Miami’s Little Havana Gains “National Treasure” Label

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A group looking to preserve a piece of history have their sights set on Miami’s Little Havana – the epicenter of the Cuban diaspora.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation added Little Havana to its list of “national treasures” Friday, saying it should be protected from developers who are transforming much of Miami’s downtown and its surroundings.

The nonprofit says the designation will help organizations, city officials, residents, and investors to preserve the area’s historic buildings and keep it affordable to working-class dwellers.

The neighborhood’s signature street, Calle Ocho, features cigar shops, art galleries and mom-and-pop stores where Cubans and their descendants reminisce about the island.

Tourists also visit the area arriving in double-decker  buses to take sips of Cuban coffee and shoot selfies at the Versailles restaurant, the hub of the exile community. The neighborhood has changed some as new immigrants have arrived from Central America and Colombia, opening new restaurants and stores.

Actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) (R) speaks to the media as he makes a campaign stop at the Versailles restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood September 14, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Actor and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) (R) speaks to the media as he makes a campaign stop at the Versailles restaurant in the Little Havana neighborhood September 14, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Little Havana is a symbol of the immigrant experience in America and a thriving, entirely unique place,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Growth should not come at the expense of the vibrant historic neighborhoods like Little Havana that make cities unique and desirable places.”

The historic trust’s website says Little Havana faces multiple threats, including development pressure, demolition of historic buildings, displacement of existing residents and zoning changes.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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