Image: Midtown Four and Midblock
The Foremost Symbol of Miami’s Emerging Urbanism
Midtown Miami is, in many ways, the most obvious symbol of Miami’s rapid urban transformation. It exhibits Miami’s architectural star power, represents the most ambitious push west for urbanism in the city thus far, sits on a formerly blighted and infrastructureless area of the city, and incorporates large-scale commercial and residential elements. For all intensive purposes, it is a city-within-a-city.
Image: The shops at Midtown Miami’s northwest side
The Skeptics Viewpoint
Yet, despite this, there are those that recall the past failure of the much hyped Omni Mall when considering Midtown’s prospects for success. However natural this historic allusion may seem, the Omni, which never had the residential component Midtown has, is currently owned by a New York-based firm with billion dollar plans that span 10-15 years. Suffice to say times have changed. Then there are those that claim the project is too vast and will never be fully completed. This is to suppose that after all that has taken place, the remaining land and phases are going to be disregarded. This is hogwash, as I see it.
Image: West entrance into the Shops at Midtown Miami
What Prospects Does Midtown Miami Present for Uptown’s Future?
Sunset Place in South Miami is a good starting point for considering how a large-scale destination-retail facility can affect its periphery. Before I continue, I am in no way claiming that Sunset Place is a model for Midtown to emulate, rather I am using it as an example of the effects of a large-scale destination-retail facility on its periphery. Acting as an anchor luring thousands of visitors to the heart of South Miami, Sunset Place’s southern flank along Sunset Drive has become a hub of economic activity. There are restaurants, taverns, wine bars, lounges, stores, and cafes along Sunset Drive across the facility. Each of them is a testament to Sunset Place’s catalytic effects.
Image: Sunset Place in South Miami
Is Midtown Miami’s Peripheral Effect to Be Any Different?
There are those who argue that South Miami is a more stable section of the city with an enclave of well-off single family homeowners in the surrounding the area. This same argument is predicated upon the idea that Midtown is in the inner city where stability is fleeting at best. Naturally, the “inner city” refers to the Wynwood area that only within the last few years began gaining recognition as the center of a burgeoning art scene, but remains, for the most part, largely overlooked by visitors and tourists. We’ll get further into the Wynwood aspect later in the post, but to suggest this is also to ignore the presence of two nearby exclusive bay front communities: Bay Point and Morningside. These two neighborhoods are no slouches when measuring affluence. Edgewater’s rising prominence will add luster to Midtown’s prospects as well.
Image: Restaurants, taverns, and cafes across from Sunset Place
What Makes Midtown Miami Different?
Aside from the three aforementioned neighborhoods, Midtown Miami is situated next to two highly distinctive urban nodes: the Design District and Wynwood Arts District.
Image: Underutilized properties directly across from Midtown Miami.
The Design District’s Dacra-propelled plans and resulting buzz has lured numerous high-profile international tenants into the aesthetically alluring DD. Although some would describe the Design District as movie-set-like, that is to say absent of real life, there should be no doubt as to Craig Robins’ knack for smelling out the City’s next hot spot. Positive developments and activity in the Design District are sure to have a spillover effect on Midtown Miami and vice-versa.
Then, of course, there is the Wynwood Arts District, which for years, while simply known as Wynwood, had the stigma of an unsafe inner city neighborhood. Today, the hood is at the forefront of Miami’s art scene. There is a greater concentration of art galleries in Wynwood than in Coral Gables or Miami Beach. So many, in fact, that there is a website dedicated to tracking and showcasing them. However, on the surface, Wynwood doesn’t exude this fact. Passing by the neighborhood, only a keen eye will notice the various little galleries that dot the place. But, let’s be serious, Wynwood is gritty not commercial. It’s a neighborhood that is propelled by earnest passion for art not a desire to be accepted. Wynwood represents a breaking of the mold while Midtown represents a casting of it. Given such opposing characteristics, it’ll be interesting to see how the neighborhoods interact with one another.
Image: More under utilized properties across from Midtown Miami. Notice the neatly landscaped median–attributed to Midtown
The Midtown Periphery As It Is
Currently, there isn’t much new activity attributed to Midtown Miami around its periphery. This is natural since Midtown has yet to establish itself. Midtown Miami is the product of a NY-based development firm. In looking at land acquisitions in the periphery, almost all of the parcels located north of Midtown Miami are owned by NY-based firms. There is no direct connection to Cayre-Samuel that I’ve seen. Not surprisingly, the west flank of MM–and farthest from active Edgewater–has the least activity in terms of recent acquisitions. In other words, the most recent acquisitions took place in 2004, and the majority have been held for at least 7 years or, in most cases, longer. The south and east sides of Midtown are also lax on new acquisitions. If Midtown is to trigger activity along its periphery, then many existing land owners may just be playing a waiting game until the timing is right to make a move.
Image: Cynergi, which would never have been built were it not for Midtown Miami, is a prime example of the positive effect Midtown Miami presents to the area.
In anticipating the type of commercial activity that may take place around Midtown, the Sunset Place comparison becomes useful. Currently, Midtown doesn’t really offer dining options. The Design District does a better job at filling the void, but Midtown remains depressingly behind in this respect.
It’s a simple formula: where there is big box retail and new residential towers, we can expect restaurants, lounges, wine bars, and cafes to follow suit.
Sunset Place bore witness to this and Midtown Miami shouldn’t be any different. Will this happen in a few months? Of course freaking not! It will take a couple of years gradual and often painstakingly slow progress–which I will endeavor to cover–before people realize that the area is truly phenomenal. It boggles my mind to think that people doubt the positive influence that MM and the DD will have on the Uptown area. It just seems so shortsighted to me. I have heard people say that South Beach’s heyday is over and the Urban Core has only one way to go: up. Although I disagree with the South Beach side of the assertion, I know that much of our city’s dynamic social energy and economic influence will be shifting to the Core. It’s already happening. But, I bet, as time unravels its secrets, Midtown Miami will be pivotal in instigating this paradigm shift.
Map: Midtown Miami proper is outlined in Blue. Its vicinity in yellow. The WAD is colored in red, Edgewater in green, and the edge of the Media and Entertainment District in blue. The Design District lies directly across the I-395 to the north and Bay Point to the north east.