We know what Overtown is, but what is Park West? Where is this new neighborhood, or should I say concept? I say concept, because today Park West is nothing like it will be in, say, 5 years. It will be a thriving urban community that will be home to some extremely wealthy residents. To put it simply, Park West is the area directly to the west of what is now called Bicentennial Park. I say now because in the future it is supposed to be called Museum Park. You know, the world-class park and home to three museums. The project is still an idea without full funding, but many are saying that the project’s outcome is certain to be positive. Let’s hope so. The 10 Museum Park developers are betting on it.
As of late, the two terms Park West and Overtown have often been used interchangeably. But now it seems that people are prefering to use Park West instead. It sounds better to the buyer, it seems. But, Park West is immediately to the west of the park, and that’s it, right? Apparently not. More and more of the east Overtown area is being referred to as Park West. Why? Well, for those who are somewhat familiar with Miami’s history, the name Overtown represents a once thriving African American community that was mostly demolished and left nearly abandoned for years. For most, the area has always been a wreck. In reality, it is a sad story. A story of over 12,000 mostly African-American families that were forced to move out of their proud neighborhood to make room for Interstate 95 and the I395. The neighborhood then became synonymous with crime and violence. Few dared to enter. To those that knew the least, it was like an urban war zone that if you mistakenly wandered in, you never came out. Such was the extent of the negative perception of the neighborhood during the 1970’s, 80’s, and even into the 90’s.
But now Miami has become boomtown. Overtown is sitting in the shadows of it; literally, when all of the surrounding buildings get built. However, Park West seems to be erasing Overtown’s existence. Or, at the very least marginalizing the once thriving black community’s former boundaries. Paradoxically, this former urban wasteland, is slowly disappering to make room for ritzy condos, clubs, restaurants, and offices. So, what will be left of Overtown? Does anyone care? Should the name be retired? Will it be swallowed up and renamed by ambitious developers and disinterested city officials? Or, will preservationists protect the it’s proud history and prevent it from disappearing?