Two of Miami’s longest-running art non-profits have revealed plans to relocate to the city’s Little River neighborhood over the next two years. Their moves to the district, situated just north of Little Haiti, bring new momentum to the area, which has been primed for an art-centric transformation by the local community and outside forces.
Located further from downtown to the north, Little River is named after the east-west sliver of water that cuts across the top of the district, stretching from Biscayne Bay to points inland. The neighborhood is rooted in agricultural industries. It was founded in the late 1800s and served as a vital farming area in which fruit-growing and dairy industries could thrive due to the proximity of transitional waters where saltwater and freshwater met, all in proximity to a rapidly growing metropolitan region.
“It was certainly a dilapidated, industrial part of Miami that needed a lot of TLC,” says Matthew Vander Werff, who with his wife Ashley Melisse Abess, founded the real estate firm MVW Partners in 2014 with an eye to revitalizing Little River, where Abess’s family had once lived. Their firm is now the local partner in a broader revitalization project, working with the Nashville-based real estate investment company Adventurous Journeys, which acquired 24 acres and upwards of 320,000 sq. ft of commercial real estate from MVW Partners in November 2021.