OPA-LOCKA.—The Opa-locka Community Development Corporation announced that it will receive a $250,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
Our Town is the NEA’s latest investment in creative place making, through which partners from both public and private sectors come together to strategically shape the social, physical, and economic character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.
“Communities across our country are using smart design and leveraging the arts to enhance quality of life and promote their distinctive identities,” NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said in the statement. “In this time of great economic upheaval, Our Town provides communities an opportunity to reignite their economies.”
The OLCDC said it will use the funds to finance the “Community Gateways” project that remove remaining metal barricades that have divided the city for 30 years.
It will also redesign intersections to serve as “inviting entryways to a newly-reborn residential and mixed-use neighborhood.”
Also, public open space will be created with an environmentally functional landscape design.
The CDC is partnering with the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs to select a team of artists who will work with architects and project developers to implement the public art component of the redevelopment of the Magnolia North neighborhood, also known as the Triangle.
A group of artists, architects, urban designers and residents will collaborate on the design of six gateways which will serve as symbols of the project’s goal: “that public art works not serve as stand-alone fixtures in space but as integral elements of the public realm.”
The CDC said it will designate pavement, planters, lighting, seating, landscaping and building features as potential “canvases” for the community.
“We are proud to be one of 51 grantees nationally and extend our sincere gratitude to NEA,” said Willie Logan, the CDC’s founder and president, former mayor of Opa-locka amd former state representative.
“The Community Gateways project will be one of the first steps in implementing our exciting community-wide vision to completely revitalize the neighborhood and transform it into a vibrant, safe, and beautiful community of choice,” Logan said in the statement.
Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor sees the initiative as an opportunity for the city to assume a new image, both in town and throughout the region.
“We are rebuilding our structures, upgrading our infrastructure and mobilizing the community,” Taylor said in the statement. “This grant will help fundamentally change how Opa-locka is viewed by its residents and our neighbors throughout the area. I am looking forward to seeing the end product of beautiful art work in Opa-locka.”
The CDC recently received $20 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s highly competitive Neighborhood Stabilization Program that is intended to strengthen communities where residents have lost their homes to foreclosure or have abandoned them.
As part of that process, the OLCDC hosted a charette or visioning workshop that featured design experts in an effort to develop a plan to improve the neighborhood, increase economic opportunity, provide better housing over the long term and create a more attractive environment for the community.
According to the statement, the charrette recommended “that Opa-locka should become a well-known, recognizable destination for visitors, both regionally and internally.” That could be achieved, the charrette said, by Opa-locka’s becoming a city to visit to enjoy enriching and artistic activities.