Over the years, we hosted, convened, and advocated for activities that promoted smart growth and civic entrepreneurship. Along the way, we were drawn to projects that promoted an understanding of the environmentally sound built environment as well as regional cooperation. We brought academic, technical and financial resources to Overtown’s organizations and residents. We partnered with as many as shared our interest as we maintained a desire to collaborate with those who sought solutions to the neighborhood’s most pressing problems.
As we look ahead, we have an eye on innovation and entrepreneurship. We are leaning heavily on promoting both. We won’t ignore our academic, philanthropic or geographic roots and will continue to look for those activities that are impactful locally and those which can contribute to the academy of community development.
We were formerly the South Florida Smart Growth Land Trust. Incorporated in March of 2002, we were hosted by the Collins Center for Public Policy under the leadership of Rod Petrey.
The mission of Urban Philanthropies is to transform distressed urban communities through economic and community development activities for the enhanced quality of life for residents.
Mr. Bacon has over twenty years’ experience in real estate and community development. As a small business consultant with the Minority Business Development Center, he advised and wrote a number of successful businesses plans for some of Broward County’s leading businesses. He worked as an economic development representative at the City of Ft. Lauderdale were he eventually became the department manager. He served as the Northwest Community Redevelopment Agency Manager and Real Estate Project Manager at Ft. Lauderdale before departing to become executive director of the Overtown Civic Partnership at the Collins Center for Public Policy. Prior to leaving the Collins Center, Mr. Bacon was Vice-president of neighborhood and regional initiatives where his responsibilities included designing economic development initiatives for clients statewide. Mr. Bacon currently is the president of Urban Philanthropies which he describes as a “civic entrepreneur.” “Our mission is to help develop entrepreneurship in dis-invested communities.” Mr. Bacon thinks that Urban Philanthropies will be impactful in helping to build civic and economic infrastructure in local communities like Overtown in Miami.
As I drove past new construction work being done just north of the Lyric, I was reminded of a front page article dated July 27, 2003 The Miami Herald ran a story entitled, “Visions Of A New Overtown.” The story articulated a hope for the transformation of Overtown’s core into a “multiracial, mixed-income bustle of condos, apartments, houses, retail shops and offices. The story fleshed out 8 projects that were to form the nucleus of the physical redevelopment of Overtown. There was the 80 single family homes project at the Villages of St. Agnes now completed and sold out; the 17 story office Tower (now twin towers )completed and occupied by the county bringing over 2500 workers to the area; the New Arena Square Apartments now fully renovated; The Lyric Theater expansion completed and the theater and office space operational; the expansion of the 9th street pedestrian mall completed and home to the “first Fridays” food and retail festival held monthly; the Habitat for Humanity single-family houses completed and occupied; sidewalk curb and gutter improvements completed with new lighting and tree plantings in the heart of the Folklife redevelopment area and the Gatehouse project started with the ‘All Aboard and Don Peebles/ Barron Chandler developments south of eighth street running parallel to the County’s twin towers now vetted and sited on the remaining large parcels of land that was once referred to as ‘downtown Overtown’ all underway. In addition, the Community Redevelopment Agency is about to close on three additional affordable housing projects adding over 400 units of housing that will be available for current residents when completed with many additional commercial and residential rehabilitation projects signed off on and financed.
The now defunct Collins Center, then under the leadership of Rod Petrey put together an initiative called ‘The Growth Partnership’ funded primarily by the Knight Foundation. Its purpose was to help residents proactively reimagine the redevelopment of their community ahead of the inevitable pressures of growth, gentrification and the need for sustainable economic vitality and environmentally friendly affordable housing. While there is still much to do, it was gratifying to know that The Growth Partnership with its sub-initiatives to include the Overtown Civic Partnership and the South Florida Smart Growth Land Trust had succeeded in helping to bring about a vision for sustainable redevelopment. The thrust of this vision was the hope that redevelopment would provide mixed-income housing that would help repopulate the community to its historic population levels of between 35,000 to 40,000 thousand residents. In 2003 this vision was supported by a study by Dover Kohl that showed over vacant parcels in Overtown could support over 17,000 new housing units. This could accommodate over 39,000 new residents given the average household size of 2.3 persons from the 2000 census. Moreover, the same study indicated that there was an unfulfilled demand of 1165 units in Overtown. People bring demand for goods and services as well as a vibrant economy.
There were a lot of bumps and bruises along the way and twelve years later we have learned some valuable lessons: 1) change happens slowly dependent upon the market and availability of capital; 2) real change happens quietly before or after the debate-moneyed interests drive redevelopment and public debate reacts to those interests; 3) CRA’s, Land Trusts and other non-profits do protect the interest of residents and can be effective as a barrier to displacement of residents; 4) Stakeholders should recognize that redevelopment is a long term commitment but can be accelerated by endorsing groups who contribute to community problem solving and consensus building, who are willing to collaborate with other community groups towards a common goal and who pursue (not shun) mutually beneficial relationships with development interests.
In the final analysis, it is the people of Overtown who will cause the area to prosper. It will be the richness of their heritage and their culture that will differentiate the area from its Brickell, downtown and uptown competition. Regardless of the facility- whether Jackson’s Soul food Restaurant or the Lyric theater or the Carver Building or any of the projects mentioned, people will come for the art, food, culture and the feeling that they are an authentic urban place and not something that was manufactured on a Hollywood back lot. The purpose of redevelopment in Overtown has always been to provide facilities for people and businesses to come. Where these assets could be consumed and enjoyed – a place where residents could live, work and play and claim their rightful place in the myriad of cultures and subcultures in what we now recognize as Miami. The people and the talent are there. Perhaps the redevelopment will provide the facilities to showcase it.
Kweku Darfoor founded Darfoor Law Firm, P.A. in 2014 after leaving a successful career in the corporate world where he worked in a state government agency, a private law firm, an alternative financing company, a specialty finance/factoring company, and a commercial real estate company. He brings over ten years of business experience in those various disciplines to the legal industry. After many years of providing solutions to clients in the business world, he now utilizes his business and legal background to fight for his clients in the courtroom and beyond. Mr. Darfoor has been invited to speak on numerous panels involving citizens’ civil rights, strategies for businesses to avoid litigation, and basic techniques to litigate personal injury claims.
Mr. Darfoor’s goal has always been to passionately pursue the rights of victims who have been injured due to the someone else’s negligence in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, and whose lives have been altered forever by the wrongful death of a loved one. Mr. Darfoor continues to aggressively litigate cases on behalf of his clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls resulting in significant injuries, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, medical negligence, catastrophic injuries, and others including wrongful death on behalf of victims and their families.Kweku Darfoor earned a B.S. from Florida Atlantic University in 2005, an M.I.B.A. in International Business from Nova Southeastern University in 2008, and graduated from Florida State University College of Law in 2011.
Kweku Darfoor is a member of the Florida Bar, Broward County Bar Association, TJ Reddick Bar Association, and F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association. He continues to serve his community as a board member for Urban Philanthropies (a non-profit community development organization serving underserved communities in South Florida). He is a board member on the board of directors of the Florida Atlantic University Alumni Association. Mr. Darfoor is also a board member on the Corey Jones Scholarship Foundation.
Mr. Darfoor is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Supreme Court of Florida, and all state courts within Florida.
Mr. Dorsainvil is a Construction Project Manager with over 15 years of experience. He is also a Certified General Contractor and Realtor in the state of Florida. Throughout his career he has been involved in all aspects of construction management including, budget control, design, scheduling, project coordination, phasing, contract negotiations, preparation of contracts and detailed scopes of work. Experience also includes multiple LEED projects, design build construction with considerable knowledge in the principles and practices of engineering related to complex construction projects.
Jean-Marc is also a big believer in mentoring our youth and volunteering in our communities. He has been a Big Brother for over 6 years as a mentor to young adults with the Big Brother Big Sister program. He also volunteers in cleanup efforts, landscaping and painting houses for Veterans as needed.
Y. Lisa Colon is a Partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. She is Board Certified in Construction law by the Florida Bar. She also is licensed in the state of New York. She is a Certified Mediator and Arbitrator. Lisa Colon advises on legal issues involving public and private construction projects and real estate development, along with government contracting compliance. Lisa focuses on both negotiation of deals and litigation of construction-related disputes involving businesses and professionals.
Christopher D. Quiel is a Corporate Finance professional with ten years of experience performing a variety of financial activities including budgeting, forecasting, and creating monthly financial reports for corporate institutions in various industries such as insurance, healthcare, and education. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from Florida Atlantic University. He has worked with Chief Financial officers and Directors to develop operating budgets for review and approval by various boards of directors. He is also responsible for building financial models that are used for better decision making. During the weekend, he likes to watch sports and spend time with family.
State Senator Dwight M. Bullard hails from an esteemed educator, community activist and legislator family. His mother, Larcenia J. Bullard, has served in both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate. His father, Edward B. Bullard, was also a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2008.From 2000 to 2017, Sen. Bullard was a teacher at Coral Reef Senior High School; in 2008, he was sworn into office as representative of District 118 and was reelected subsequently. In 2012 Senator Bullard was elected to the Florida Senate, where he served as Vice Chair of the Transportation and Agriculture committees, as well as maintaining membership on Education and several other committees. He retains membership in the Democrats of South Dade Club, the Ron Brown Democratic Caucus, 100 Black Men of South Florida, as well as the J. L. King Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and the Richmond-Perrine Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.In 2017 Bullard was hired as the Political Director of the New Florida Majority. In this capacity he works to bring political education and awareness to underserved and often marginalized communities. His work now, much like his previous roles, looks to uplift people in a way that makes them the masters of their own destiny.
Irlande Germain is a Project Management Professional who has worked in the field of Technology for over 10 years. Ms. Germain has successfully led several large-scale software development projects in collaboration with State Medicaid Agencies in multiple states over the last few years. Areas of expertise include business analysis, vendor management, problem solving, and data analytics. Along with leading successful projects, Ms. Germain also manages the project management team overseeing project execution, serving in a mentorship capacity to team members, and is also highly involved in process improvement and change management facilitated through the Project Management Office (PMO).
Garry B. Louima, Esq. is a South Florida native of Haitian descent. Garry graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor's in Political Science and continued his academic career by enrolling in Florida A&M University College of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor. Shortly after graduating and passing the bar Garry started his firm First Step Legal Solutions, where he specializes in corporate and trademark law. Garry plans to use his network and expertise to help Overtown and surrounding communities.
Roland Cherasard, J.D. – President of Pinnacle Professional Services & Consulting, Inc. raised in Port Charlotte Florida and a graduate from Florida A&M University School of Business and Florida State Law School. For the past 15 years I have dedicated my self to helping people in my community in the areas of real estate, business, and tax. My aspirations are to continue to support my community and bring value of services and experience to those most in need.
Amed A. Avila, CPPT, Managing Director, has over 15 years of financial services experience. He has in-depth experience managing custodial relationships for individual, trust & estates, corporations, IRAs, Registered Investment Advisors (RIA's), and municipalities' public pension plans. He joined Franklin Templeton Investments, parent company of Fiduciary Trust, in 2005 and has been part of the Fiduciary Trust team since 2007. Prior to that, Mr. Avila was a relationship account manager at Peachtree Settlement Funding for five years. He earned a B.S. in international business with a concentration in finance from Florida Atlantic University and an M.B.A in finance from Nova Southeastern University. Mr. Avila also earned his Certified Public Pension Trustee (CPPT) designation from the Florida Public Pensions Trustee Association (FPPTA) and Georgia Association of Public Pension Trustees (GAPPT), of which he is a member and also currently serves as Affiliate Chair. He also currently sits on the executive board of the Broward Alliance for Neighborhood Development (BAND), a non-profit organization that advocates for affordable housing and community economic development in Broward County where he serves as Treasurer.
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