When I was a student decades ago at the University of Miami (the U), I rarely went into downtown Miami. There was a neat jazz club on the Miami River by the main bridge, but young people went to Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, the Gables, and the Grove for fun and action.
By the 1980’s, the Art Deco district was established on the Beach and people who watched Miami Vice on TV could see the skyscrapers going up. Remember the building with the square hole in the middle?
Later when I visited Miami from my home on the Florida West Coast, I usually visited the Bayside Marketplace with its 140 shops and tour boats of Biscayne Bay’s islands. Only a historian like me would be a visitor to Fort Dallas (1836) or the Freedom Tower or historic Bayfront Park where the mayor of Chicago took a bullet meant for FDR.
By 2000, the establishment of Miami as an booming international metropolis and gateway to South America and port to the Caribbean was known to most Americans. There is much more now to downtown than banks and trading firms.
Miami downtown is becoming more than just a business destination.
People are returning to the area for more than jobs. If I still lived in my Coral Gables apartment, I could quickly hop into the 25-mile dual track monorail system that speeds thousands into the downtown business, museum, and educational sites.
With the fast Metrorail taking people from Miami International to downtown, few cities in the world can match this setup. There is a Loop Route and Miami is working on a monorail to Miami Beach.
Historic Flagler Street with its older buildings is being rebuilt as a festival street. It may not be the Freemont Street Experience of Las Vegas, but who knows for a lot of investment is being spent.
Downtown Miami seems to be growing bigger and better. Just north of downtown is the hipster WYNWOOD ARTS DISTRICT with galleries and restaurants in the wildest of building colors.
And north of there is the booming MIAMI DESIGN (and Garment) DISTRICT, 18 square blocks of high fashion boutiques like Prada, Celine, and Balenciaga, mixed in with untypical art studios, public art parks, and upscale restaurants.
The Miami Film Festival moved from the beach to downtown, quite logical since Miami’s FILM GATE located in the Downtown Media Center is a headquarters for so many Indie Film production groups.
What is really mind-blowing is all the monstrous projects going up in downtown Miami. With its tropical climate, nearby beaches, and international investment, this development is getting more of a Dubai look than a Northern American city.
Smack in the heart of the Central Business District is the MIAMI WORLD CENTER with 27 acres between the waterfront American Airlines Arena (Miami Heat) and the Miami Central Station (from the Airport.)
It has three hotels: citizen M, Legacy Tower, and a Marriott Marquis hotel with 1700 rooms and a 600,000 square foot convention area. The Legacy is a hotel and a giant condo.
If one thinks the 52-story Miami World Tower will impact the already tall skyline, nearby going up is the WALDORF-ASTORIA MIAMI hotel-condominium skyscraper.
At 1,049 feet in height and over 100 floors, it will be a photographer’s dream with its highly controversial Cuba shape. You can get a 516-square foot studio in Cube 4 for $656,000, or perhaps a four-bedroom, 3256 square foot unit in Cube 6 for 4.9 million dollars. All the four bedrooms are at least above the 60th floor of excellent views.
With all these attractions and activities, some visitors to Miami might not even get out to the beach.