Could a Chinatown in Miami-Dade become a reality?

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The vibrant colors, aroma of steamed dumplings and tones of Asian languages that attract visitors to Chinatowns across the globe, could soon be part of the cultural melting pot in Miami-Dade County.

Mikki Canton, a longtime corporate law attorney, looks to establish Chinatown Miami/El Barrio Chino de Miami, a mixed-used project that would cater to the Asian community and feature a grocery store, senior center, charter school, housing and offices for professional services. The complex would serve as the center for an international district that would be similar to the Uwajimaya Village in Seattle, said Canton, who has an interest in Asian cultures and its influence in Miami.

The Uwajimaya Village is a mixed-use complex located in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. It features the Uwajimaya grocery store, an Asian bookstore, a bank, a food court and housing.

The village is located in an area that has been populated by Asians for over 100 years, said Don Blakeney, executive director of the Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area of Seattle.

“The key is not making it a fortress,” he said. If you have retail around the complex then it really makes it porous and people can come in and out, he added.

This is the plan for a Miami version of the complex.

Canton is working with Tibor Hollo to find a location in Miami-Dade where Chinatown Miami could grow organically and spur economic growth, she said. The cities of North Miami Beach and Miami, which have large Asian populations, are being considered for the project, Canton added.

The most important thing is the international district component of the project, which has to have accessibility, has to be attractive for the Asian community and not be a tourist attraction, Canton said. “This is a living, breathing, working, everyday Chinatown Miami international district project,” she added. However, it is inevitable that could become a tourist attraction.

Canton is working as a consultant to the city of Miami in its quest to become an EB-5 regional center. Hollo’s Panorama project is being used as a signature project on the city’s EB-5 regional center application.

The name Chinatown Miami was purchased by Canton in 2008. She estimates that the project could come to fruition in two years and would cost about $40 million to build without the land included. It would be funded through private equity, but she does not envision it as an EB-5 project.

Chinatown Miami/El Barrio Chino de Miami would include a Latin component since many Latin American countries have Chinatowns, Canton said.

In addition, the Asian and Latin cuisines feature many of the same ingredients, such as cilantro and coconut.

“It will help unite Asian Americans in Florida and that will make us a little more visible,” said Dr. Joy Bruce, founder of the North Miami-based National Alliance to Nurture the Aged and the Youth, and past president of the Asian American Federation of Florida.

A Chinatown is something the Asian community in South Florida has wanted but did not know how to do, Bruce added.

http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2012/12/13/could-a-chinatown-in-miami-dade-become.html?page=all

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