A heated Miami Commission hearing on a massive and controversial real-estate development that has raised fears of accelerated gentrification in Little Haiti dissolved into chaos early Friday, when chairman Ken Russell invoked a rarely used rule to postpone a vote, then abruptly ended the meeting as other commissioners determined to approve the project began arguing volubly.

The unusual denouement followed an often-intense, four-hour public hearing at City Hall that began Thursday and stretched past midnight. A long line of critics and supporters of the $1 billion Magic City Innovation District made impassioned pleas for and against it, with some arguing it would spell the end of Little Haiti and others welcoming the jobs and substantial private investment in the neighborhood it entails.

At the outset, Commissioner Keon Hardemon sprung a surprise by announcing he had negotiated a deal with the developers that would have them contribute $31 million in cash towards undefined “community benefits” in Little Haiti.

Hardemon said the contribution could underwrite construction of affordable housing in the neighborhood, one of the city’s poorest. Little Haiti has seen significant displacement of residents and businesses as redevelopment moves north from Midtown Miami and the Design District and west from a resurgent Biscayne Boulevard. Continue reading

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