Located to the immediate west of Miami’s Design District and Little Haiti neighborhoods is Liberty City, also known as Model City. The term “Model City” comes from the area’s humble beginnings as one of the first housing projects in the southern United States, created in response to the overpopulation and deteriorating housing conditions in nearby Overtown.
But in the aftermath of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – which lightened property restrictions against Blacks – Liberty City descended into crime and poverty as older, lower-income citizens and welfare-dependent migrants flocked to the area. And yet, the neighborhood persisted through its harsh economic realities to become a hub for Black advancement and integration, as iconic figures like Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Martin Luther King Jr. rallied the community around art, entertainment and culture.
Today, Liberty City sits on the verge of economic revival, with many of its historic sites and structures intact, which include churches, murals, and homes, among others. It’s also located on some of the highest ground in Miami-Dade County—a major factor in the city’s “climate gentrification” trend that’s seen more eastern residents slowly flee their oceanside, flood-prone areas. This has altered the makeup of the neighborhood in recent years: its Hispanic population more than doubled between 2013 and 2019 to about 7,500. At the same time, Liberty City’s Black population fell 10% to 18,550. And the median value of single-family homes has more than tripled to $278,000 over the past decade.
But beyond its deep cultural and historical roots, Liberty City still presents plenty of concerns for prospective residents: it’s regarded as one of, if not the most dangerous part of Miami, with a high rate of violent crimes and drug-related felonies. With that in mind, Liberty City doesn’t exactly scream “walkable”, and you’ll certainly need a car to both navigate the neighborhood, as well as outlying areas. That said, Liberty City is serviced by Miami’s Metrorail at three nearby stations (Earlington Heights, Brownsville, MLK Plaza), plus the more convenient Metrobus and Miami Trolley systems, the latter of which announced new Liberty City routes in 2019.
And yet, recent developments point to an encouraging revitalization of the area. In 2015, Liberty Square – a-once notorious center of criminal activity – was infused with a $300 million investment as part of the Liberty City Rising project. By the time it’s completed in 2023, the development will house a total of 1,455 units of all price ranges, from public housing to market rate. That same mission extends to Liberty City’s Roots Collective Black House: a grass-roots organization dedicated to creating economic stability within Black and brown communities.
Ultimately, Liberty City isn’t going to be at the top of anyone’s residential wish list, but recent economic initiatives – paired with a profound sense of community pride and spirit – has the oft-maligned neighborhood primed for some truly permanent, positive change.
Largely commercial street running through portions of Liberty City, as well as nearby Little Haiti, Brownsville, and Hialeah.