Imani Woodin: Buena Vista 2021

Biography

Photo taken by Nathaly Lay Zelaya fotografia

Imani Woodin is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in international relations with a minor in Portuguese. Starting her life in Kenya, moving around the state of Florida, and living as an exchange student in Brazil fueled her intrigue in learning about people and places. As someone who is fascinated by art, nature, language, and life, she is more than ready to explore Miami through this course.

Geography 

The southernmost part of Buena Vista begins about 45 blocks from the northernmost point of downtown Miami and about four blocks from the northernmost part of Wynwood. 

Photo by Open Street Map (photo leads to link)

Buena Vista, according to City Data is bounded by NW 54th St to the north, I-195 to the south, I-95 to the west, and Biscayne Boulevard to the east. However, this definition includes the Design District, which many would argue has taken a life of its own. While the Design District’s luxurious shops sit right next to Buena Vista, you wouldn’t find the same kids who play football in their front yards at Louis Vuitton. 

The working geographical location of Buena Vista gives it an L shape. It has the same parameters as the City Data but excludes the area of N 36 st to the south, N 43rd St to the north, W first Ave to the west and Biscayne Boulevard to the east.

Photo by Metro Atlantic (photo leads to link)
Plants in Buena Vista. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

The area sits at an average of 23 feet above sea level, which is high compared to many other sections of Miami. Because of this difference in altitude, the plant life here is a little different than that of a neighborhood that sits closer to the coast, such as Bayside, allowing for taller, bushier trees to grow.

While the neighborhood is mostly residential, there is a strong artistic influence from Wynwood, the art district neighboring Buena Vista.

History

In the 1890s, Buena Vista was a small village whose founding and growth paralleled Miami’s . Originally home to many “cracker” immigrants from southern states such as Georgia and North Carolina, the neighborhood soon became popular with the owners of nearby businesses. (Historic Preservation Miami)

During the early to mid 1920s, which is now known as the ‘land boom’ in Florida, those who were both strategic and well-off sniffed the Buena Vista area out. As Rodney Kite Powell writes: “with very little money down, one could purchase a great deal of land, then turn around and sell it for a profit without ever making a mortgage payment.” (Tampa Pix)

A developer who saw the potential in the Buena Vista area and around the rest state of Florida was David P. Davis. He bought land one to two miles from Miami City Hall for $165 a piece and upsold them for $275 later. (USF Digital Commons).

Once Davis started to buy and sell land, Buena Vista continued to expand. The vibrancy of this newfound community still radiates through the streets to this day.

Demographics

The total population of Buena Vista is 6,453, according to Point 2. 52% of the population is female and 48% is male with a median age of 36 years old. 3,509 of the residents are US born citizens while the other 2,944 are either not citizens or are foreign born citizens. 76.55% of the population are white collar workers and 23.45% are blue collar workers.

There are a total of 2,215 households, 1,258 family households, and 958 non-family households with an average of 3 people per household. Only 29.62% of the households have children. The average household income is $58,487 and the median household income is $47,142.

According to City Data, 44% of Buena Vistans are Black, 39% are Hispanic, 10% are white non-hispanic, 2.7% are Asian, 1.8% are two or more races, 1.6% are ‘some other race’ and 0.8% are Pacific Islanders.

Within the population is a small yet vibrant group of LGBT youth who have taken the neighborhood and have made it their own.

I met Sabrina Johnson at a party she threw in the area this summer. She was extremely welcoming and personable so I asked her to do an interview about her experience in the neighborhood.

Selfie by Sabrina Johnson CC 4.0
  • Where did you grow up?
    • “I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but I came to Buena Vista in 2017”
  • Do you identify as queer?
    • “Yes, I identify as queer, trans, fem, and then nothing at all.”
  • What was it like growing up as a queer individual?
    • “I was never able to hide myself, but I would always be told to lower it down, but growing older I was able to exude my confidence of being a queer person without making people feel some type of way about it.”
  • What was it like coming to Buena Vista? Did you feel more accepted here?
    • “It was a little easier to find work here at the time and Milwaukee had a ways to go.” 
  • What type of work are you in?
    • I’m a makeup artist, creative director, I do hair, and I bartend sometimes.
  • When did you start throwing raves?
    • When I went to a rave (here in Miami), I was like “oh my god!” The vibe would give me a bit of anxiety and excitement all at the same time because I didn’t know what to expect. Right after I went to my first rave, I thought of throwing one because I needed a little money. One party turned into five and that’s how I started raving in Miami.
  • Do you feel like you’re part of your community here in Miami?
    • I feel like I’m a part of a community. I’ve learned recently that I’ve made some type of impact on people with what I used to do as far as throwing parties, going out, and providing a space after the party. When the sun comes up, we need people with their doors open. We need people with their arms open. And that’s where I feel like I am part of the community. I am a part of this community. This night life. 
  • You open your doors to the queer individuals in the community?
    • Correct. My targeted demographic would be black queer folk. It is a need for us to have that haven, that little bit of peace, you know? 
  • So after you started throwing these raves and opening your doors to the queer black community, do you feel a stronger connection to the community?
    • Yes, I feel like within the community there is a lot of work (that’s needed), but I found a community nonetheless. When I first moved down here I didn’t really interact with other LGBT folk outside of work as a makeup artist. When I started raving I did find more community and I was able to be more of my authentic self.
  • How long do you think you’ll stay in Miami?
    • I don’t think I’ll ever leave Miami. I might visit other places, but I’ll never leave Miami.

Landmarks

Buena Vista Post Office photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

The Buena Vista post office was the first establishment to solidify the neighborhood. The neoclassical architecture gives the building an official air, as if to say that the neighborhood is here to stay.

This wall in south Buena Vista is unmissable. Painted on a neglected wall, it was dedicated to a local woman named Angeles who was battling stage 3 cancer. The mural embodies the community’s support for their neighbors.

Nothing unites a neighborhood like a church. The Full Gospel Assembly, founded in 1992, sits at the intersection of NW 2nd Ave and 39th St. The hold yard sales every other Saturday as fundraising for the church, which unites the community and invites everyone from all walks of life. They even have a K-12 school called Ebenezer Christian Academy which teaches in both English and Creole.

Green

Pullman Mini Park by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

The Pullman Mini Park is a unique use of a small plot of land. Surrounded by houses, it’s a great place to go if you want to soak in the sun or take your kids to let their energy out.

North Bay Vista Park photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Although North Bay Vista Park is located next to the interstate, its still a calming place to clear your head. If you want to feel like a kid again while on the swing or find a cool place to sit and read under a tree, North Bay Vista is the park to go to.

Buena Vista Greenery. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0.

If you are craving to see some green, Buena Vista is your neighborhood. As long as you aren’t on the main streets (NE 2nd, NW 2nd, Miami Ave), nearly all the houses are surrounded by trees, providing shade while you stroll down the sidewalk. The green makes the houses pop and gives the neighborhood a homey feel.

Transportation

Trolley and Metrobus stops in Buena Vista photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

While the majority of Buena Vista’s population navigates their way through the city  with their own cars, there is also a good amount of the population that hop on the Little Haiti Trolley which goes as far south as I-195 by the Design District and as far north as NE 84th street by El Portal via NE 2nd Ave and NW 2nd Ave.

Map by Google Maps. Photo leads to site.

People also use the metrobus which costs $2.25 for one bus and $5.65 for a day pass and runs 24 hours a day (Introducing Miami). The Little Haiti Trolley, on the other hand, is free of charge, but only follows NE 2nd Ave and goes as far south as 36th Street and as far north as 84th Street. (Miami Dade)

Map by Miami Dave Transit. Photo leads to link.

Outside of motor transport, approximately 4.0% of the population relies on two wheels or two feet to get around (Point2Homes). Bicyclists and walkers take advantage of the area’s proximity to the city to go to school and work.

Food

Roots is a family run restaurant and kava bar that started in late 2015. Before they had the building, they ran the business out of the house pictured on the right. Kava is a root that is originally from south Polynesia. Taken as a beverage, it gives you a sedative, relaxed feeling and is used as short-term anxiety treatment.

Buena Vista Deli offers a wide selection of French cuisine. While I’ve never been to France, their pastries are what I hope French chocolate and fruits to taste like. Although it’s on one of the busiest streets in the neighborhood, it has a cozy and inviting feel to it.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

If you want to fill your stomach without feeling heavy afterwards, Mandolin is the place to go. Named after the Italian instrument, this Mediterranean spot has fresh and affordable dishes and offer vegan options.

Businesses

Miami Nautique is the place to go for all water sports equipment. Whether you need a surfboard, wetsuit, or water ski, they’ve got it all. A perfect mix of upscale business and artsy aesthetics, the mural on the side of the building sets the tone for the modern Buena Vista.

Mi Pana Convenience Store and Market. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

If you want to pregame for a party or just get a snack, Mi Pana is the local Puerto Rican corner store where you can get all your edible essentials.

Upper Buena Vista. Photo by Imani Woodin CC 4.0

Upper Buena Vista is a high end shopping area which opened in summer of 2017 containing several restaurants and boutiques in North Buena Vista. If you are looking for an indie vibe in an açai place or a coffee shop, this is your place to go.

Summary

Buena Vista has some of the friendliest people I’ve come across since moving to Miami. People who saw me walking on the sidewalk by the house would say hi and almost everyone I asked opened up to me about their experience living in the area… I even got invited to a church service at Full Gospel. It was an amazing experience.

The biggest threat to the neighborhood, I believe, is the expansion of high end boutiques and shopping centers, such as Upper Buena Vista. The area is very expensive and almost exclusively marketed for a white audience (as seen on their Instagram) although the neighborhood is 10% white.

My fear is that the people who have been there for their whole lives will be pushed out because of this new movement.

Overall, I highly suggest visiting this neighborhood in its entirety. It’s a very unique area where people from all over the world live on the same street. The atmosphere is very comfortable and the greenery is very inviting. Go by yourself or with a friend. Take the trolley. Have the full Buena Vista experience. See you there.

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