and Economic Development. They did so with the help of Leroy Jones, the tireless executive director of the Neighbors and Neighbors Association, a nonprofit alliance of small-business owners located principally in Overtown and Liberty City.
As reported here last year (Less for Moore, November 25, 1999), five of the applicants were mom-and-pop groceries operating in Overtown, an area that could top any list of neighborhoods in dire need of revitalization. The county awarded them zilch while granting $1.1 million to 52 other businesses, many of which boast annual revenues in the millions. Indeed only four of Jones's applicants won revitalization grants, financed mostly with federal dollars.
Ten months later the situation has changed significantly, thanks to the county's Task Force on Urban Economic Revitalization. The Miami-Dade County Commission created the task force in 1997; its 23 members include community activists, local business people, and state representatives. Last week they announced plans to parcel out a total of $630,840 in county funds to thirteen of the neglected business owners, who will now be able to renovate their dilapidated buildings. Most are in Liberty City, Little Haiti, and Overtown. For example Bradley's Grocery at 1423 NW Third Ave., an Overtown landmark since 1969, will receive $92,100 to fix the roof, plumbing, windows, and fencing. It's great, says owner Henry Bradley of the aid, because we're just falling apart. Every time it rains, Bradley explains, the rear of his store floods: The water moves across the roof and down to the back door and then starts easing its way underneath. The City of Miami has yet to approve the Bradley's request for an additional $1400 for façade improvement.
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Moore's Grocery at 122 NW Fourteenth St. is receiving less help, but that's because owners Lawrence and Lessie Moore already began renovating several months ago with $70,000 in federal money from the Metro-Miami Action Plan Trust. (MMAP is a federally funded agency established by the city and county in 1983 and aimed at assisting struggling black-owned businesses.) The county task force allocated $4800 so the Moores could complete their renovations, which include a new bakery. The City of Miami is chipping in a whopping $1400.