Category Archives: Gentrification

Urbanism Pictorial Dictionary: Gentrification (noun)

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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.

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

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

Related Links:

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Sacred Spaces in Downtown: Central Baptist Church

Yes we have them, and they are grand, each, in their own right. For now, take a look at the Central Baptist Church:

Built in 1926 the circular church is considered noteworthy by the HEPB because:

Central Baptist Church is an excellent example of Neo-Classical design adapted to the Florida climate. Particularly noteworthy is the circular plan, which allows natural ventilation to keep the interior cool during the summer. The church, originally known as First Baptist Church, was organized two days before Miami incorporated in 1896 and houses the oldest Baptist congregation in the city. It remains one of the last active churches to hold regular services in the downtown central business district. Central Baptist Church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

Interestingly, this is not Miami’s first major church (that still stands). That right is reserved for the Gesu Church, which will be highlighted later.

Image: the pinnacle of the Central Baptist Church

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Under Utilization in the CBD: Part III (Un-designated Historic)

Continued from Part II of Under Utilization in the CBD

Historic but not Designated

In the last Under-Utilization post I discussed buildings that are designated as historic by the HEPB and the set of eight criteria used to officially distinguish them. It was noted that there are a few examples of impressive and well-known antiquated buildings that are not officially designated historic. In considering these un-designated but old structures, I will only refer to those that either are being well utilized or demonstrate favorable utilization/restoration conditions. Let’s consider some of them.

—–

The Seybold Building serves as the central hub for the Jewelry District and jewelry market in the region. Most of the major diamond and gemstone wholesalers are based in and around it. The building interior is finely appointed with marble floors and columns, but the attention to detail is mostly confined to the first floor (main gallery) where the main jewelry stores are situated. As important as the Seybold Building is to the local jewelry industry, the exterior sides are deteriorated and an eyesore. Despite its functional and historic significance the Seybold remains un-designated.

—–

  • Burdines (Macy’s) Building (1947)

The Burdines (Macy’s) Building is probably the poster child of an under-utilized historic structure. It is not designated as historic by the HEPB, since an application has not been filed. Still, since Federated converted the store to a Macy’s, there have been no real changes to the exterior or interior of the multi-story historic structure.

The Macy’s building is the largest of its kind in the region. The location and structure scale fits the profile of some of Federated’s most high-profile Macy’s locations throughout the country, yet it seems Federated is pushing for incentives to remain in place. The rumors have gone back and forth regarding FDS’ ultimatums, but Dana Nottingham indicated that despite reports to the contrary, FDS has played an active role in planning for the overhaul of Flagler and the Downtown area. If this is true, then it may mark a change in the under-utilized status quo. a Macy’s revamp would propel reuse in the direction of retail in the surrounding area.

—–

This Dade Commonwealth Building has undergone both the 40-year recertification and a renovation by the Titan Group. It is one of the most colorful additions to the portfolio of (un-designated) historic buildings in the CBD. The Building is not being used in any unorthodox way and houses a variety of small offices. Such a building is too big to house one retail entity such as is the trend in with historic structures along the Collins Avenue Shopping District. It does, however, fit in well with what is being done with residences in the Security Building and First National Bank Building.

There are inherit problems with such a change of use: lack of quality views, terraces, and high ceilings. One would have to incorporate innovative floor plans and respectable luxurious appointments to draw the necessary interest. Green features would make such a project even more interesting albeit pricey to re-develop. Still, there is a market of architecturally conscience buyers that might find such a development appealing.

—–

  • 22 N.E.1st Street – a.k.a. International Jewelry Center (1930)

This building’s interior was restored to a respectable degree. Marble was laid in patterns, floor to ceiling glass storefronts were installed to lure retailers, and the elevators were newly installed as well. The purpose was to lure jewelry related businesses away from the Seybold Building. The effort thus far has not materialized and most of the stores remain vacant. This building is situated adjacent to the Seybold and there have been rumors that its acquisition by the folks at Seybold is imminent. The purpose of such an acquisition would be to connect the two structures and enhance the main floor space at the Seybold (its important to note that this building is actually separated into two properties which have grandfathered-in the electrical and mechanical systems. The other side is known as the Flagler Jewelry Center)

The failure of the International Jewelry Center to gain tenants in the realm of the Jewelry industry brings to question the viability of such a narrow approach. Would it have been better to target retailers not necessarily associated with Jewelry? Was naming the building “International Jewelry Center” a deterrent for other non-jeweler tenants to come in? The reuse of this building has been a failure despite a serous interior renovation.

—–

  • Lerner Building (1925)

The Lerner building, situated next to the Macy’s building, is currently in a haunted-like state. The 1920’s era building has appealing marble facades. The reuse of such a building screams retail. This building does not, in my opinion, lend itself to much adaptability. It falls under the kind of structures that have been lending themselves to retail use in the Collins Avenue Shopping District except on a bit larger scale. Such a structure can house a high end Tiffany-like jewelry store or a high end retail boutique. Clearly, the market and on-the-ground conditions don’t foster such a reuse but if Federated gets it act together next door as they are doing with the Macy’s on Lincoln Road, then it’ll go a long way in making the Lerner property more desirable for reuse.

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  • Royalton Apartments (1923)

The Royalton Apartments are being renovated, as you can clearly see in the image above. Although I’m not sure as to what the use of the newly renovated structure will be, this is an ideal candidate for a boutique hotel. There are currently none in the downtown area although that can change as the George Washington of Boutique Hotels, Ian Schrager, owns the nearby Continental Riande Hotel on Biscayne Blvd., and has not yet disclosed his plans. Regardless of what the use of this building might be, the fact that it’s undergoing a renovation is a step in the right direction.

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  • 33 N.E. 1st Avenue (1925)

This building is easily over looked being sandwiched in between its neighbors. Situated on the same block as the First National Bank renovation, the 33 building is ideally scaled for retail or even restaurant use. It is symbolic of a few others in the CBD that are similarly scaled and aged. Miami 21’s T6 zoning of the area will probably pave the way for their demolition, but some represent interesting reuse potential.

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  • Biscayne Building (1926)

Since the Biscayne Building is situated on a corner, it makes a residential reuse more appealing–as is the case with Flagler First at the First National Bank Building. However, the scale of this building and the lack of unique architectural features leaves it vulnerable to scrapping. The lower portion of the structure has intricate concrete etchings but the top is lackluster. Among the least desirable of the un-designated historic buildings, it is currently being used by small professional firms.

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  • 101 S.E. 1st Street (1920)

Recently renovated, 101 S.E. 1st Street is a great candidate for retail reuse. It is situated conspicuously on a corner on S.E. 1st street and 1st Avenue. A Banana Republic or Kenneth Cole store comes to mind, but again, the CBD has no new retail precedent to fall and the lack of change at the Macy’s is not helping.

—–

Dade Federal Savings

Similar to the 101 building, the Dade Federal Saving Building is ideally located and scaled for retail. Everything that has been placed there has been an utter failure but incoming occupants in the Security Building and Flagler first developments might help to bolster its reuse desirability.

—–

Preserving the Historic Integrity of the CBD

As you can see there are a number of buildings in the CBD that are not protected by a historic designation but probably should be. Many would argue that the emphasis should be on demolishing the old in place of the new, but there are plenty of un-restorable under-utilized buildings in the CBD along with vacant space that would better suit new construction.

The aforementioned buildings should be maintained and reused in order to preserve the historic integrity of the CBD. There should be an open mind when it comes to considering adaptive reuse options for these buildings. New building and green technology should be incorporated wherever possible to make their reuse potential greater. The CBD’s historic nature lends itself to the evolution of an architecturally and historically multifaceted core if the cards are played right

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Where Overtown Meets Parkwest

Image: A scenic N.W. 1st Avenue with the Miami Arena to the right

Visionary Mode

It never fails. Every time I am in the vicinity of N.W. 1st Avenue and the old Miami Arena, visionary mode kicks in. Visionary mode, by the way, is when an area’s potential is blindingly bright, despite its existing blighted state. This little section of the CBD is located, more or less, where Overtown meets Parkwest.

Here are 10 11 reasons why I like it:

  1. The metro rail runs through it and there is a station servicing the area
  2. The FEC corridor, which is a likely future public transit route runs through the heart of the neighborhood to further supplement the hood’s transit potential
  3. N.W. 1st Avenue, which runs through the center of the neighborhood, is palm tree lined, and has a spacious median, making the Avenue pedestrian, auto, and eye friendly.
  4. Glenn Straub owns the Miami Arena and the site represents a potential development catalyst for the area, depending on what the Wellington-based millionaire finally does with the property. At first he considered re-utilizing it, then selling it, now razing it to the ground in place of a new development. He didn’t spend 28 some odd million dollars for nothing. Look to see some action soon.
  5. Logik, a proposed office development, is planned for the neighborhood
  6. Miami-Dade Transit recently relocated its offices to a new state-of-the-art building in the neighborhood
  7. It’s a short walk away from the heart of the CBD, Biscayne Bay, and burgeoning Media and Entertainment District
  8. Parkwest flanks the east side of the neighborhoods with hundreds of millions worth in new development
  9. Miami 21 zones it T6, which means it will be ripe and ready for further densification
  10. The area is heavily under utilized, under valued, and filled with vacant land (this means it’s a blank canvas for new development).
  11. The FDOT’s future plans to reposition the I-395 would add park space to the northern boundary of the area

Activity

There are currently two large scale residential developments: the Madison and Park Place. The former being a condo and the latter being an apartment complex. The periphery of the area is riddled with low income housing. The average Joe probably wouldn’t feel comfortable riding a bike or walking through this neighborhood due to the presence of vagrants and murky elements. Still, the area, despite its lackluster on-the-surface appearance has much going for it and will likely see a transformation within the next couple of years. Sorry gentrification activists.

Neighborhood Map

Image: Map of the area. The blue line represents the existing Metrorail line, the red line represents the FEC rail line (probable future public transit line), The red plot is the site for the proposed Logik, the green plot represents the new site for Miami-Dade transit, and the Orange represents the Miami Arena.

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Under-Utilization in the CBD (PART I)

Continued from the introduction.

The Central Business District of a metropolis is expected to have an abundance of modern high rises. In Miami, only the basic requisites of that are satisfied. The impressive high rises are mostly concentrated along Biscayne Boulevard, near the bay, and intermittently within the Central Business District’s interior. For the most part, the CBD of Miami is a compilation of early twentieth century-built, mostly under-utilized, structures–few of them with restoration potential. However, the CBD Interior is gradually being surrounded by new construction on all sides except west. Restorations are already taking place in the heart of the interior, and new developments have penetrated deeper than ever into it. The status quo is going to change, but how will it with so many under utilized structures in the way?

Image: 225 S.E. 2nd Street (built in 1945)

Understanding Under-Utilization

An under-utilized building is always held relative to its surroundings. It is described as such because the area around it is progressing in value and functionality. To have under utilized buildings implies something positive of the neighborhood. In the case of the CBD, the hundreds of millions being spent on construction along Biscayne Blvd. is positive. The CBD interior is held relative to it.

Chronological Development Map

As mentioned in the introductory post, I developed a chronological development map to visually indicate the age of Downtown’s structures. Miami-Dade County’s public property database was used as the basis for the structure-age data. The government data was missing, at times, and those properties were left uncolored. Other uncolored areas of the map include vacant parcels and parking lots which are not factored in.

Each color on the map represents the decade in which the highlighted structure was built. Here is the chronological map and color code legend:

  • Light blue -On or before 1919
  • Dark blue -1920’s
  • Light green -1930’s
  • Dark green -1940’s
  • Light yellow -1950’s
  • Dark yellow-1960’s
  • Orange -1970’s
  • Red -1980’s
  • Purple -1990’s

I had to cover a lot of temporal ground so don’t get caught up in all the color meanings just yet. Let’s focus on two two eras: pre-1920’s (light blue) and the 1920’s (dark blue). Now look at the map (above), which is zoomed into the heart of the Central Business District.

Image : 777 International Mall (built in 1947)

A Historic CBD

The map shows that a vast swath of the CBD was built prior to 1930. If you add the 1930’s (light green) and 1940’s (dark green) then you get a real understanding of just how old the buildings in the CBD are. This stands in stark contrast to the rampant new construction along Biscayne Boulevard. While the Biscayne Boulevard area is being built from the ground up, the interior was mostly built between the 1920’s and 1940’s. There is little in the way of a threshold. The disparity between the building-eras is as vast as wealth and poverty in Downtown.

The Composition and Uses of Under Utilization

It has been established that the CBD, whether officially designated or not, is a veritable historic district, yet the level of under-utilization has not been assessed. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these buildings:

Image: 140 N. Miami Avenue (built 1925)

Image: 127 N.E. 1st Avenue (built in 1923)

Both properties were built in the 1920’s. Neither of them have any desirable architectural aspects worthy of restoration, yet both fulfill the livelihoods of the business owners and employees that operate from within them. So, is it fair to characterize them as under-utilized? Yes. A building will always have a use. Having one does not exempt it from under-utilization. In this case, both buildings are poorly maintained and do not contribute to enhancing property value in the periphery.

Let’s take a look at a building that really captures the essence of under-utilization in the CBD:

Image: 98 S.E. 1st Street (built in 1981)

This structure is an absolute waste of space. I found a corridor that ran along its interior. Take a look inside:

Image: Corridor leading to the courtyard

As you can see, the shops are closed. Although it’s not easy to see in this image, all of the hanging plants are dead and the maroon and gold drapes create a haunting atmosphere. At the end of the narrow corridor is an eerily colorful courtyard. The lot size is 39,063 square feet. We’re talking an absolute waste of space. Just about anything would better utilize this space than its current state.

The three examples I’ve shown are exemplary of the majority of structures within the CBD. Not exactly the sleek high rises we like to equate a CBD with. These structures maintain all sorts of small business. In them you can find colorful fabric, jewelry, luggage, electronics, shoes, and just about any random object you can imagine. Their presence gives downtown a bazaar-like feel.

Image: Don’t let the tacky colorful facade fool you. This building (76 E. Flagler Street) was built in 1928

These types of under-utilized structures represent the majority composition of the CBD interior. This stands in stark contrast to the Brickell and uptown areas where buildings were built comparatively recently. Miami, at heart, is old. Which begs the question:

What about Restoration?

As much as these under-utilized structures are a part of the City, they are equally, much of what holds it back. Many of them are vandalized, abandoned, poorly maintained, falling apart, and filthy. They are a direct compromise to the urbanism momentum gained during the boom. How many of these structures actually stand a chance to remain in Miami’s rapidly changing urban environment? What buildings have restoration potential? Fortunately, as we explore the restoration potential of these structures, there are some pleasant surprises in store.

(to be continued)

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Under Utilization in the CBD (INTRO)

Image: Under utilized buildings near the BOA tower are highlighted.

The Purpose

Boom or Bust focuses much of its efforts on tracking the new construction that has consumed Miami. But, what about the older, neglected, and under-utilized properties in the Central Business District? No one seems to care about them unless they’re being demolished to accommodate a new tower or revamped in grand style, yet knowing the level and forms of under-utilization is vital in helping to understand the development challenges facing Downtown. This week’s aim is to demystify under-utilization in the urban core by answering these fundamental questions:

  • What constitutes an under utilized building?
  • What current uses are derelict buildings lending themselves to?
  • What are the use alternatives?
  • What is the effect of under-utilization in the CBD?
  • What role do these buildings play in shaping the social and economic environment of the CBD?
  • What is the current proportion between vacant land, new construction, and under utilized properties?
  • What are the under-utilized structure age patterns?
  • How many of them have restoration potential?

These are just some of the questions that are to be addressed this week as we delve into the nitty gritty of the matter. I have developed a color coded chronological development map to assist in the study.

Image: Portion of the Chronological Development Map. The color codes will be explained in the 2nd installment.

The chronological map, which will be explained later, will be used to illustrate when certain areas of the CBD were built out. In the end, the Central Business District’s historic nature, restoration potential, and level and effects of under utilization will be addressed and tied into surrounding new construction trends and Miami 21 zoning.

(To be Continued)

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Gentrification Awareness Increases As FIU Students Protest

Gentrification is one of those unpopular issues, like homelessness, that no one seems to talk or care about. Lately, there has been an abrupt shift in interest, particularly with the younger college generation. This is quite evident now with the shantytown set up by FIU students protesting the displacement of some Liberty City folks. This student-run three day protest will end up in Umoja Village.

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What’s up with Gentrification?

I find it interesting that there is an effort to address the issue of gentrification in Miami’s urban neighborhoods. The most interesting source of information regarding this movement is found at takebacktheland.blogspot.com.

First and foremost, I appreciate the effort of the blog’s author, Max Rameau, of the Center for Pan-African Development, in communicating his displeasure towards the local government regarding the lack of low-income housing and alleged indifference towards gentrification in the city.

For those who aren’t sure as to what gentrification means, here is the definition from dictionary.com:

1.

the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

The obvious problem being that the low income portion of the social fold is being disregarded—literally and figuratively.

The efforts of movements such as Take Back the Land are under appreciated. Gentrification will continue, but without activism, the more disadvantaged elements of the community will be swept aside with little to no consideration. Take back the Land is a movement that deals with urban development, housing, and land acquisition issues in areas that are on the fringes of government and popular interest—neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Overtown. The government’s resources are spent less in these areas due to the lack in tax revenue emanating from them and the difficulty in maintaining security. The higher crime rates in these low income areas keeps new businesses away and prosperity at bay. In terms of the big picture, these situations can be corrosive to the overall urban evolution of the county. These are also the same areas plagued with homelessness, lack of home ownership, and drug use. Certainly, there is little popular interest concerning these areas. I, myself, am guilty of the indifference.

 

These areas, which are predominantly African American, have suffered from government neglect for decades.. In the case of Liberty City, the neighborhood served as the repository for those who were displaced in the 1960’s during the construction of the I-95 through Overtown. Overtown, the once prosperous and long time civic and cultural center of the African American community in Miami, was all but dismantled. During the 1970’s and 80’s, when the African American community had next to no political and economic representation, unruly police officers were disciplined by being assigned to these neighborhoods. In other words, the worst cops were assigned to patrol duty. This led to a series of altercations between the residents and law enforcement that resulted in high profile police brutality and manslaughter cases— many cases were never reported or were dismissed—, which ultimately culminated in violent rioting. Granted, this is in the past, but given this starkly negative track record of government involvement in these areas, movements such as Take Back the Land, are right in defending the interests of these under-represented and disadvantaged residents.

Although I do not necessarily agree with all of the initiatives and claims put forth by this organization, it is impossible to ignore its importance in helping balance the interests of those who are less fortunate vis-à-vis those who are capitalizing off of the rampant development. Importantly, as Miami continues its historic transformation, gentrification will be unavoidable and a rather natural effect of urban progress, but leaving it unchecked is dangerous and can lead to social discontent and instability.

For further reading on the turbulent history of Miami’s African American history check out Black Miami by Marvin Dunn

Take Back the Land will be organizing several community awareness events during Super Bowl week:

Monday, January 29
6pm Spokescouncil Meeting
Arcola Lakes Park, 1301 NW 83 St., Miami
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
9pm @ Umoja Village, 6201 NW 17th Ave.

Tuesday, January 30
• 10am. Banner/Sign/Puppet Making
Umoja Village Shantytown
6pm. Gentrification Teach In
Umoja Village Shantytown
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
9pm @ Umoja Village

Wednesday, January 31
9am. Anti-Coal Conference Action
10am. Tour of Shame
3pm. Set Up Tent City at County Hall
111 NW First St., Miami
7pm. Party at Tent City
7pm. Global Land Struggles Discussion
Tap-Tap Rest. • 819 5th St., South Beach

Thursday, February 1
Action Against Gentrification and For Low-Income Housing
12 noon at Tent City
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

Friday, February 2
7am. Vets for Peace War Memorial
Ocean Drive between 8th & 10th st. Place tombstones on South Beach
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

Saturday, February 3
1pm Free Speech Rally
South Florida Peace & Justice, Torch of Friendship • Biscayne Blvd. and SW 1st St., downtown Miami
Tent City Party
Guerilla Art/Superbowl Party
8pm @ Tent City

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