I view Miami as I do a person. Young. Ambitious. Audacious. Energetic. Miami is many things but its very nature is dependent upon four factors: its neighborhoods, establishments, people and their way around and in-between the first two. Government doesn’t lend a city its traits but serves to properly facilitate its functions, so it’ll therefore be marginalized in this article, at first, for the sake of simplicity.
I am as concerned with the traits of a city as I would be a person. In identifying a city’s traits, it is natural to first look at its neighborhoods. These neighborhoods compose the social and architectural framework that fosters the development of urban character. What is Paris but its rich mosaic of unique and historic neighborhoods? The same can be said of NYC, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, and just about every other great city on Earth. A city’s urban neighborhoods should reflect the various personalities of the city. A sort of representation of each and every city dweller: rich and poor, festive and private, pious and perverted.
Before I endeavor to uncover the traits of Miami’s emerging urban neighborhoods, it is important to mention the first source of information: the Downtown Development Authority. The DDA’s districts and areas of interest are Brickell Village, Central Business District, Parkwest, and Media and Entertainment District.
The DDA map used here has 145 projects pinpointed. The blue lines and dots represent the metro rail, people mover, and various stations. At first glance, it’s easy to see the boom’s effect via the assortment of colorful dots, which represent individual projects and their status. The dots are mostly confined to the coast as if the boom were a colossal wave that hit the waterline first but has yet to fully reach farther inland. It is also easy to see how disconnected the area north of the I395 is from the CBD and Brickell to the south. The existing north/south rail line, depicted in a black angled line with marks, provides an ideal track for the expansion of the people mover or addition of a streetcar line. Considering the massive level of construction in that area, seeing it disconnected to the mass transit web to the immediate south is terrible.
The DDA’s districts and areas of influence are delineated in a way that I’m not entirely content with:
For one, Brickell Village’s west boundary stops at S.W. 1st Avenue, well short of the obvious boundary of I-95, four blocks farther west. There are 10 projects pinpointed on the map that are, according to its boundaries, not part of Brickell.
- Map: Brickell Village
Secondly, there is no distinction for the areas along the Miami River. Both sides of the river are either the CBD (north) or Brickell (south). The River is seeing major development along both sides of its shores and is gradually forming its own urban character, yet the DDA doesn’t seem to recognize this. For both the CBD and Brickell, the Miami River area represents a certain uniqueness that merits distinction.
- Map: Media and Entertainment District
Third, the area designated the Media and Entertainment District, which is currently more adequately represented in Parkwest, occupies a large area north of the I-395, but excludes an area roughly six times its size: Uptown; for lack of a better name.
Uptown is the entire area confined by the 1-95 on the west, Biscayne Bay on the East, the I-395 to the south, and the I-195 to the north.
I understand that it is not designated the M&E, but considering that the majority of the major projects north of the I-395 are outside of the designated M&E, doesn’t that excluded area merit some type of distinction? Sorry. Areas of influence doesn’t quite cut it for me.
- Map: Edgewater and Midtown Miami (Uptown)
Fourth, the Design District is completely excluded . Why? Who knows? All I know is that it seems that that Dacra’s (Craig Robins) activities in the Design District will not affect or be affected by Downtown. Naturally, that is outright wrong and the DD’s exclusion from the DDA’s map and areas of influence is inexplicable.
By now, it should be clear that the DDA’s outlook is rather different from mine. Still, the DDA provides invaluable data, a useful array of visual aids, comprehensive reports, and a basis for urban neighborhood boundaries in a city that has never been known for its urbanism.
Miami’s emerging urban neighborhoods are not limited to the DDA’s districts and areas of influence. The Roads, the 3rd Avenue Corridor, Simpson Park Triangle, Wynwood Arts District, Design District, Edgewater, and Midtown are all left undistinguished. Overtown is, as one should expect by now, swept under the rug. In this case the rug is Parkwest.
- Map: Parkwest
The DDA’s maps, reports, and my own field reports and research will be used to track neighborhood traits as they emerge. Whether artistic, loud, posh, trendy, cultured, snobbish, or edgy, neighborhoods traits are there to be identified. Understanding them will help one to make the right choice when purchasing a condo, opening a business, or even dining out. When there are nearly 200 major projects under construction in a tightly condensed area, all the neighborhoods within the area automatically have an identity crisis. It is a bizarre and fascinating urban development phenomenon worthy of the most serious study. (to be continued…)