I have always noticed the long string of old motels on Biscayne Boulevard between 36th street and Miami Shores. I just never imagined that they would have architectural value. According to Miami 21 officials they do. And, their value is worthy of preservation. Now, there are aspects of the Miami 21 plan that I’m not altogether happy with, for example, height restrictions that may not be compatible with Miami’s urban evolution, but overall the plan is good and necessary. So, I decided to inspect the area through a more critical lens—my camera. Please pardon the glare in some of the images.
It was surprising to see how many lots are for sale up and down the Boulevard among these motels. The motels are as funky and colorful as they have always been. It is hard to see what the future has in store for this area of Biscayne Boulevard. The area between 50th and 90th streets is in between a few established and valuable neighborhoods to the north and south (Bay Point, Morningside, and the Design District to the south; Miami Shores to the north). The Biscayne Boulevard MiMo District bisects Little Haiti.
The question is: how will the MiMo District benefit new development? Will it further spur or deter it? The Art Deco District on Miami Beach certainly helped spur new development along the peripheries of the district near Alton Road, on West Avenue, on Collins Avenue, and in the SoFi neighborhood, so the there is a precedent of success. The difference is that Miami Beach has had a long history of tourism. This area has not. The Art Deco District is bordered by one of the best beaches in the country. The MiMo District is not. There is a much larger collection of historic buildings in the Art Deco District than in the MiMo District. So is the precedent valid? Yes. Is it strong? Probably not.
It is not clear how development in the MiMo District will materialize except to say that the phenomenal construction activity to the south will definitely have a positive ripple effect to the north. Also, it isn’t clear what uses these buildings will afford their owners under the new guidelines. The buildings are protected, but surely the city doesn’t want them to remain cheap motels. In the Art Deco District, some buildings primarily on Collins Avenue from 5th street to 9th have catered to national retail tenants. Others have become restaurants and lounges, pizzerias, gelaterias, and less established retail stores. The remaining have, for the most part, remained hotels. Will MiMo motels follow suit and afford their owners and the neighborhood such an array of uses? The likelihood of that happening any time soon is low.
On another note, the Miami21 plan restricts height throughout much of the MiMo District and that doesn’t seem like a logical way of attracting new developers. The Bank building does offer an interesting vision of what could be an encouraging glimpse into the future of this urban district, but it is only one new building. Hopefully, it will set the precedent for future development along this corridor, which until recently was a blight spot on the city’s neighborhood mosaic, but may eventually become one the city’s most remarkable.