West Grove – Historic Miami Neighborhood Being Overtaken by Gentrification

 Certain neighborhoods – in South Florida, nationally, and internationally – strike residents and visitors as unrecognizable, compared to perhaps a decade earlier. Sometimes and in some ways, the changes are welcome…but that often depends on who you ask. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition says that gentrification is understood to be “a form of neighborhood change, resulting in the displacement of incumbent residents of one social class and culture by another more affluent class, linked with an increase in property values.”

In other words, typically in gentrification, residents of a low-income area get put out and richer people move in. In Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, the gentrification is in high gear.

In Coconut Grove, the Black and White residents have been divided for 100 years. Historically, the White residents of the neighborhood have had access to the waterfront property in the East, while Black residents had to settle in the West. That segregation persists now, with the racial makeup of the neighborhood still falling along those same lines. At the same time, forced race-based disparate treatment in laws, employment, public accommodations, education, banking, and commerce have led to the economic decline in the neighborhood’s west area.

Over the past 15 years, however, the largely Black, largely lower income West Grove has been encroached on. In those years, street by street from the east, West Grove properties have been bought, the houses have been torn down, and expensive homes have popped up. With that, the resident makeup of the West Grove is looking increasingly different from what it used to look like. The area that was the proud home of tight-knit generations of working-class Black families is now becoming too expensive for many of those families.

And while wealth and race are not inherently linked, the people moving into these luxury homes are not Black/African-American in nearly the proportion as the previous residents. At the end of the day, the families carrying the century-old historic cultural legacy of the West Grove are being priced out and replaced by people from anywhere who, simply, can afford to live in the new version of the neighborhood.

A walk down certain streets and blocks feels a lot different now than that same walk might have felt as recently as 2008. To some people, the difference is better, perhaps a “revitalization” or a “sprucing up.” Of course to others, the difference means seeing individuals and families leaving an area after decades of living there. Everyone can probably agree that, as time passes, the West Grove moves further away from being what it was.

There has been resistance to the gentrification in the West Grove, including various court challenges on various grounds. There has been talk of preserving the neighborhood through the protection of historic designation. But overall, as it stands now, the almighty dollar is ruling the day, and the desire to develop new homes and get rich is running right over the rich culture of the West Grove.