MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The music, the dancing, the color and, of course, the Cuban coffee – this is little Havana.
On a Friday night, you’ll find hundreds of people flocking to the neighborhood on SW 8th street.
But if you grew up in South Florida, then this isn’t the Little Havana of yesteryear.
Known as the heart of the Cuban exile community, Little Havana was a place where newly arrived Cubans could come and feel at home – 90 miles away from their native land – dominoes included.
“People want places that have an essence. Places that feel like you’re transported,” developer Frank Rodriguez said.
Now you are transported to one of the most up and coming hot spots after dark.
A crop of new restaurants and bars took the place of rundown buildings and cigar shops.
And it’s not out-of-towners but native Miamians helping to create Little Havana’s new popularity.
Frank Rodriguez grew up not far from here in Miami Beach.
He now owns more than 30 apartment buildings in the neighborhood
“We have a lot of pioneers in the neighborhood that put their little grain of salt in to the neighborhood you see today,” Rodriguez said.
Another pioneer, Bill Fuller, owns a number of businesses in Little Havana.
But there’s one spot that he credits this new nightlife neighborhood to – Ball and Chain.
“If you see tonight it’s all these people out here enjoying the culture the food the music and taste of the Cuban culture,” Fuller said. “Whether it was Miami Beach or Pinecrest or Doral, we were starting to get a mix of Miami that was being introduced to Little Havana in a way they hadn’t thought in years or hadn’t been here in years.”
The first Ball and Chain, which was also a bar, opened in 1935. Bill wanted to recreate the magic of the historic landmark.
But the effort of developing and growing little Havana may hit a snag.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation added the neighborhood to its list of “national treasures,” saying it should be protected from developers.
But the pair are on the front lines of keeping little Havana intact. Instead of high rises and expensive stores, they say they want to revamp and revitalize the area.
“It’s an important part of our family history and it’s important that as Cubans we embrace this neighborhood and reflect the best of what our culture has,” Fuller said.
The new popularity is affecting prices.
Five years ago apartments were $50 to $80,000 to buy. Today prices are $85 to $150,000.
Five years ago to rent an apartment it would cost you around $550. Today rent could start at $700 to upwards of $2,300.
Depending on your budget, that’s a small or big price to pay for a slice of Cuban culture.
And the growth in Little Havana has only just begun.
There are plans for a craft beer shop, an oyster bar and a doughnut shop to open soon.
So have fun in this little slice of Cuba right in our backyard.