Identifying Signs of Urban Life: Retail Activity (Parkwest’s Woes)

Image: The Marquis (left) and ten Museum Park (right)

This installment was supposed to be about Brickell Village, but I shuffled the order a bit and decided to start my retail potential focus at the center of the Core.

Parkwest has many problems. Let’s address them in no particular order:

Image: Greyhound Station with the Marquis tower looming in the background

Woe 1: The Greyhound Station

This is a repository for low income travelers from all over the country. Many of the homeless roaming the streets are from elsewhere. Greyhound is their common source of entry. The bus station is not compatible with the densification pattern of the Core. It occupies too much space and is an entry point for often unstable elements. As it is, there are no imminent plans to relocate the station.

Woe 2: Camillus House

Being Downtown’s homeless shelter, Camillus House is a natural center of gravity for homelessness. This means that the closer you are to it, the likelier you are to run into panhandling and vagrancy. There are, however, plans to relocate Camillus House west to the Civic Center area. This would reduce the high concentration of displaced persons on the streets. It’s not clear when that move will take place.

Woe 3: The I-395

Having a loud elevated highway run across the flank of your neighborhood is not good. Other than the ceaseless swoosh sound of the speeding traffic, the overpasses can serve to conceal drug deals and illicit activity, promulgate vagrancy, and hamper aesthetic appeal. Fortunately, the FDOT has plans to repositioning it north, ditch it, replace the existing overpass space with park land, and provide level bridge crossings to the newly visible (because the street level view north is currently blocked) M&E District. The timetable for the work has not been set. It should be remembered that the Opus tower was denied by the commission in order to preserve the FDOT’s plans. As encouraging as the plans are, don’t expect the work to start anytime soon.

Image: 1st Avenue View of East Overtown from Parkwest

Woe 4: Overtown

Overtown for years was taboo for people in the suburbs. It was the place you didn’t drive through. Sad, considering the neighborhood was, at one point, a thriving cultural hub for Miami’s Black community. The construction of the I-95 and displacement of about half of Overtown’s residents put an immediate end to that. Today, most of Overtown lies beyond the I-95. The smaller remnant to the east of I-95 meets Parkwest at N.W. 1st Avenue. As one would expect from a ravaged community, Overtown is unstable. Economically, it is in a state of decay. It’s low income and historically plagued with a high crime rate.

Woe 5: Infrastructure

Parkwest lacks cross walks and pedestrian lights. Its sidewalks are in a state of disrepair. With the exception of vacant lots, there are no places to park. The streets are uneven, dirty, and riddled with potholes. There is nothing in the way of landscaping and little in the way of greenery.

Woe 6: Security
The combination of having a high concentration of low income housing units and a homeless shelter creates a security problem. Drug distribution and use is more common. At night, there is little sense of security unless you are near a club and in a group.

Image: Parkwest; empty streets and neglected buildings

Woe 7: Stagnant Retail sector

Parkwest lacks shops of any kind. In so far as retail activity is concerned, it is a void. This means that incoming residents don’t have many services or goods to procure in their immediate surroundings. That’s a fancy way of saying nothing to eat or buy here. Pretty much, there is no retail foundation. Things would have to start from scratch.

Like Woe

There are some serious progress impediments in Parkwest. Through a retailer standpoint, Parkwest is not desirable at this point. However, retailers also have to think about long term potential. By virtue of setting up shop, a retailer becomes vested in the community. Understanding what track the community is heading in, whether positive or negative, is vital in influencing retail activity. On the surface, Parkwest’s retail potential is questionable, but what happens when one digs deeper? What’s happening under the surface? Does the news get better or is urban vitality going to have to wait? This will be considered as we go from Parkwest’s woes to its pros.

(To be Continued…)

Parkwest Map

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Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Parkwest, Emerging Neighborhoods, Gentrification, Homelessness

24 responses to “Identifying Signs of Urban Life: Retail Activity (Parkwest’s Woes)

  1. Brad

    Good point on the bus station. I bet 95% of the homeless that get off the Greyhound decide to set up shop within a 1/2 mile of the bus station. Welcome to Miami. That bus station is a joke, but at least it fits in with the immediate surrounding community (crappy).

    On a somewhat related topic, have you noticed that the cruise ship bus route from the Port to MIA cuts right through some of the worst parts of Parkwest (along N. Miami Ave) where there’s probably 100+ homeless living on the street. For thousands of cruise ship passengers from all over the world, the 20 minutes they have in Miami takes them through one of the most poverty-stricken/depressed areas of the city. Great image.

    Regarding the retail component, I agree that progress will be slow, and I think the best way initially for retailers to enter the area is through ground-level space in some of the new condos, assuming that some have mixed-use designs, which may or may not be true. I think security is the dominant issue with potential retailers, and if they can find space in a new condo their security concerns will be greatly alleviated.

    Either way, I don’t see a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble opening up anytime soon next to the presumably vacant machine shop identified in your “Parkwest” image above. (But from the exterior view that building would make for a cool live/work loft…someday.)

  2. Displaced persons arriving from elsewhere are unfamiliar with the area, limited in mobility, and arrive near a high traffic area, so going far from the drop off point is not practical for them.

    I had never thought about the cruise ship passenger route. That’s an excellent point. First impressions are the most valuable and such an impression is a calamity. Potential positive exposure is flushed down the tubes right from the start.

    Mixed use ground level is the obvious starting point for retail activity in Parkwest, but pedestrian activity will be limited to the Boulevard. Security concerns are alleviated in the place of business, but if the surroundings are unsafe, then employees walking to and from their cars as well as patrons are negatively effected. There needs to be security across the board not in isolated pockets.

    That particular building would probably be better suited for a lounge or club since it’s right across from the expanding nightclub strip.

  3. Like you said, it’s going to take a while for Parkwest to transform into a pedestrian friendly / retail spot. It’s surroundings are currently not the greatest and a lot has to happen for this to improve. I also fear for these condo owners as they will have to deal with a high level of construction when the i395 project begins. I feel that condos closer to the CBD core such as Everglades on the Bay, 50 Biscayne, Met, and One Miami are better positioned for pedestrian and retail expansion.

  4. M

    I remember reading somewhere that the new transportation hub by the airport will include bus terminals. If that is true, will that alleviate some of the homeless around the core? Also, when Camilus House moves, you believe that will substantialy lower the homeless in Parkwest?

  5. Regarding, the bus terminal in the MIA, it’ll be great for the city but won’t have a direct impact on Parkwest. The Greyhound Station is a hindrance as long as it remains.

    The homeless I’ve talked to will always go back to Miami as long as they are out on the streets. To them, it’s the stomping grounds. However, surrounding Camillus House, the concentration of homeless people is higher than anywhere else in Downtown. Moving Camillus House to the Civic Center will shift those conditions over there, make it more difficult for those using Camillus House to transit back and forth, and reduce the high concentration of homeless that currently affects the area surrounding it.

  6. lawrence seitz

    uh, speaking of homelessness, have any of you been to south beach recently (the ‘glamour capital of south florida?) as a resident of south beach (and former resident of DC) i think parkwest has nowhere to go but up…ie, try being on the beach on memorial day weekend, or anytime during off-season…i know many beach residents who plan to relocate to downtown miami as a way to isolate themselves from the mindlessness of south beach, yet maintain their proximity===AT HALF THE PRICE…sure its not nirvana, but, like DC in the 90’s which was once a no-mans-land, downtown miami is available to those who have vision. for the rest of you, keep south beach, it has already seen its best days.

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