The once called Colored Town is now the center of commerce bounded by North 20th Street to the north, West First Avenue and Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to the east, North Fifth Street to the south and Dolphin expressway and Miami River to the west.
Its Northwest Third Avenue became the center of commerce for the community. Completion of Lyric Theater in 1913 and construction of other businesses pushed the economy of the neighborhood. It is in the 1940s that the black-owned businesses ranging from libraries to social institutions to a hospital and nightclubs mushroomed in the area. By this time, Overtown became famous for is nightly entertainment, matching Miami Beach.
Notable personalities like Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald, who cannot perform in upscale venues like the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau, performed frequently in Overtown nightclubs.
However, the economy declined by 1950s as the creation of I-95, Midtown Interchange and Dolphin Interchange divided the community and decreased the population by as much as 80 percent. Many of the businesses closed and the neighborhood was referred to as the ghetto.
Overtown, like its residents, has an undying spirit. Businesses were once again thriving by the 1980s, thanks to the construction of Miami Arena. As the neighborhood slowly rose, the community came together and created beautiful community gardens. The iconic Lyric Theater underwent renovation and revitalization as well.
The neighborhood is also home to Overtown Transit Village that includes retail spaces and large parking structure and Overtown Folk Life Village, a mixed-use cultural market place built by the Black Archives Foundation.
In 2015, prominent soccer player David Beckham announced that he bought a land in the neighborhood, which he will build as the Miami expansion of Major League Soccer. The stadium will open in 2018.
The community of Overtown prides itself by being the home of Dana A. Dorsey, the first black millionaire in the American South. Dorsey once owned the affluent and private neighborhood of Fisher Island.
Historic is an understatement for the community of Overtown. The neighborhood is home to several historical landmarks included in the National Register of Historic Places such as the Dana Albert Dorsey House at 250 NW 9th Street, Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 245 NW 8th Street, Lyric Theater at 819 NW 2nd Avenue, St John’s Baptist Church at 1328 NW 3rd Avenue and Mt. Zion Baptist Church at 301 NW 9th Street.
Other properties listed in the City of Miami Historic Preservation Program include Dorsey Memorial Library, St. Agnes’ Episcopal Church, Ebenezer Methodist Church, Dr. William A. Chapman House, Hindu Temple, X-Ray Clinic and Ward Rooming House.
“Towners” or the Residents of Overtown find pleasure in visiting their well-maintained parks such as Ninth Street Pedestrian Mall, Gibson Park, Dorsey Park, Henry Reeves Park, Town Park, Spring Garden Point Park and Williams Park.
Towners go around the city via the Miami Metrorail at the Culmer and Historic Overtown/Lyric Theater stations.
Overtown Public Library located at NW 13th Street boasts of an exterior wall painted by Purvis Young, a famous urban expressionist. Other institutions in the area include Culmer Neighborhood Service Center, Overtown Neighborhood Enhancement Team, Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency and Overtown Youth Center.
Its proximity to downtown, the bay, the river and Jackson Hospital, the biggest employer in the county is making Overtown a neighborhood of choice in South Florida.
City of Miami designated Overtown NW 3rd Avenue as the “Historic Overtown Business Corridor.” The said corridor is now home to Jackson Soul Food, People Bar-B-Que, House of Wings and Two Guys Restaurant.
Overtown will not be Overtown without its nightclubs. Club Space, HOUSE Nightclub, E11EVEN MIAMI, Heart Nightclub, Steam Miami and SHOTS Miami are just some of the local favorites in the neighborhood.