Details of proposed Chinatown development in North Miami revealed

Chinatown in Manhattan
Chinatown in Manhattan

UPDATED May 31, 1:40 p.m.: Plans for North Miami’s proposed Chinatown are moving forward, and property values are expected to rise in the area, city officials said last week.

The latest version of the proposed Chinatown will feature two gateways to the district, on the north and south, that will have a Chinese design, though the elements are still considered conceptual, said Ben Benmoshe, urban designer with Keith and Schnars, an engineering consulting firm that is working on the master plan for the project designer.

At the same time, Chinatown will pay tribute to the area’s largely Haitian population, as well as to American values that will be represented by a statue of George Washington. The details were revealed last week as North Miami residents, architects, planners and business owners gathered to get an update on the master plan for a new Chinatown in the Seventh Avenue corridor between 119th Street and 135th Street.

Benmoshe said the new development will be “place-making.” “It will put North Miami on the map internationally,” he told The Real Deal.

The final master plan for Chinatown is expected to go before the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Advisory Committee in July. The district is within the CRA.   

Larry Spring, North Miami City Manager, said that property values will increase because of the creation of Chinatown. According to a pamphlet on the project issued by the city, property values have already gone up since February 2016 — when the city designated 16 blocks on Northwest Seventh Avenue as “Chinatown”— by 8.6 percent.

The district is expected to become even more expensive when a 300-room hotel near the south entrance to the district and a library and/or museum are built within it, among other real estate developments. By creating a Chinatown, the city is hoping to attract tourists and to lure technology companies and businesses focused on the culinary arts, among other types of businesses. The development is aimed at creating employment for residents of the district as well as nearby neighborhoods.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

While the city will redesign Chinatown’s streetscape, the Florida Department of Transportation will be upgrading the streets, taking away one lane of traffic and building landscaped medians. These actions will promote traffic calming, Benmoshe told TRD.

The redevelopment of the Chinatown District will be done on a site-by-site basis, Rasha Soray-Cameau, the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency director, said. The Chinatown development will be located in the CRA.  

”Everything [in Chinatown] won’t look the same, and developers will not be coerced into changing their facades if they don’t want to,” Soray-Cameau said, adding that the city will not use eminent domain to achieve its goals in Chinatown, but it will make grants available for local businesses that want to upgrade their facades.

Although plans for Chinatown are still conceptual, the city has spent over $200,000 on the project thus far, Soray-Cameau said. That includes a trip to China by city officials last year, the master plan that Keith and Schnars is working on, and promotional materials. Once the master plan is finished, the city will contribute $5 million to the infrastructure, streetscape and business grants related to the Chinatown project, Soray-Cameau told TRD.

Last summer, a Shanghai delegation visited North Miami to look at properties in the Chinatown district. Plus, the North Miami city manager flew to California recently to meet with Chinese investors.