Florida International University
For nearly half a century, Tyrone and Paulette Greene have repaired shoes and sold T-shirts out of their Liberty City store, Greene Dreams Shoe Repair. But the neighborhood institution may disappear if plans for a transit hub and shopping center at Northwest Seventh Avenue and Northwest 62nd Street (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) move forward.
The proposed Transit Village is to be located on a 3.8-acre parcel within the Liberty City Business District, between NW 7 Avenue, NW 62 Street, NW 6 Court, and NW 60 Street in Miami. Plans for the transit hub consist of housing, retail, parking and transit facilities. The transit facilities would include bus bays and 25 parking spaces for transit users.
Miami-Dade County officials say they hope the project will boost long-promised redevelopment in the area. The Greenes, along with other small business owners, don’t oppose the plan, but say they want guaranteed spots in the new development. And they appear to be unaware that relocation is not likely to happen in the near future, if it happens at all.
“All they are telling people is to move out,” Paulette Greene said. “They are telling me to throw away my livelihood just so that they could have the building. This is a landmark.”
Greene Dreams Shoe Repair, at 668 NW 62nd St. in Liberty City, is a second-generation shop where for more than 40 years, clients have listened to gospel music playing on two different radios — one inside and one outside — while shopping or waiting for repairs.
“The purpose of the gospel music is so that people could hear something nice when they are walking by the store and be inspired,” Paulette Greene said.
The store’s custom-made shirts bear images of significant people in black history and, according to Greene, they are hard to find in other areas.
Some customers come long distances to buy shirts emblazoned with the faces of Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and other figures. Some customers bring their shoes long distances, too.
“Even when some of our clients move away, sometimes they come back with a bag full of shoes,” Greene said. “I ask them but haven't you found someone up there closer to you? And they generally say ‘Yeah, but I know you.’”
The prospect of relocating with no promise to come back worries the Greenes and their customers.
“I can't see them moving. That's home,” said Phyllis Aaron, who has been going to the store for more than 30 years. “They take my shoes and fix them right away. You don't see that kind of service anymore.”
The Greenes say they want the county to guarantee them a place in the new development, but say the county won’t give it to them. County officials have met with business owners twice to discuss the project, with no resolution.
“They don't want to put in writing. We want the right to come back,” Greene said.
Federal law obligates the county to assist businesses in the relocation process. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, who oversees the project, has promised to help existing businesses.
But the commissioner can't promise that the Greenes can come back.
Photo by Estrella Morejon. Tyrone Greene repairs a damaged shoe at his store, Greene Dreams Shoe Repair, in Liberty City.