Haines City

Haines City, Florida, is embarking on a significant initiative to rejuvenate the historic Oakland community’s business district, a move that’s stirring excitement among both former business owners and residents alike. This effort, led by the Haines City Community Redevelopment Agency, aims to restore the vibrancy of an area that was once the heart of the African American community in the 1950s but experienced a sharp decline in the mid-1980s. Retired business owner Bennie Prichett, who owned a club and restaurant on what was once Eleventh Street, now Martin Luther King Way, reflects on the area’s golden years and its subsequent downturn.

Historic Significance and Decline

The Oakland community’s business district was once a bustling hub, featuring a movie theater, an ice cream parlor, and numerous shops and restaurants, serving as a central point for the African American community in Haines City. However, an economic downturn in the mid-1980s led to the closure of many businesses, including Prichett’s own establishment, causing the area to lose its former luster. This downturn marked the end of an era for the district, leaving a void in the community that has been felt for decades.

Revitalization Efforts Underway

In a bid to revive this historic district, the Haines City Community Redevelopment Agency is taking decisive action by planning to hire a consultant who specializes in the revitalization of black-owned businesses. This move is part of a broader strategy to breathe new life into the Oakland community, with the city aiming to engage a consultant by spring. The initiative has been met with widespread approval from the community, including Prichett’s son, Gregory, who fondly remembers the role local shop owners played in the upbringing of the area’s children.

Community Engagement and Future Prospects

The city’s commitment to keeping the community involved throughout the revitalization process is a key aspect of this initiative. By engaging with residents and former business owners, Haines City leaders hope to ensure that the rejuvenation of the Oakland district reflects the needs and aspirations of those it aims to serve. The prospect of reviving the area’s historic charm while fostering economic growth and community development is a source of optimism for many, heralding a new chapter in the story of this once-thriving business district.

The revitalization of the Oakland community’s business district represents more than just the restoration of buildings and businesses; it symbolizes the rekindling of a community’s spirit and the preservation of its historical significance. As Haines City embarks on this journey, the initiative offers a beacon of hope for the revival of black-owned businesses and the restoration of a vibrant community life that once defined this historic district.

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