Signs of Urban Life: Development Outlook (Uptown’s Woes)

Image: FEC Corridor facing north toward Midtown

There are many factors that influence retail and development activity. This installment is intended to describe those factors that are negative and may slowdown progress in the Uptown area, which is east of the I-95, north of the I-395, south of the I-195, and west of Biscayne Bay (the area includes: the Media and Entertainment District, Wynwood Arts District, Midtown Miami, and Edgewater).

Woe 1: Lack of Rail Transit Access

Connectivity to the mass transit rail system not only enhances accessibility for visitors to the area, but also alleviates the overall parking capacity. Of the three primary segments of the urban core (Brickell and the CBD being the other two), Uptown has the least connectivity to rail transit lines. There is no Metrorail station in Uptown. The free people mover system services the Omni and School Board area but doesn’t pass north of 15th street. Although the FEC corridor presents the opportunity of expanding the rail transit system north through Uptown, the initiative remains in the planning phase.

Image: entrance to the Biscayne Cemetery

Woe 2: Development Impediments

Uptown, unlike the CBD and Brickell to the south, has large parcels zoned and used for industrial purposes. Some of these include:

  • People’s Gas Lot (1600 N Miami ave and 60 NW 17th street)
  • Tarmac of FL (1801 NW Miami Ct and 17845 NW 1st ave)
  • Metro Mix (2111 NW 1st PL)

These industrial spaces don’t just impede development but are eyesores as well. I can’t think of too many people who’d be fine with having a cement plant in their neighborhood. In Uptown, there are two of these medium sized facilities. The redevelopment of the 56 acre Buena Vista storage yard into Midtown Miami is a reminder that, through a redevelopment perspective, anything can happen, but the impediments remain and will not easily be removed.

Image: FPL substation

In addition to the obstructive industrial spaces that include the parcels mentioned above but are not limited to them, there is the large FPL substation (77 NE 20 ST) parcel. Here again, we have an eyesore and a development impediment.

Cemeteries are a fact of life, but their gloomy presence is almost impossible to remove and they don’t exactly boost real estate value. Brickell and the CBD don’t have cemeteries, Uptown has one in the heart of it. If there is anything positive to note in this respect, there has been some minor new retail activity surrounding the cemetery as of late, but nothing significant.

Woe 3: Crime and Vagrancy

According to county data, Uptown leads the urban core in crime incidents. To supplement this problem, the area directly west of the I-95, next to Uptown, is several times worse than Uptown proper. This undoubtedly, regardless of the I-95 barrier, creates the potential of a negative spill over effect. Additionally, Uptown has a problem with vagrancy that is comparable, but less severe, than that of the CBD. You can’t go to the Burger King across from the Omni and eat in your car without having at least one panhandler approach your window. This deters pedestrian activity, keeps visitors at bay, and weighs down the areas value. When measured against Uptown, Brickell is more desirable for retailers looking to set up shop away from vagrancy that might scare off customers.

Woe 4: Low Income Housing

Uptown has the most low income housing of the entire urban core. Unfortunately, there is a stigma of crime associated with high levels of low income housing. Whether true or not, the negative perception exists and is damaging to the potential of the community. Retailers tend to avert setting up shop near concentrated low income areas.

Woe 5: Nightlife, or Lack thereof

There is little to no nightlife in Uptown. Parkwest might be missing a retail sector, but it has a thriving nightlife. Having such nocturnal activity can help the retail sector by stretching hours of operation for surrounding retailers into the evening and adding dynamism to the economic mix. At night, Uptown is, well, boring. The Performing Arts Center and the couple of nighttime establishments nearby are not enough to compensate.

Woe 6: Pedestrian-unfriendliness

Uptown is the least pedestrian friendly area of the Urban core. Aside from the narrow sidewalks being harrowingly close to busy Biscayne Boulevard, they are in terrible shape and lack shade. Other than Margaret Pace Park and Midtown Miami, Uptown lacks free roaming areas for pedestrians. N. Miami Avenue, NE 2nd Avenue, and even Biscayne Boulevard haven’t matured enough, economically, to provide a reason for traversing the area on foot or bike.

Image: An abandoned building on N.E. 2nd Avenue

Woe 7: Dereliction and Decay

N.E. 2nd Avenue has considerable potential for becoming an economic artery, but currently it is lined with abandoned and derelict buildings–many of which are up for sale. Although these structures do provide something of a blank canvas for development, so long as they remain in their current dilapidated state they bring down the aesthetic appearance of the community and in some instances provide a haven for illicit activity. Uptown is riddled with these derelict structures–more so than any other segment of the entire urban core.

Uptown has plenty of problems and I’m certain that many have been left out, but the upstart neighborhood is brewing with growth and value potential. In the next installment, Uptown’s Pros will be discussed.



Filed under BoB Articles, Gentrification, Uptown: Edgewater, Uptown: Media & Entertainment (PAC) District, Uptown: Midtown Miami, Uptown: Wynwood Arts District

61 responses to “Signs of Urban Life: Development Outlook (Uptown’s Woes)

  1. FrenchyMiami

    When is next installment…

  2. Great article, BoB. I lived near Uptown for about 3 years. From what I see the area has had little to no growth for decades. Sadly, there is hardly any foot traffic in the Design District.

    Whoever it was that sold the investors at Midtown and Edgewater on the (pipe) dream this area would ever been a thriving commercial or residential neighborhood either deserves a big, big raise, or a tar and feathering.

  3. FM, next Monday. The negative is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin, as you will see next week, and you probably already know, leaves Uptown in a remarkably singular position compared to the rest of the Core.

    Gus, thanks. I think that the area finds itself at a threshold between the neglected Uptown of old and re-identification spurred by developers, speculators, and new occupants. But as you say, the old Uptown has not receded significantly in favor of the new. The new Uptown is visible in the form of sporadically located pockets of development. The key here, I think, is looking at these development pockets and seeing how they connect and may interact with one another in the context of planned public space, infrastructure improvement, and transit initiatives.

    Regarding the marketing of Uptown, developer marketing teams will water down or ignore negative issues in order to paint a rosy picture. We’ll be taking a hard look at Uptown’s potential vis-a-vis the rest of the Core.

  4. FrenchyMiami

    In your comments please could you point out the proximity of the design district and the fact that all major art galleries and venues are opening there, which i expect a spillover from..soho style..

    A good article for u

    now looks like a good time ….midtown is just the rich enclave facade in a really cool long lasting developing artistic area in Miami…

  5. The Design District is beyond the I-195 and therefore, technically, not part of Uptown. Obviously the proximity is close. I’m glad you mention “spillover effect” because the DD will definitely influence Uptown, particularly the Midtown area, and vice versa. I’ll reserve the details for the next installment; Uptown’s Pros. Thanks for the supplementary info Frenchy. As always, your contribution is valuable.

  6. “The new Uptown is visible in the form of sporadically located pockets of development. The key here, I think, is looking at these development pockets and seeing how they connect and may interact with one another in the context of planned public space, infrastructure improvement, and transit initiatives.”

    Well said!

  7. mike

    It’s definitely going to take at least five years for uptown to turn around since midtown alone cannot save the area by itself because it’s so contained. The surrounding area is so grimy, when your driving on biscayne blvd. around the new opera tower area (give or take a few blocks) and then you turn towards NE 2nd, it’s like a totally different world!

    Whenever I drive on NE 2nd at night around the cemetary all I see is crack heads and crack dealers, however, the complete transformation of biscayne blvd. over the next two years will definitely cause a positive spillover into uptown and wynwood…hopefully. Those areas have to change!!!

  8. BoB

    The spillover will originate from Midtown and Edgewater first. I don’t anticipate major commercialization along Biscayne boulevard until the resurfacing gets underway and is completed. Too many retailers are going to stay out. As a result, the area will likely remain immature–in an urban sense. What is an urban environment with little dining, shopping, and lifestyle options? Incomplete.

    Uptown’s evolution is just getting started. I agree that the area will be vastly different five years from now.

  9. luis martinez


  10. BoB

    Luis, how much did you pay for your unit? I don’t want you to be overly concerned because of this post. There is lots of positve information surrounding the Midtown project. I’m curious to know what you paid though

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