Liberty City's Greene Shoe Repair makes huge comeback
Venerable Liberty City store makes grand comeback
Erick Johnson | 4/24/2014, 9 a.m.
Greene’s father, Willie James Gray, founded the original store in 1960 at 668 NW 62nd Street. The store weathered the infamous 1980 McDuffie Riots that destroyed many Liberty City businesses. After the riots, many business owners fled the area because of high crime while Greene stayed for the long haul.
But in the early dawn hours on Jan. 4., 2013, police forced Greene out of his longtime shop, boxing up his merchandise and unfinished orders before demolishing the building. Greene was overwhelmed with tears as he watched cranes take apart the store his father built.
The ending capped a bitter four-year battle to remove Greene’s business to make way for the Seventh Avenue Transit Village, a $60 million mix-use affordable housing development that will include a transit hub and community theatre. City leaders hope the project will bring hundreds of jobs and stimulate economic development in the area.
Greene rejected severals offer to move in the proposed village. Relations between Greene and his landlord, Miami-Dade County, which owned the building, grew heated. Between 2010 and 2012, the county gave notice three times to Greene ordering him to move out of the building. But Greene took the county to court in 2012 where a judge ruled in his favor. The court agreed that Greene’s valid, non-binding lease with the county until May 2014 gave him the right to stay in the building. Greene also argued that as the landlord, the county was not being responsible in failing to repair the crumbling structure.
Undaunted, county officials made additional attempts to force Greene out of the building. They shut of the water and electricity to the business. Then officials vowed not to renovate the building, saying the $500,000 in repairs was more than the value of the structure. County officials also said they offered to pay to move Greene to another temporary location, and pay the difference in his rent. They also said they promised to put Greene back in the new village for the same rent he had been paying for five years. County officials said Greene had declined the offers.
The final blow came when the City of Miami’s Code Enforcement declared the building unsafe with several violations, including a roof that was falling apart. When Greene refused a final warning to move out, police smashed the front door and cleared out the building before demolishing it hours later. Police told Greene the City’s code enforcement ruling superseded his legal victories in court.
Today, Greene is still suing the county for breach of contract.
While most nearby businesses have been torn down, Greene was one of the last to leave. The other business, Mop City Barbershop is the last one remaining. The revered salon is also refusing to leave and will have the Transit Village built around the building. Construction of the project is currently underway.
But Greene said Saturday’s opening was a vindication after his ordeal.
“It is a vindication, but I believe this [store] is going to be bigger than it is,” Greene said.