This past year we’ve reported on the extensive changes taking place in Downtown Miami– from Flagler to Biscayne Bay, this bustling neighborhood looks much different than it did 10 years ago. But this is not the only part of Miami going through a positive transformation. The Design District, the Arts & Entertainment District, Edgewater, Coconut Grove and even Overtown have been blessed with new developments, parks and infrastructure improvements.
Miami’s Design District / Buena Vista
The Design District, historically known as Buena Vista, was all but forgotten until local developer Craig Robbins of Dacra stepped in to transform the area into a retail mecca. In 2009, the French fashion designer Christian Louboutin brought in his red lacquer-soled stilettos to be the first of what now makes up a cluster of ultra high-end retail shops.
Just to the north, Buena Vista recently welcomed the Upper Buena Vista Market. Anchored by the 2-story Vista Restaurant, this new destination looks as though it was taken straight out of Bali, Indonesia. With its small shops, bakeries, galleries and boutique offices nestled under arching oaks, this is yet another improvement making this a highly-desirable neighborhood to live and visit.
Arts and Entertainment District
Just to the south of Midtown and the Design District is now known as The Arts & Entertainment District (a blend of its southern Wynwood Arts District neighbor, combined with shopping and entertainment to the north.) In 2012, NR Investments set out to create this new area with the purchase of the 81 unit mid-rise Filling Station Lofts at 1657 North Miami Avenue and converted them to rentals. Currently, NR is putting the finishing touches on the 37–story Canvas condo tower and will open this summer with 85% of the units sold. NR is also working on a mixed use project with hotel, office and residential units on North Miami Avenue between Northeast 14th and Northeast 15th streets.
Immediately to the north and west of Downtown Miami is Overtown. Originally called “Colored Town,” this neighborhood’s extensive history is second only to Coconut Grove as the longest permanently established neighborhood in Miami. During segregation the area was home to a predominantly African American population who were not allowed to enter other areas of Miami without special passes. While notable African American performers, such as Ella Fitzgerald, BB King and Nat King Cole would perform at Miami’s glitzy hotels like Eden Roc and Fontainebleau, they were not permitted to stay the night there and, as did other residents, they were forced to go “over town.” In 1961, the creation of I-95 practically decimated Overtown. Recently, developers have taken advantage of local government incentives to bring developments to Overtown, which has led to the construction of multiple affordable upscale apartment complexes. Historic venues, such as the Lyric Theater, have also been renovated.
The construction of All Aboard Florida’s Miami Central complex near the Miami Dade government center is helping to make the area more popular for commuters. Miami World Center is receiving $88 million in tax rebates over 12 years in return for creating jobs for local residents of Overtown and other Miami neighborhoods. The University of Miami’s Lifestyle Science Park was built on the western edge of Overtown, and is also intended to bring jobs to the neighborhood. David Beckham is eyeing the area as a potential location for his new soccer stadium, but opinions are conflicted whether this will help or hurt the community.
In the 1990’s, Coconut Grove was the place to be in Miami. The CocoWalk entertainment area was bustling — nightlife venues and restaurants had lines out the door. Real Estate sold quickly and the condos were a hot commodity. Over the years, however, CocoWalk and the community as a whole became tired while developers and the city invested in Brickell and Downtown Miami.
In late 2015, the Comras Group and its partners purchased the CocoWalk complex and began breathing new life into it. Redesigned by Beame Architectural Partnership and Foreseer, CocoWalk will soon reopen as a contemporary, open-air plaza with café seating, water features, foliage and with a new façade. Park Grove and the Grove at Grand Bay are the first new luxury condo towers to be built in the area in over a decade. The “twisting towers” that are Grove at Grand Bay, were designed by well-regarded Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, and his first project in the United States features landscaping by Miami designer Raymond Jungles. Even with prices ranging from $1 million to $15 million, the building quickly sold out. Developers Terra Group and The Related Group celebrated the groundbreaking of One Park Grove in March of this year, the project’s third and final tower. The 5.2-acre property sits directly across from Biscayne Bay and features a two-acre sculpture park designed by Enea Landscape Architecture as well as a new restaurant from Michael Schwartz.
Many feel the demise of the Grove was due to the influx of chain restaurants, uninteresting retail and an overall touristy feel. The projects planned for the “new Grove” are said to share a common mission: restore the village’s faded identity. Local owners and local operators will focus more on the needs and wants of local residents, as opposed to tourists or non-residents. Unlike many of the other developments found elsewhere in Miami, the luxury towers in the Grove are being marketed principally to Miami residents as opposed to foreign investors.
Known to some as the Health District, Allapattah, (the name the Indians used to refer to alligators) is said to be the next big thing in Miami. The growth has been spurred largely in part by the developments planned and those recently opened along the southern border of Allapattah. The fact that the neighborhood includes land along the Miami River has brought about a new string of trendy bars, restaurants and a current project in the works to develop River Landing. The mixed-use 8.4 acre development will include retail giants like Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, and Publix; adjacent to hot spots that include Kiki on the River, Seaspice and The Wharf.
The roughly 5-square mile square-mile neighborhood is bordered by 6th Avenue NW to 27th Avenue South and from NW North River Drive to 38th Street. Located next to Wynwood and only about 5 miles from the Miami International Airport, Allapattah is banking on millennials who want to work, live and shop in the same neighborhood. The current 50,000 residents include thousands of medical personnel, many of whom are highly paid, helping to support the rising property values. The once primarily industrial area has seen a recent 25 percent hike in home values.
Since River Landing began to rise this summer, more developers have been eying the area for their next projects. Robert Wennett, the developer behind Miami’s most famous parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, partnered with Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels to redevelop an industrial site into an eight-building complex with residential, offices, retail, hotel and other components.
Miami’s Urban Renewal
While many large cities have their own unique neighborhoods, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with such character diversity as is found in Miami. Traveling from the South: Coconut Grove and the Gables have that small-town feel, Brickell is buzzing with commerce and entertainment, Downtown’s skyscrapers tower over the bay and provide an option for metropolis living, Wynwood has its vibrant culture of the Arts, Midtown is a city of it’s own, and the MiMo District are keeping their architectural style with an injection of new businesses.
Even areas like Little Haiti, the Little River Business District, and Edgewater. The fact remains that geographically Miami is indeed a small town. As we’re bound by the Everglades and the ocean and only have 36 square miles to work with, our only solution is to improve upon it… and thankfully, that is exactly what Miami is doing, making for an even more vibrant and diverse city to look forward to.