A Closer Look: Uptown (Midtown Miami)

Getting Started
Midtown Miami is the type of project that forever alters the urban landscape and character of a city. It is hard to put it up against all others. Although all new projects contribute their presence, Midtown Miami is a city within a city. Granted, it will take time for it to be fully built, and there are those that are skeptical it will ever get completely built. However, this project is much too large and already set in motion. Although it can slowdown, it will not stop. Even more important than Midtown Miami’s huge contribution to the urban mix is understanding what stood there before and how it categorically denied any real urban progress in Uptown. Prior to this emerging dazzling array of modern structures was a 56 acre railroad storage yard stacked high with columns of rusted railroad containers. The entire 56 acre area had no infrastructure. It was like a cancerous hole in the city. The storage yard deterred any interest in the entire area, helped diminish Tibor Hollo’s ambitious plans in Omni/Venetia, and hindered the Design District’s allure. To make matters worse, it was centrally located east of the I-95 in the heart of what is now Uptown. In the early nineties, it would have been nearly impossible to fathom that a massive brand new multi-phase mini-city could be built there. Today, because of Midtown Miami, the entire area stands to be catapulted into the new 21st century urban Miami. Yet Midtown Miami itself is not nearly as important as its expected deep effect on the entire area surrounding it. First, one must understand the significant scope and nature of this historic project. Subsequently, its inevitable effects on the urban periphery will become evident.

Midtown Miami At a Glance:
The project has these main components: 2 Midtown, 3 Midtown, 4 Midtown, Midblock, 6 Midtown, and the Shops at Midtown:

2 Midtown: Bernard Zyscovich

2M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings. Mixed use, for both commercial and residential use.
2M Midrise – 62 mixed-use units, 5 levels
2M Tower – 256 units, 29 floors (320ft)

3 Midtown – Chad Oppenheim
3M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings.
3M Midrise – Split level units located at the pedestal level
3M – Tower – 29 floors (309 feet)
3M Penthouse – 7 penthouse split level units at the crown level

4 Midtown – Nichols, Brosch, Wurst, Wolf, and Associates

4M Mews – A loft segment of the project featuring open unit spaces and extra high ceilings.
4M Midrise – Split level units located at the pedestal level
4M Tower – 33 floors (350ft.),

Midblock – Peter Spittler
MB Town homes
MB Lofts and Tower

6 Midtown – Data N/A

The Shops at Midtown
600,000 sq ft.
Managed by DDR

Project size – 18 city blocks on 56 acres with over 600,000 sq. ft. of retail space and over 3000 residential units

Lead Developer – Joe Cayer

Phases Summary
Easily, the most impressive of the Midtown phases is 2, due to its respectable height and unique aspects such as the Midrise portion which has an astounding glass encased multi-cube design. 4 Midtown is also impressive with its taller height and standout crown. Each project has the high-ceiling and open-space loft component featuring split levels. The Mews are those mixed use units at the foot of each building. The Midrise segment consists of those units located at the pedestal level, and the Tower units have lower ceiling heights but soar above all other units in distance from the ground. The Penthouse levels, as expected, are impressive with unique split level floor plans.

Midtown Miami and Uptown
Miami’s skyline cannot be considered mature without a broad area of density. In the recent past, density was loosely centralized around the financial district in the CBD. Brickell had some decent pockets of density as well, but it was not continuous and connected to other pockets of density. Gradually, with so many new developments coming through, the gaps started closing, but in Uptown there were until recently, no pockets of density except the tiny Omni-Venetia enclave. With the construction of the PAC, several projects were announced along Edgewater, but this development was along the bay front away from Biscayne Blvd. and definitely not west of it. This meant that Uptown was emulating Brickell to the south; where density was mostly confined along the bay. This seemed to be the case until Midtown Miami was announced. Then there was a paradigm shift; Not only would there be inland development in Uptown but the westward densification might exceed that of Brickell Village. This was a sudden change in possibilities. Brickell was an established neighborhood. Brickell had the name recognition and posh reputation. Uptown seemed an upstart. Uptown’s viability suddenly rested on Midtown Miami as much as the PAC to the south and smattering of Edgewater developments to the east. Midtown Miami became, arguably, Uptown’s most important urban pillar and therefore Miami’s too. It offered to be an anchor of stability and progress in the center of Uptown. Other development anchors such as the Design District and the PAC combined to develop a certain sense of hype and excitement about the upstart urban neighborhood.

A Note on Uptown
Uptown is a new concept, not altogether established, and widely elaborated on in this blog. It is an important idea because it identifies an emerging urban powerhouse of a neighborhood in an area that was development starved for decades. In the next three years Uptown will grow faster in densification than Brickell and the CBD did in 15 years. The latter two saw steady rather uneventful climbs in development through the years. Currently, both are experiencing major new construction activity, and Uptown is lagging bit behind but still Uptown came from nowhere. Take Midtown Miami out of the Uptown equation and the entire area becomes hollow. A vast void is left in the center. Thankfully, that is not the case, and Midtown Miami will beat as a heart in the center of the rapidly booming urban neighborhood.

Midtown Miami and the Design District

Midtown Miami will feel commercial. Its hard for it not to considering the several big name national retailers setting up nearby. These national retail giants add an immediate economic viability to the former urban blackhole. The area’s landscaping is beautiful and refreshing. The streets are new and clean. The buildings have sharp, forward-thinking designs. They compose an array of the finest architectural designs from the drawing boards of architectural stars. The area, still mostly under construction and unoccupied, is already buzzing with activity. It feels like being in the past and peering into an exciting future. As the buildings gradually become fully occupied, new shops will continue to open, and traffic will flow through Midtown Blvd., you will see the boost in car and pedestrian traffic in the Design District. This will give the Design D istrict some much needed visibility and exposure not to mention help boost projects such as Cor and Aria. The two neighborhood’s , although different in character, will come to intermingle in activities and people. Craig Robins will surely capitalize off of the momentum in the Design District.

Midtown Miami and Edgewater

Edgewater, to the east, will benefit significantly from the establishment of this new 18 block urban neighborhood in the interior. The long and slender bay front neighborhood is bisected by 26 or so streets and is not exactly practical to traverse by car, bike, or foot. There is no avenue that runs through the entire neighborhood from north to south. This type of neighborhood lends itself better to residential use. The nearby Midtown Miami project, with its massive retail component, will undoubtedly ignite a retail wave in the area’s interior. This will provide the mostly residential Edgewater neighborhood a conveniently close retail hub. On the other hand, Edgewater, with its numerous high-density, high-end, and newly-developed residential projects will provide a vast pool of potential consumers for Midtown’s retail market.

Problems
There have been legitimate complaints regarding the developer. Legally, the developer is obliged to adhere to certain time constraints when it comes to construction and unit owners naturally expect for this to occur. When it does not, confidence in the developer and investment is shaken, plus the developer becomes vulnerable to litigation. It is not altogether clear as to how much the developer has transgressed in this regard, but certainly enough for outside observers to take notice. Negative rumblings regarding the Nirvana project is beginning to fuel some concern among Midtown investors. It is likely that Midtown investors will not lose sight that their role is an historic one. Midtown investors are the quintessential urban pioneers; setting foot in areas once blighted, now new; composing the social fabric that will emit the energy that will define this new and immensely important neighborhood. This should solidify their patience as it will bear fruit unlike any other. The massive scale of the Midtown project and need to attain government funding for necessary infrastructure might explain some of the delays. The reported lack of adequate communication between investors and the developer along with the sale of the majority of the project is feuling concerns, but this all fails to overshadow the project’s overall significance.

To be continued…

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18 Comments

Filed under BoB Articles, BoB Series: A Closer Look, Uptown: Midtown Miami

18 responses to “A Closer Look: Uptown (Midtown Miami)

  1. FrenchyMiami

    Beautiful report ..I want to cry…

    Totally agree with the goods, the less goods and the conclusion: I guess we re all ready to take a social responsability to make this area historically reborn and beautiful..

  2. Thanks Frenchy. This is part I of II. More of an orientation than anything else, but there is no doubt of the historic magnitude of this development and the vital role of its investors in boosting it. Part II will focus specifically on the peripheral effects of MM on the surrounding area.

  3. Nice Job, Bob…

    Make sure you cover the ramifications of not incorporating the streetcar with development in the near future. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject….

  4. Thanks Gabriel. There are serious ramifications to be had. I’ll definitely incorporate it in to the follow up article. .

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  5. FrenchyMiami

    Is the steetcar not supposed to be incorporated anymore?

  6. It was never a sure thing. There are many who oppose it and are proposing alternatives. Mr. Sarnoff, the District 2 commissioner, is one who is skeptical of it. Still, as Gabriel mentions, it is important to consider how the street car plan will affect Midtown versus the potential adverse effects of it not being executed.

  7. FrenchyMiami

    i believe the streetcar was an appealing alternative a way to make everythin come together as a village in the city…

    But if they extend Metromover there it could be nice too…i believe buses isn’t enough a move..

  8. Good Critical Miami article with some nice pictures. I had read it before. As Alesh says, this project lends itself to being analyzed more in depth–something I will continue do.

    The streetcar is appealing but may not be practical according to some. On the surface, I like the idea, but have to look into it further. What’s really important is the railroad track that runs parallel to Midtown. It would be ideal for a metrorail or people mover expansion. Should this happen, it might benefit MM more than the street car plan. I just think the street car plan is more immediately implementable.

  9. FrenchyMiami

    they ought to take a decision on it ..they do owe citizens an answer on it they ve been talking forever on it…

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  10. nate

    I agree on all of your points. but what was left out was how the project was under staffed and built with glue and string. Over priced apartments set in the middle of three of the worst “areas” in Miami. Crime and scum that walks across the street to do all of their crime in a nice brand new robbery zone.

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