The Real Deal Miami

A new vision for a battered arabesque city

County officials hope to transform Opa-locka into an arts district
July 08, 2013 10:00AM

Opa-locka city hall

Opa-locka’s city hall

An inner-city Miami-Dade enclave plagued with one of the nation’s highest crime rates could be the latest beneficiary of Miami’s growing fame as an art destination, the Miami Herald reported.

The Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs is promoting a string of warehouses in the city of Opa-locka as an artists’ studio and galleries district. Envisioned nearly a century ago by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss as a Baghdad of the West, Opa-locka boasts the largest collection of Moorish architecture in the United States, including a minaret-topped city hall.

Carlos Betancourt, a Miami-based artist with work in the permanent collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, told the Herald he was enticed to Opa-locka by the low rents and air of possibility.

“You can feel there’s a fresh energy, a new beginning for that community,” he said.

Opa-locka has received $20 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s neighborhood stabilization program, and drawn private investment, including for the largest real estate development project in the city’s history, a $23 million, six-story residential building, whose construction is underway. [Miami Herald]Emily Schmall