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City of Opa-locka approves restoration of iconic Moorish-style building

City of Opa-locka approves restoration of iconic Moorish-style building
City of Opa-locka approves restoration of iconic Moorish-style building 02:50

OPA-LOCKA -  In a major move to promote the future of Opa-locka and set an example and symbol of a new path, the mayor and commission voted unanimously to approve the complete restoration of the Opa-locka company administration building, the city's most unique Moorish revival icon.

Standing in the entrance of what was known as the Opa-locka Company Administration Building, later the City Hall, Mayor John H. Taylor tells CBSNews Miami, "We are actually going to give this building back to our residents so that it's accessible to everybody they can use it. We want weddings here we want parties here. We want people to make memories in Historical City Hall."

Recently the Opa-locka City Commission voted unanimously to approve the complete restoration of the former City Hall, the city's most unique Moorish Revival icon.

The goal is to bring back the glory of an internationally recognized architectural gem which is all part of what Opa-locka leaders say is the forerunner of a big comeback push for the City. 

Community Activists Felton Brown talking about the project, 

"This is the pulse of our community."

 How much is the budget to rehab the old Moorish Revival city hall? 

Total cost $1.6 Million and where from? The city puts up $500,000, a community block grant of $600,000 and a Cultural Grant of $500,000.

The building was once described as "America's only City Hall with minarets took architectural cues from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."  

The little city is laced with building and homes that reflect the Moorish Revival theme which calls for a quick history: 

The 1920's Opa-locka is creation of famed aviator Glenn Curtiss. 

He envisioned an Arabian Nights-themed community contemporary with the development of Miami beach and Coral Gables. 

The Hurricane of 1926 was a death blow to the Moorish Revival  dream. 

Many of the unique buildings languished, some disappeared but there was always the City Hall. 

Over the years Opa-locka's demographics changed becoming a predominantly Black community and along the way developing issues that would dog the city for years.

Over the years crime and corruption seemed to consume Opa-locka. 

The unique architecture deteriorated. 

The historic city hall got a makeover in the late 1980s, but by 2013 city hall operations were located elsewhere and the building went into decline. 

According to long-time resident Jannie Russell told us, "This couldn't be a priority at that time, taking care of the necessary things in the community took priority over the building." But now according to community activist Felton Brown,  "We're a community that's coming together collectively."

Signs of change: the historic homes are attracting folks who are rehabbing them back to former glory, the arts community has noticed, a segment of Art Basel held in Opa-locka attracted investment interest. 

Jannie Russell who heads the local CRA said, "This is an exciting time in Opa-locka because we are getting a lot of bites I would say about development." What's the attraction? Transportation: with a major airport and railroad part of the city assets, there is affordable land and real estate plus that unique architecture.

"We want everybody to know that there are opportunities, great bright opportunities here in the city of Opa-locka,"  the mayor told CBSNews Miami. When asked if the Old City Hall rehab was a cornerstone of a brighter future the Mayor said, "This is the center of that, the center of it." According to city officials. the former city hall restoration is expected to be finished by the Fall of 2023. 

For more information about Opa-locka and recent developments in the unique city, click here. 

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