Little Haiti Miami and its Recently Restored Market Place

    By Jodi Mailander Farrell

    Shuttered for more than 15 years, a newly-renovated Caribbean Marketplace in Little Haiti has defied the wrecking ball and reopened with a colorful splash.

    About 16 Caribbean vendors now occupy the building at 5925 NE 2nd Ave., next to the Little Haiti Cultural Center. More are expected to join them later this year.

    In addition to crafts and food from Haiti, they sell wares from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Bahamas and the U.S Virgin Islands.

    The Marketplace, which officially re-opened July 18, will be open Thursday through Sunday nights and feature live bands.

    Miami-based architect Charles Harrison Pawley, who was born in Haiti to American parents and lived there as a child, modeled the 9,500-square-foot Miami structure after the Marché Ferrier (Iron Market) in the commercial district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

    The splashes of red, indigo-blue and vivid yellow all over the building are meant to represent the liveliness of the Caribbean and the gingerbread houses of Haiti. The little Haiti building won a Florida Architecture Award and an American Institute of Architects national honor award.

    Originally opened in 1990, the recently restored Marketplace closed just nine years later due to structural and financial problems. When the city of Miami took over in 2005, it planned to tear down the structure, but Little Haiti residents protested. Saving the marketplace was a collaborative effort by the city of Miami, District 5 Commissioner Keon Hardemon, the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and other local groups.

    The $900,000 project to restore and rehabilitate the building includes air conditioning, new lighting and sound systems, vendor kiosks, four 70-inch flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. It also includes a refreshment and concessions area.