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MIAMI — Business owners along the Northwest Seventh Avenue commercial corridor in Liberty City can apply for federal grants that will let them renovate and update their storefronts.

Renovations are complete or almost complete at three businesses on the street: Mel's Beauty and Barber Shop, the Shantel Lounge and Duhart's Day Care Center.

Money for the improvements comes from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant worth just over $425,000. The Neighbors and Neighbors Association administers the program.

Melanie Kirksey, who opened her Mel’s Beauty and Barber Shop business in 1988, says the improvements will help both her shop and the neighborhood, and could create jobs.

“Anytime you fix up buildings in a community it attracts more business because people like to go to places that look nice,” she said. “When more people come in, then you have more work.”

Businesses on Northwest Seventh Avenue between Northwest 54th and Northwest 71st streets are eligible for grants.

Renovations can include exterior stucco work and painting, improved awnings and lighting, and protective shutters.

The program focuses on the 17-block stretch because those buildings stand only about five feet from the roadway and have suffered damage from the fumes and vibrations of passing vehicles, according to Leroy Jones, executive director of Neighbors and Neighbors.

“What we found was that concrete was falling off because of years of big vehicles riding so close to the buildings,” Jones said.

Jones said the number of buildings to benefit from the grant program will depend on how much money renovations will cost on each one.

That, he said, can't be determined until work begins because damage to a particular structure is not always obvious on the surface.

"I'm not just slapping paint on the building,” he said. “That's a waste of money.”

The project, Jones said, aims to make changes that will last.

“We're not going to go crazy and give a business $100,000” he said, “but we want to make sure that the work being done stays there for years.”

Neighbors and Neighbors is accepting applications from businesses in the eligible area. For information call 305-756-0605.

Contact Kelly Malambri at

Photo: KELLY MALAMBRI/Liberty City Link

MEL’S BEAUTY AND BARBER SHOP: Melanie Kirksey stands in front of her business, renovated with a federal community development grant.