Entrepreneurs set sights on Little Havana

New projects tap into neighborhood's vibrant past, cultural legacy

MIAMI – Located less than three miles from Brickell Avenue, entrepreneurs and developers have their eyes set on Little Havana.

"Little Havana has color, music, the arts. It is like our small Latin Quarter in Miami," said Lorraine Navaro of Cervera Real Estate. "A lot of the artists have moved into the area and new entrepreneurs are opening new businesses."

They are banking on the belief that the historic neighborhood will be Miami's new urban real estate and entertainment hot spot.

The new projects aim to tap into the neighborhood's vibrant past and cultural legacy.

Take for example the new live music venue Ball & Chain. It is being built at the exact spot along Calle Ocho -- even opening with the same exterior look and name -- as the legendary Ball & Chain.

"Ball & Chain was an establishment that was opened in 1935 closed to 1957," said Bill Fuller.

He said top artists of the day like Count Baise, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker and Louis Armstrong played there.

"Today we are working to reestablish the institution the way it was," Fuller said. "This is the exact location -- 1513 SW Eighth Street -- which they used to say 'On the Trail.'"

Fuller said the front windows will "open right up to the street so we can engage the locals and visitors alike."

He showed Local 10 the colorful handmade Cuban tiles crafted by a local artisan which he plans to wrap around the bar which is being constructed of salvaged doors from Little Havana properties. He hopes to host a grand opening in just over a month.

Local 10.com WEB EXTRA:

Made in South Florida: Cuban Tropical Tile Miami business makes Cuban tiles by hand.

Fuller works with the Barlington Group, a locally-owned real estate company that is also developing a 1950's inspired boutique hotel.

Right next door is Azucar! a family-run ice cream shop with Latin American flavors tourists probably won't experience anywhere else like Avocado and Mamey. A large portrait of Celia Cruz hangs on a wall above seat cushions made of Guayaberas wrapped in plastic. The floor is adorned with colorful Cuban tile.

Azucar has quickly become a "must see" attraction for tourists who are dropped off by the busload several times a day across the street at Domino Park.

"Who doesn't want to see Calle Ocho?" said Bob Tuttle, who was visiting the area with his wife Diana from North Carolina.

Within walking distance from Azucar and Ball & Chain is the area's first luxury condo project.

"The developer here I think is a pioneer," said Navaro, who is the sales director for Astor Companies' Intown Condominium project.

The site will feature more than 300 condos of which Navarro said 40 percent are already sold. She said they are a mix of one, two and three bedroom condos. 

There will also be eight townhomes wrapped around two towers that will feature retail and restaurants on the ground floor.

Navaro believes the surge in activity in Miami's Brickell neighborhood just over two miles away may be pricing some buyers out of the Brickell market, creating spillover into Little Havana. A one-bedroom condo at Intown runs $190,000. Their hip sales center on Calle Ocho has a real-life display of a one-bedroom condo layout. You can also enjoy fresh cafe con leche and ice cream from Azucar while you are there. 

The developer is working with legendary interior designer Steven G. to give it a modern and chic feel while incorporating the traditional aesthetic of Cuban tile which is built into their logo and will be added to the building.

"And that is what this is all about," said Fuller. "A bunch of entrepreneurs and creatives bringing their take on what this neighborhood means to them."