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Wednesday August 29, 2012

Parks Vie For Space In Miami’s Forest Of Condos on NPR. Long story short: the Brickell Green Space isn’t happening. Instead, the city will be creating small parks underneath Metromover tracks(!), highlighting the need to plan for parks ahead of time. The report features an interview with TM‘s Craig Chester.


Wednesday August 1, 2012

Critical Miami Podcast, episode 3

critical miami podcast Steve and I talk about Key West, the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency, and the Great Southern Hotel.

You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or download the mp3. 33 minutes: short!

Episode Links


Wednesday July 25, 2012

What's up with housing prices?

edgewater development

First, a quick recap: here’s what I said on February 13, 2006:

Privately, I’ve been advising home-owning friends and family thusly for the last six months or so: find a moment (and find it soon), to sell your house, put your stuff in storage and rent an apartment for a year (maybe two or three), then buy your house (or one similar) back, for a maybe $200,000 profit. It remains to be seen whether my advice is worth anything (to date, everyone has emphatically ignored it), but for the first part, housing prices are finally starting to crash.

Then, on January 14, 2009, writing at Buildings and Food but in the voice of Critical Miami, I said this:

Now, listen carefully: it’s time to go shopping. Remember the factors that led to the bubble? Idiotic interest-only mortgages, gross overbuilding, and what seemed like terrifying hurricane seasons as far as the eye could see. The picture today? (1) mortgage idiotics universally recognized and being dealt with to the tune of trillions of dollars from the federal government, (2) overbuilding spectacularly finished, and (3) relatively calm winds for the last two seasons. To boot, (4) an incoming president that everyone seems to think Can Fix Things.

So here we are, another three years down the road, and time to check in and see what’s up. Heres the graph for housing inventory, which tells an interesting story:

housing stock in Miami

But for an even more vivid look, check out the plot of housing prices for the last 6 years. Both are from our friends at the Department of Numbers:

asking prices for Miami Florida

Yup: housing prices dropped steadily from 2006 to 2009, at which point they began to level off. The actual bottom came in the second half of 2011, and prices have been recovering fairly sharply since. For the record, anyone who sold when I said and bought when I said really did stand to pocket between $150 and $200 thousand. But so where are we now?

We’re at a very interesting time. Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped from over 10% to 8.6% over the last half year. (Not amazing I know! But an improvement over 11.4%, which is where we were in 2010.) From where I sit in Edgewater, development appears to have started up in full force. There’s one condo at the end of my block that was recently finished and is now selling, one across from me that’s being finished up, and an empty lot behind me where construction is just starting. A response to the low inventory I realize, but just a few blocks away is Paramount Bay, a positively huge building completed in 2009 that, judging by the number of lights on at night, sits over 90% empty. Drive around Miami and you see the same everywhere: construction cranes.

This suggests that a steep rise in prices, anyway, is not forthcoming. But remember that for the time being we’re in a world where the subtleties of European international relations will determine whether the world’s economy will recover or re-crash. (As evidenced, e.g., by this random news story from the NY Times. Oh, and since you’ll ask, here’s the Times’ resident Sourpuss’ most recent missive on the European economy. Grim, kids.)

So, what the hell is going on? Why are condos being built and sitting empty when inventory is relatively low? Peep this:

Interest is particularly strong from Venezuelans and even Argentinians, [Luis Marin, vice president of TSG Realty] said, because shifting government policies in their home countries makes investing in properties there more tricky. Basically, it’s a way for the wealthy in those countries to protect against domestic political uncertainty. “The good thing about investing in South Florida, you’re investing in the first, best country,” Marin said. “You have more security fiscally; you’re not going to have trouble.”

Could it be true that South American investors are buying up Miami condos to protect their investments? Believe it or not, South America is in the middle of “an economic boom.” Meanwhile, 65% of housing sales in Miami have been all-cash transactions (that’s 77% of condo sales and 46% of house sales).

So where does all this add up? If you bought a house in 2009 or 2010, give yourself a pat on the back. Otherwise, I’d be careful right now. Officially, prices are still low. But the condo market makes me weary. And Europe could collapse at any moment, sending us into the double dip that the Sourpuss has been promising us for years, just as Romney is taking office. On the other hand, Europe has been promising to collapse for months and hasn’t (despite pretty close to the worst case scenario w.r.t. Greece). It could shore itself up through the magic of German bonds and we could be in a rosy economic picture just as Obama takes his second oath of office. See? Uncertainty.


Wednesday July 18, 2012

Critical Miami Podcast, episode 2

critical miami podcast I talk with artist Misael Soto about his gigant beach towel tour, Cuban-Americans and the terms Latino and Hispanic, and the Midtown Miami Walmart.

You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or download the mp3.

Episode Links


Monday July 2, 2012

There goes Bimini

Bimini, 1990

Bimini is a tiny island about 55 miles east of South Beach. It’s about as far as driving to Boca, way closer than any other of the Bahamian island. A perfect day trip for South Florida boaters and pilots, it’s nontheless a different world. Bimini is extremely tiny: a long noodle shape just a couple hundred yards wide at some points. You can walk the length of it in an hour.

I could tell you all about the endemic species of Bimini, or how Ernest Hemingway lived there for a couple of years during the Great Depression, working on To Have and Have Not but really mostly fishing. But I went to Bimini for a part of a day as a kid, and I remember it well. It’s basically a sleepy little village in the middle of the Atlantic. There are some extremely poor people there, and some extremely rich people, and not very many in the middle. But that’s not for long, because big greedy developers are of course about to build a casino resort complex there. 10,000 square feet, $20 million in construction costs, that sort of thing.

A few of the people living there now will get slightly richer working demeaning service jobs servicing Miami tourists while not getting the benefit of US labor protections. All the important jobs will be done by Americans, who will have the benefit of US labor laws. And we’ll have yet another place where we can go gambling, this one a 90-minute high-speed ferry ride away. A place that will allow the sort of no-limit poker, dwarf-tossing blackjack, or whatnot that wouldn’t have been allowed at the Miami site even if gambling had passed, which for now it hasn’t.


Tuesday May 13, 2008




Thursday May 1, 2008

County commission sells out Everglades

Last week, the Miami-Dade commission approved several developments beyond the UDB, and while the developments are still up in the air pending a mayoral veto, this spells trouble. A Time Magazine article very nicely lays out the compromised integrity of various members of the commission (“One of the Lowe’s project’s biggest backers on the commission is Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who is under federal investigation for allegedly receiving gifts from developers whose plans he’d voted for.”), but it also points out a larger point.

Nominally underway is a $10 billion Everglades restoration project funded by the federal government. In actuality, the whole effort is troubled and behind schedule. How, the Time article asks, can South Florida expect such a huge national investment in the ‘glades when we can’t resist paving more and more of it over? (via TM)


Tuesday April 22, 2008

Michael Lewis unpacks some of the maneuvering behind the Global Agreement, the packaging of the port tunnel, performing arts center bailout, jungle island bailout, streetcar, Marlins stadium, and museum park, as one political package. The plan was approved because each piece had a few commissioners in support of it. Now, in large part because of economic troubles, the individual votes will be in serious trouble. Lewis argues that this is in fact a good thing.


Wednesday March 19, 2008


Haha.. someone stole Trump’s ‘T’. (Tagged ‘activism’?)


Monday March 17, 2008

museum park

A new design for Museum Park has been released. Basically, they cut about $10 million out of the grove area, the southern part of the park (where a lot of the interesting stuff was, it should be noted). Current projected price: $49-54 million. All together now: yeah, right!


Thursday January 24, 2008

The ugly side of historic preservation

Ugly house

Tuesday, we saw a stately, if not exactly iconic, house from 1913 gain historic status, and everybody cheered. Now we have this news: the Miami Beach city commission has declared the eastern half of Alton Road between 8th and 14th streets a Newly Minted Historic District. The above little house is one of a group designed by “prominent” [?] architect Robert A. Little in 1934 which is cited as evidence for the NMHD. These houses (see them all in this pdf) are located between 12th and 14th Streets; the argument for 8th to 12th streets is apparently much weaker.

Now, Alton Road is a busy commercial corridor which serves the residents of South Beach — unlike Washington and Collins, which are much more tourist-oriented. These houses, designed as single-family residences and now all pressed into service as businesses, are clearly a drag on the commercial potential of the immediate neighborhood. With their newly found historic status, this is what they will remain.

In passing the ordinance, one of the commissioners cited a study which found that 88% of the city’s residents considered historic preservation important. Well, of course we do, and Miami Beach has much architecture that deserves protection. But I think we like our preservation to include concessions to common sense. Here is a group of out-of-context buildings that are ill-suited to their surroundings, and are of widely varying aesthetic (and debatable historic) value. Miami Beach boasts many homes from this time period in, you know, residential neighborhoods.

By advocating for historic preservation in all cases and at all times, preservationists appear oblivious to the reality that without tearing down old buildings, the only development possible is on virgin land (hello, UDB). The positives of historical preservation ought to be weighed against its natural negatives — a drag on economic potential of a property, and a contribution to sprawl.

In the case of these particular buildings, the argument against declaring a few of them historical and allowing the rest to be torn down falls particularly flat. Preservationists argue for the need to preserve the “character” of neighborhoods. This is laughable in the case of these particular buildings, which could not be more out of character to the street they find themselves on today. It is in fact much easier to argue that the historic and aesthetic value of the couple of real gems in the group would be heightened if they were surrounded by the more contemporary, and higher-density, buildings the neighborhood needs.

Such is the case with the Coral House, which (the same article notes) is now thankfully in a much better position to be restored and preserved. It’s the case of Dr. Jackson’s Office in Brickell. Both are gems, and both were once surrounded with similar buildings built in a similar time. Would we wish that those neighborhoods were “preserved” as they were thirty years ago? Of course not. Only a packrat saves everything — the rest of us keep a few cherished mementos from the past and toss the rest.

I’m going to close with a dose of libertarian argument, because the Miami Beach commission did not just act like packrats. After all, these properties are not theirs to do with as they wish — they have actual rightful owners. What has actually happened here is that the property rights of these owners have been restricted. It’s of course necessary for society to do this under certain circumstances, but it needs to be kept in mind. Property rights, aesthetics, economics — here we have an act of historical preservation that is almost all downside.


Thursday January 10, 2008

trump plaza

“I always think, why don’t they just slap pictures of their genitalia on there and be done with it? The message would be the same. Sunny Isles Beach is a travesty of overdevelopment. These four men, Jorge Perez in particular, are responsible for turning a sleepy and dilapidated but charming beach town into a glittering canyon of inaccessible glass and steel.” — From Rebecca Wakefield’s brief history of The Related Group.


Wednesday December 19, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, your county commission is out of its collective fucking mind: They just approved $347 million for a new Marlins stadium (more then double what the actual team will contribute!), overrode the UDB veto (to allow building past the development boundary, and note that Katy Sorenson, Rebeca Sosa, Carlos Gimenez, and Dennis Moss are the only ones that stood up against development), and generally passed the whole downtown overhaul that was proposed last year. I’m with them on the streetcar and on Museum park, but not much of anything else. Update: The budget for the 800-unit replacement to the Scott and Carver housing projects can suddenly accommodate only about 150 units. (thanks, Carlos)


Monday December 17, 2007

Whoa: Homestead’s city commission just passed a moratorium on building in the city’s eastern portion.


Monday December 3, 2007

Eight county commissioners voted in support of development beyond the Urban Development Boundary last week: Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara J. Jordan, Joe Martinez, Dorrin Rolle, Natacha Seijas, and Javier Souto. To echo Verticus: “They should be ashamed of themselves.” Update: The proposals are now forwarded to the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which usually gives these things the thumbs-down, but get this: their approval is just another recommendation back to the county commission for a final vote in April. Good grief.


Tuesday November 27, 2007

UDB vote today.


Wednesday November 21, 2007

Urban Development Boundary update: From information received by Boom or Bust, it appears that there are 4 pending applications to open a total of 178 acres beyond the UDB to development. Only one of those is currently recommended for rejection. Please to attend the Miami-Dade County Commission meeting on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, write your commissioner, or at least customise and submit this action alert.


Thursday November 15, 2007

“The great lawn in downtown Miami’s planned Museum Park would be smaller but still expansive. There would be many more shade trees but cheaper palms. Concrete paving, and less of it, would replace stone paths. And some design flourishes like water features and themed outdoor ‘‘rooms’‘ would be deleted.” — Story about the proposed changes to Museum Park, but no images.


Monday November 12, 2007 bemoaning the removal of royal palms along Biscayne Blvd. I saw this website on a bumper sticker. (Not sure if they’re still sending these out — the website hasn’t been updated since February. I suppose the fight is over.)



There will be a public meeting tomorrow about Museum Park. A new master plan will be presented, because the old plan was considered too elaborate and expensive. I find this slightly depressing.


Thursday October 18, 2007

Ferris wheel is a bad idea?!


Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez recently floated the idea to build a big observation-type ferris wheel somewhere by the water, either in downtown, at the port, or on Miami Beach. Jim DeFede and Alex thing this is a bad idea, because, they say, there’s nothing to see. I think that’s just crazy. Click the image above, or better yet, “check out James Good’s aerial picture set, all photographed from a similar moderate height from the general area where the wheel would go. Now consider the difference between compact-digital photos of something and the real 360° view of same. Nothing to look at? Say what?!


Tuesday October 2, 2007

“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.” Fine, but I still say that Midtown is no fun. The parking, even with validation, is a hassle. There’s no air conditioned part to the mall where you can just hang out. And they really, really need a big bookstore to make it the destination they so clearly want it to be.


Monday September 10, 2007

Rotund World visits Miami, and gives it the skeptical eye of a former resident (with photos!): part 1, part 2. “Seen a certain way, at just the right distance, the Miami of today is a teeming, sky-high toy metropolis, as appealing as a dream. It looks like a sleek urban pleasure craft for the twenty-first century’s captains of industry, or whatever they are these days: real estate moguls, no doubt, on-the-lam financiers from Venezuela, summering drug lords, homegrown art collector-pashas. But the newness quickly curdles.”


Thursday September 6, 2007

Museum Park Forum. I love the idea of a site like this, and while this seems pretty transparently anti-museum and somewhat wrong-headed (if you give people a list of 23 community-park amenities to choose from, don’t be surprised when it looks like people want a community park). Here’s the plan for Bicentennial/Museum Park. And FWIW, I still support a soccer field on Parcel B — soccer is one of the few things Bicentennial Park is currently used for.



Miami Beach 'CANDO' arts neighborhood

Borders: lincoln road, dade blvd, meridian ave, and the beach

The CANDO arts neighborhood got a preliminary vote of approval by the Miami Beach city commission yesterday. It establishes a neighborhood (see map, above) in the northern part of South Beach where the city intends to help the arts flourish by . . . well, allowing developers to build condos with smaller units. Specifically: buildings on the Beach normally must have units that are 400 sq. feet minimum and 550 average. In the district, the latter requirement would be waived, allowing buildings of all-400 sq. foot units, for developments where 25% of the units are set aside for artists and those who work for non-profit arts organizations. Qualifying residents would have to make 50% to 80% of the county’s median income (which is $39,100 for one person, $44,700 for a household of two, and $55,900 for a family of four).

The linked article above, and the longer piece in the Sunday Herald, report that it’s 80% to 120% of median income. My information comes from the city’s planning board documents [pdf], which I take to be correcter. Much of the complaining seems to revolve around the fact that the 80-120% is too high, so I wonder where this’ll go.

It’s a common refrain that artists increase land values with their presence and price themselves out over time. And while the specifics of this plan open it to criticism, I think it will actually have a positive effect over time. The map shows that their is a substantial arts presence in the neighborhood already, and indeed rental rates on the beach are sometimes pretty reasonable.

Anyone making 50 to 80% of median income deserves some help with their housing. The argument for giving this help to those in the arts is that they specifically and tangibly enrich a neighborhood. But what will be more interesting to me is whether this really becomes a cohesive neighborhood as a result of this program; that would be a true measure of its success. (thanks to a commenter for suggesting this)


Friday August 10, 2007

The courts put the breaks a little bit on the transformation of the banks of the Miami River from industrial to residential high-rise. At the least, the city needs to do some planning on the area before making drastic re-zonings. Miami 21?


Wednesday August 8, 2007

Demonstration to save the coral house

Coral house

Margaret sent this along (here is her photo set of the coral house):

Location: 900 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33139

On Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 6:00PM, historic preservationists and residents of Miami Beach will demonstrate and picket to urge the City of Miami Beach to save the historic Coral Rock House and Mediterranean Revival Apartment Building in the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District from demolition.

This was the same 1916 historic coral rock house that was partially demolished last month in spite of the June 15, 2007 Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board order to make a good faith effort to restore the historic building.

Next week, on Tuesday, August 14, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board will consider a petition for rehearing concerning the demolition and the request of a neighboring preservationist to penalize the property owner for acting in bad faith and causing the demolition to occur because of the owner’s own neglect of the historic coral rock structure. The petition is additionally seeking the reversal of the order allowing the demolition of a historic Mediterranean Revival Apartment Building also on the site.

An April 6, 2006, a letter from the City Manager documented the refusal of the coral rock house owner to allow city inspections that would have unearthed the cause of the sudden deterioration of the structure which had led to a court order allowing the demolition. With the demolition, possible evidence of “demolition by neglect” was destroyed which could lead to an inference that the premature demolition covered up the owner’s contributory negligence leading to the demolition of the coral rock house.

Update: Coverage in the Herald, along with some of the politics behind the house. The historic preservation board will vote next Tuesday on an appeal to the demolition order.


Monday July 30, 2007

Walk Score calculates the walkability of your neighborhood by finding the closest grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. My South Beach apt scored 93, while typing random West-Broward addresses produced scores in the single digits. How did you do?


Thursday July 26, 2007

More Miami21 meetings

You asked for more Miami 21 meetings, and you’ve got ‘em. Here’s a schedule from an e-mail they just sent, also available on the schedule page of the Miami 21 website. I’ll go on record once again saying that the website is a mess, and that a project of this magnitude (and budget) should be ashamed for dealing with the internet in this flimsy way. Still, the information is there, and here are your opportunities to learn what it’s about and speak your peace.

Date Location Address Time Net Area
Aug 2 Simpson Park 55 SW 17th Road 6pm Coral Way
Aug 7 West End Park 250 SW 60th Ave. 6:30pm   Flagami
Aug 9 Police Benevolent Assc. 2300 NW 14th St. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 15 Curtis Park 1901 NW 24th Ave. 6pm Allapattah
Aug 16 Belafonte Tacolcy Center   6161 NW 9th Ave. 6pm Model City
Aug 20 St. Michael 2987 West Flagler St.   6pm West Flagler
Aug 21 Disabilities Center 4560 NW 4th Terr. 6pm Flagami
Aug 23 Orange Bowl 1501 NW 3rd St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 27 Citrus Grove Elementary 2121 NW 5th St. 6pm Little Havana
Aug 28 Frankie S. Rolle Center 3750 S. Dixie Hwy 6pm SW Coconut Grove
Aug 29   Hadley Park 1350 NW 50th St. 6pm Model City
Aug 30 Shenandoah Park 1800 SW 21st Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 4 Coral Way Elementary 1950 SW 13th Ave. 6pm Coral Way
Sep 5 LaSalle High School 3601 S. Miami Ave. 6pm NE Coconut Grove


Tuesday July 24, 2007

Miami-Dade county commissioners vote today on the port tunnel. The tunnel will cost approximately a projected $1 billion, split complicatedly between the city, county, state, and a private company.


Monday July 23, 2007

It’s all doom ‘n gloom over at Bloomberg, where Bob Ivry predicts a recession for Florida by October, resulting from the condo glut. I see the point, but surely a 30% drop in condo prices has some positive repercussions for the economy as well? The developers will get stung by this, but they can deal. (thanks, KH)


Tuesday July 17, 2007

Biscayne blvd renovation

Diagram of the Biscayne Blvd. streetscaping currently underway south of I-395. Gabriel has an overview of everything planned for this stretch, full of links and images. I still don’t see, though, how getting rid of the median parking (only “useless” if you’re not looking for a place to park, btw) around Bayside makes the road less daunting for pedestrians — the number of lanes isn’t changing. Also: a Metromover overhaul (replete with more heinous Photoshopping).


Monday July 16, 2007

A very interesting editing war is underway over the Wikipedia entry for Biscayne Landing.



A lot more interesting information about possible changes to downtown.



Bicentennial park with museum overlay

Home Page

Our pal Christopher recently visited Bicentennial Park and shot some photos to try to visualize how much of the park the museums will take. I decided to try my own shot at visualizing the difference — mouse over the image above to overlay the proposed plan for the park, taken from this post, over the Google view of the site. (I’ve been elbow-deep in the JavaScript all morning to make this happen, btw.)

A couple of observations. Firstly, I think they should ditch the walkway between the museums and I-395, and push the museums as far to the north as possible. Secondly, I wonder if anyone told the American Airlines Arena that we were planning a big soccer field on their side of the canal stump. Speaking of the canal stump, the plan calls for part of it to be filled in, plus the addition of a little island, which will make the transition from the arena to the park nicer for pedestrians and actually replace some of the land the museums are taking up. I am perplexed to be reminded that the southernmost building, just north of the canal stump, actually is a restaurant. Funny how nobody seems to be making a fuss about that. Also, remember that the museum buildings as seen in this illustration are not representative as to their final shape, though the sizes should be accurate.

Update: A closer look at the AAA site reveals that the eastern edge is in fact undeveloped, so I guess the soccer field there is a real thing. Add that to added space offsetting the loss to the museum buildings.

Update: Just realized the mouse-over effect isn’t working in IE7. I guess I’ve much to learn of the ways of the JavaScripts. For now, see the alternate image here or download Firefox.

Please direct comments to this conversation, already in progress.


Tuesday July 10, 2007

Coral house

Coral house on Collins Ave., getting torn down as we speak.


Monday July 9, 2007

BoB Miami has current photos of most of the construction projects in downtown. (You need to right-click and say “view image” to really see them, because the images on the blog are resized in-browser and very jagged.)


Thursday July 5, 2007



Edgewater is one of the most quickly changing neighborhoods in Miami. Historic houses that date back to the earliest days of Miami stand (and often fall) among modern high-rises, many still under construction. There is an excitement there, but also the unease that comes from development that is too much, too quick, and too disorganized. I talked about this in my Miami 21 article, but the truth is that Edgewater is in some ways a case study in how not to do development, and in a decade may look like a hodgepodge if surrounding neighborhoods are developed under the new code.

But right now, the rapid change is causing some frayed nerves. The new buildings isolate their residents high above the street and behind security, so that when they, say, run into homeless folks at the gas station, there is some natural tension. And while it’s easy to make fun of this “What — poor people live near me?!” attitude, the thought of an officially-sanctioned colony of homeless sex-offenders nearby would give anyone understandable (if ultimately irrational) jitters.

It’s too bad the Miami Herald didn’t talk to the Edgewater residents who don’t live in buildings with security guards and locked garages, because the residents living in the older buildings in the neighborhood deal with much more serious problems, not the least of which is regular break-ins (I actually have talked to those people). But not to fear. As this transformation proceeds and the neighborhood fills out with a new population of middle-class folks, the homeless and the criminals will gradually move elsewhere, and things will be hunky-dory in Edgewater again.

Update: Where is Edgewater? This map shows it lumped in with Wynwood, but Edgewater is the eastern slice of the orange block — between US-1 and the bay and between downtown and I-195.



Margaret Lake, the new director of theater operations of the Gusman Center, has big plans for the place. Historical renovations are to be completed, and she envisions more outreach and more original programming. Hopefully this will bring the Gusman the prominence it deserves.


Wednesday June 27, 2007

“Our mission is the historic preservation of the Hialeah Park Race Track (1925) and all of its elements. We are a group of community residents [MySpace] working cooperatively to attain local, state, and federal support necessary for the Hialeah Park’s restoration and preservation.” Also: Hialeah Park decays in the sun, 11 most endangered places, Activists celebrate designation, and Dig calls for a multi-disciplinary [read: arty] competition to propose programs for the park.


Monday June 25, 2007

oak plaza development

Oak Plaza, coming soon to the Design District. Pedestrian-friendly ground floor shopping with residences above, just the way we like it.


Monday June 18, 2007

The sordid tale of Biscayne Landing. This patch of land between FIU North and Oleta State Park was considered for a zoo, an “international center” with a revolving restaurant atop a tower, an amphitheater, a golf course, and airport . . . well, for most of the 70s it was actually a dump. It was an EPA Superfund site from 1982 to 1999. Now it’s a condo development, last seen promoting itself with ultra-cheesy billboards featuring scantily clad women and silly “too cool for downtown” taglines. Not unsurprisingly, 93 units have been sold, out of a planned 6,000. Also not unsurprisingly, the superfund business is not mentioned on the development’s FAQ. The saddest part is that the city of North Miami gambled with the developers on this, leasing them the land and paying $31 million to clean up the site, hoping for a tax windfall.



Clevelander renovations. Lovely wrap-around billboard that doesn’t promote anything other then general hedonism.


Wednesday June 6, 2007

The (Ft. Lauderdale) airport expansion, she is approved. Meanwhile, the power plant is denied. Update: “I probably would have voted no, but I don’t really care. This place is already ruined anyway.” — anonymous Pulp advisor.



Trouble at the Concert Association of Florida

Judy Drucker photo by Darryl Strawser Judy Drucker started the Concert Association of Florida, and has been its leader for the last forty years. Until last week, that is, when she was forced out by the board of the organization.

Now, Drucker is a phenomenon. In 2003, the SunPost said, “Drucker virtually created the vibrant performing arts cultural scene in South Florida over which she reigns as supreme and indispensable diva.” But the Concert Association has a deficit that from the sound of the article is approaching $3 million. Drucker is described as “feisty,” which many who have worked with her translate to mean “difficult,” “obstinate,” and — well, you get the picture. She’ll be replaced by Al Milano, who’s been with the CA less then a year, but she’ll stay on as an adviser, so I don’t think this will really tarnish her reputation.

The bigger question is what this portends for Miami’s future. There are two ways to read the events. It’s possible that Drucker simply made some mistakes, and with someone else keeping an eye on the books everything will level itself back out. A more ominous possibility is that if Drucker couldn’t make it work, maybe nobody can. Remember that a chief justification for building the Carnival Center was six major performing arts organizations that needed a home. Well, the Florida Philharmonic folded before the center was even completed, and now we’re down to four. The Herald article lists the increased “rental costs and other service fees” at the Carnival Center as one of the main reasons for the Concert Association’s troubles. Remember the tense negotiations early last year between these organizations and the center? What if the center just pushed too hard, and the fees are such that, especially after a little miscounting, they end up sinking the Concert Association?

It’s just possible that Drucker couldn’t make it work because nobody can make it work. And if the CA folds, it’s just going to make life that much worse for the Carnival Center. Heck, it’ll make life worse for everybody. I talked this over with Tiffany Hill, who is on the board of directors of the Florida Dance Association and Artistic Director of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood (yes: where I work), who helped me think this through. She summed it up this way: “It’s all bad for the cultural scene of South Florida.”


Wednesday May 23, 2007

A baywalk is part of Miami 21, but anyone who’s been down to the bay knows it’s a little pie-in-the-sky, since almost all the buildings along the bay have fence up to the water and private yards. Anyway, here’s what the Baywalk would look like if we had a baywalk.


Friday May 4, 2007

This Herald article about how the Midtown area is starting to look like a real, walkable city, looked interesting but it was too long and tedious to read. Luckily, Duran was nice enough to pull out the interesting bits. I think I agree that calling it “Midtown” is annoying.


Tuesday April 24, 2007

Gabriel takes a trip around Miami and doesn’t like much of what he sees. At every turn, the needs of pedestrians and public-transportation users are put behind those of drivers, and the design of new buildings indicates that this will not change much in the near future.


Wednesday April 18, 2007

Redlands real-estate album

where the ultra-rich now live
Click image for slide-show.

These images were made for an e-bay auction of some property down in the Redlands part of Homestead, and they show how quickly that area is being transformed from agricultural to suburban use. In fact, Gabriel, who discovered the set, bemoans the transformation. I’m mainly appreciating them for their inherent beauty, and so they’re presented here in a full-resolution slideshow.

They’re a sort of weird Dan Graham and Barbara Kruger. Apparently photographed with a disposable film camera, they were lovingly scanned and overlaid with magenta all-caps boldface text. One of them even has a line connecting the text to a spot in the picture.

The photographs depict McMansions, both cookie-cutter and outrageous, being constructed, as well as some photos of the surrounding streets and farms. We get a real sense of being between two places, for example in the 4th image, where a dirt country road and a wrecked fence suddenly find themselves juxtaposed with a house that will soon be occupied by an upper-middle-class family. Occasionally we get a glimpse of a slice of the realtor’s car, and in one picture a man spreads his arms invitingly, standing on farmland that will no doubt not exist in another few years.

Gabriel is right — there is a real melancholy to these images. But this is the reality that has always been Miami — people are moving here all the time, and large-parceled suburbs have been swallowing farms since the 1920’s. The transformation in downtown is a part of this too, and while I wish more people liked living in urban high-rises, the truth is that owning a big fat house is a pretty standard human desire. As went Miami, Coral Gables, and Aventura (they didn’t name it “Ives Dairy Road” out of whimsy), so go the Redlands.


Monday April 16, 2007

alton and 5th

Transit Miami has pictures of, and praise for, the upcoming retail complex at 5th Street and Alton Rd. There has beem some controversy about this project because the parking garage is in part publicly funded, yet the developer is sidestepping Art in Public Places rules by including a massive Britto sculpture. Update: In this discussion, Jack points to an old NewTimes article about the project, and controversy about the Britto.


Wednesday April 11, 2007

Michael Hardy's Herald essay about the Carnival Center


Michael Hardy’s Herald essay about the Carnival Center. I suspected that not pointing out he was the center’s director was a part of the Herald’s head-up-ass approach to their website, and that he was so identified in the print edition, as Henry confirms. The essay goes point by point through some of the complaints the Center has received, most of them just routine first-year pains.

I agree that it’s a little disingenuous of Hardy to imply that the tax money that has gone into the center is “not taxpayer money,” and he’s been taken to task. But the bed-tax aspect is worth remembering, and looking at this from the perspective of decades, it’s very possible that the center will pay for itself with the economic revitalization it has very obviously begun to bring (contrast that with the three or four stadiums we’ve built so far with the bed tax).

But I think part of the reason there is so much
hostility is that several completely different things are being conflated when we talk about the “Carnival Center.” Primarily, there is the lingering pain of a construction project run several hundred million dollars over budget at the taxpayers’ (sorry) expense. But of course the organization of which Michael Hardy is director had nothing to do with that. There is the building, and there is the organization that currently manages the building. There are plenty to be blamed for the botched construction project — the county government, the architect, the general contractor, etc., but obviously the arts administrators running the facility didn’t have anything to do with that. (And let’s remember that a not insignificant portion of the expanding construction costs was due to increases in building materials that effected construction worldwide.)

Same goes for the current parking fiasco, which should have been addressed at the earliest stages of planning by the visionaries (I almost used that word in quotes, but let’s do give them some credit) who were pushing for this project for decades.

Another source of frustration is traffic around the center. Let me tell you that the Heat fans going to the American Airlines Arena certainly do share some of that frustration. From what I’ve seen walking around the area on a couple of super-busy nights, the police do a piss-poor job of managing the traffic, but it’s worth remembering that Biscayne Boulevard is undergoing major roadwork in that area.

What I think is that the Center’s programming is spot-on. It’s diverse, with plenty of broad appealing programs (musicals and Broadway were always part of the plan) as well as lots of high-art and esoteric things. The problems are on the marketing/outreach side, and while Hardy is correct that word-of-mouth and time are the two most important factors in increasing attendance, there are some obvious things the Center should be looking at (fix the !@#$% website), and some not-so-obvious solutions it should be looking for. Maybe re-thing the print-ad blitz and bring in some fresh ideas for marketing. The center is doing lots of public outreach, but I suspect that’s the area that needs to be beefed up. Maybe some of that radical transparency would help (Hardy’s essay is a good first step).

I like the fact that the Herald can run a ‘things are pretty bad’ article alongside the essay. But I think of it this way — the Carnival’s start has been messy, and if anything there still isn’t enough blame falling on the people who screwed things up. But I think a rocky start is part of the beginning of anything really great. We could have built a smaller, cheaper, less ambitious performing arts center (almost everyone agrees that something along these lines needed to be built), but is that really what Miami deserved?


Friday March 2, 2007

Eye on Miami has a post titled “Miami housing crash bubble” about every day, but this one is worth reading.


Tuesday February 20, 2007

Miami 21

Here’s an article I wrote for Damn Magazine back in June of 2006. It was published in October, but has never made it online before. I took the photos back then for the article, though in the magazine it ran with Julian Martin’s much better pictures.

Miami, June 2006

A New Miami?

I’m sitting in a shabby banquet room in the Eugenio Maria De Hostos Neighborhood Service Center in Wynwood, surrounded by huge pieces of foamboard covered with maps, diagrams, charts, and computer renderings of buildings and streets. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is just wrapping up her presentation — one she’s given four times in the last week — and opens the floor up to comments. The low-level grumbling that had accompanied her talk resolves itself into a succession of complaints, many followed by applause from a healthy proportion of the 100 or so assembled. Plater-Zyberk takes all this in stride, answering each person without a shred of disagreement. Yes – the plan needs work. Yes – they would revisit that aspect to see if it could be improved. Yes, yes, yes.

We’re talking about Miami 21, the state-of-the-art master plan that’s been Manny Dias’s dream ever since he was elected mayor of Miami in 2001. It took years of preparation, but finally a firm was hired, and today we have a proposed plan. Now comes the hardest part: getting the public to agree to it.

Miami 21 is an effort to marry the best ideas from the last thirty years of urban planning to the weird realities of Miami’s existing cityscape. It focuses on what types of buildings should go where, in an effort to create a city that is convenient and pleasant for drivers as well as pedestrians. It’s not as impossible as it sounds: groupings of medium and high-density buildings with storefronts and plazas along the ground floor, plenty of trees, and nice wide sidewalks, and who wouldn’t walk a couple of blocks to run an errand? And the organization and higher density makes public transportation start to look like a viable option. Beyond that, the plan incorporates historical preservation, emphasizes open green space, hearts art and culture, encourages mixed-income development, and generally hits all the feel-good talking points that wide-eyed urban planners love.

Key to all this is something called the transect. It refers to the gradual transition from nature to the urban core through distinct zones: rural, suburban, medium-density, urban. The transect calls for throwing out old, complicated zoning codes in favor of these zones, which encourage building along old-fashioned models: suburbs, for example, begin to look more like small town under this system, with centers of common public space, shops, and parks. The transect system also eliminates the variance system, under which politically connected developers were able to have the rules changed on case-by-case basis to squeeze more profit out of their land at the expense of community coherence.

Edgewater, June 2006 Which brings us back to the meeting, and yes: the complaints. For the most part, the meeting is attended by developers, realtors, and big-time land owners, all of whom have the most to loose from certain aspects of the plan. In the effort to normalize building densities through the city and apply some control to the growth, sweeping changes have to be made to the zoning codes, and these changes have winners and losers. The landowners and developers whose ability to build gigantic concrete’n‘glass condos has been circumcised are pitching a fit. You can’t blame them, but neither should you really accommodate them, right? It’s our damned city, and we should be able to put our needs above those of developers who want to cash in and move on. This is about the vast majority of the people . . . those who actually live and work here. Obviously and unfortunately, those people are scarce in the process that goes into these sorts of plans, and while the planners try to do what they believe we want, their ability to push back against the big money interests in hindered by a lack of voice from the other side.

But actually, the problem is worse than that. Not only are many people not aware of the process, but if they were aware, they would be quite skeptical of designing a city with a big fancy plan.

While our responsibility for the natural environment has enjoyed a surge of popular support over the last several decades, the same can’t be said for the urban environment. Some cities are loved and others hated, but we don’t really think about how we can shape and influence our cities through concentrated action. This is exactly what urban planners do, though, and it’s what they’re doing with Miami21. Too bad the timing stinks. Everyone knows that we’re coming off a major building rush right now. Hundreds of building and renovation projects of all shapes and sizes are taking place all over town, and while many more are in the planning stages, conventional wisdom has it that anyone who hasn’t broken ground already is going to find it increasingly difficult to do so. As the housing supply expands and prices (especially for condos) begin to level off, the increases in building materials are going to make all sorts of numbers just not add up. So great; if we can expect a major building boom once every 20 to 30 years, and we just wrapped one up, what are we doing; planning for a rush of building in 2030?

There is good news, though. For one thing, many of the buildings now going up adhere to some of design rules of new urban thinking. There are shops along the first floor, the parking garages are hidden from the street, and the buildings are set back at the fifth or sixth floors, giving them a sense of scale from the sidewalk.

This is particularly noticeable in Edgewater, the area east of Biscayne Boulevard between the Omni and I-195. Few places have seen as rapid a transformation over the last few years as Edgewater, where single-family homes and small apartment buildings (some dating back to the original Miami construction boom in the 1920s) mingle with empty lots, construction sites, and gleaming new towers. Throw in a few corner markets, and when all the dust settles we may just have a real walkable community on our hands. It’ll get another boost when the streetcar system which is planned for the area comes online in 2010.

So there’s the city of the future for you: it intelligently mixes high, medium, and low density buildings with nice sidewalks, public spaces, and practical public transportation. Actually, it looks suspiciously the way cities all over Europe have looked for an awfully long time. And the plan? Well, Plater-Zyberk will have her hands full between now and September, when the city commission votes on the final plan. Only time will tell how much effect the plan will have, though.


Wednesday February 7, 2007

Frank Gehry proposed New World Symphony building

Frank Gehry's New World Symphony building

The crappy scan of the Frank Gehry building got some attention, so I e-mailed NWS for a digital copy, and here it is (click it for a screen-filling full sized version). It’s obvious now what’s going on — the rendering isn’t true to color, and the newspaper reproduction obscured the building’s most interesting features: an internal atrium that allows those inside and out to see the performance spaces and rehersal rooms (according to the Bloomberg article).

I recently attended a Musicians Forum that included a recording of an internet feed from video confrencing between some NWS musicians and a Chicago-based contemporary composer. The new building will be wired to make those sorts of interactions an everyday thing.

I had major trouble figuring out where exactly this building will sit, and how the picture above orients to the world. After a phone call to NWS and some quiet time clicking back and forth between the photo and the map, I think I’ve got it. Picture yourself standing in front of the current Lincoln Theater. Now walk down Drexel avenue, around the side of the theater, and behind. Keep going about halfway down the block. Now turn back around the way you came, and you’re just about at the vantage point of the rendering. The glass facade of the building faces east, and the viewer is facing Northwest. The building sits on what is currently a big parking lot, and which will, when it’s all finished, contain a garage, this building, and a new park. What I can’t seem to figure out is why 100% of the cars in the rendering are German.

Anyway, viewed in this light, and with a bit of imagination and optimism, I think this building is going to be suitably spectacular.


Tuesday January 23, 2007

building guts

Guv says: Attached is a photo I took Saturday with my cell phone, during a beach bike-ride, of one of the (many) buildings along Miami Beach that is being torn down for new construction. I like the way the guts of the building are suspended mid-crumble.


Thursday January 11, 2007

Bennet on the recent developments at Umoja Village, a shantytown at 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. More here, here, and on the Village’s blog.


Tuesday January 9, 2007

Foreclosure filings in the Southeast were up 37 percent last year from the year before, but Florida no longer held the top national spot.”


Monday January 8, 2007

According to a study by 1000 Friends of Florida, Miami-Dade county is one of only two places in Florida not expected to be completely built-out in 2060 (the other is the panhandle).


Wednesday January 3, 2007



I love me a little digital rendering in the morning. Click for extra mega-sized, with vividly obvious seams between reality and CG. These buildings, under construction on the north side of the Miami River, are modestly titled “Epic.” Prices are about what you’d expect: $500,000 – $5,000,000 per unit. Like all with-it people, places, and things, Epic has both a website and a MySpace. Both are worth visiting, for more spectacular photography.

Seriously, though, this is a primo spot — downtown Miami, surrounded by water on two sides, in the middle of real-city action.


Thursday December 28, 2006

“For Sale. Land, plans and permits for [a big Miami condo project]. Includes fully equipped sales center.” A great Reuters article on the popping Miami condo bubble, with lots of brain-bending numbers (77,000 condo units are still scheduled to be built in Miami; 1,900 have been canceled) along with the prediction by Jack McCabe that it may take 5 to 10 years for the prices to bottom out.


Wednesday December 27, 2006

Another piece of Coconut Grove history on the auction block: they’re trying to move Marjory Stoneman Douglashouse. Update: Marjory Stoneman Douglas impersonators/protesters at the Mango Strut.



I-195 and 38th St

A parking garage right here? Well, duh.



“County Auditor Cathy Jackson released a report that said Hometown Station had misspent more than $3 million that was supposed to be devoted solely to construction costs . . . Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess gave [the] developer one week to return $5 million in public money . . . a lawyer for the development company . . . said it has no immediate plans to return it.” Classic. Check out the video “House of Lies,” too.


Wednesday December 20, 2006

What's up with Washington Avenue?

It’s not doing so hot, that’s what. Check it out:


Here’s a store with what appears to be a semi-permanent “Clerance 70% off” sign.


Outback Steakhouse. If you look closely, you’ll see a sign that says “Opening Fall of 2006.” Opps, it’s Winter now, and Outback doesn’t look like it’s anywhere close to opening. This is in the fancy building at Washington and 5th, which was built with great fanfare a few years ago, and still has a number of vacancies to this day!

Rustical Drilling

Some sort of WWII-era looking pumping truck outside Pizza Rustica. Same one that’s been around for years, but it’s still weird.

Who wants to open a nightclub?

At 681 Washington, the former location of Goddess is available to any would-be club entrepreneur. Anyone?


Tuesday December 5, 2006

Art Basel T minus 1 day


It’s silly for me to talk to out-of-towners since they’re either packing, in transit, or settling in, but whatever. Welcome to Miami Beach. Sorry about the crowds. You’re in the Northernmost portion of the world-famous South Beach (please don’t call it SoBe), a neighborhood called Collins Park. Here’s a map. You’re at the convention center, and the white square in the upper right is where Positions is; the right edge of the map is the beach (the other two edges of the map are just where the map leaves off. Google shows it pretty good). It’s about a 10-minute walk between the Convention Center and Positions, and through a neighborhood that’s experiencing a small-scale and slightly delayed version of what’s happening in all of Miami — massive buildup and reconstruction. You’ll see brand new buildings, old buildings, buildings getting torn down, renovated, and built up. The weather should be okay — it’s not going to be hot like it was last weekend, but it’ll probably rain here and there.

I’ll reserve judgment, but if last year’s any indication, the satellite fairs on the mainland tend to be better then the ones on the Beach. The Beach fairs (such as Scope and Aqua) are mostly in hotels, and I find that sort of setting very claustrophobic and not conducive to looking at art — you’re in a small room, usually with a desperate gallery owner breathing down your neck and being all friendly and shit. The beautiful building of NADA and and even the absurd tent of Pulse were more open and relaxed to me (at least last year).

A general word of advice, as much to myself as anyone else — go slowly. There’s no way you’re going to see everything anyway; it’s better to have quality time with fewer pieces then to run around looking for some sort of cream. If you think you can spot the stuff you really need to see very easily, you’re probably just accentuating your self-imposed tunnel-vision. Also, this might be a good year to stop fawning over overpriced German photography. Maybe.

Now let’s have today’s list of links:


Sunday December 3, 2006

At a meeting last week about Miami 21 which I had on my calendar but forgot to attend anyway, nothing much happened. The project is coming along but vewy, vewy, slowly. Update: I’m working on a calendar section. Check in the bar on the right.


Friday November 24, 2006


A mockup from a piece in this month’s Wired Magazine (click for spectacular full-size). “Miami, for example, had only five skyscrapers (buildings more than 150 meters, or 492 feet, tall) in 1999 but will have 71 by 2012.”


Tuesday November 14, 2006

Glimpse of Midtown


I stopped by the Midtown Miami development the other day. It’s still a big construction zone, with only a couple of stores open, but the overall shape is very apparent. This is only a brief look; I got there too late to really check it out.

I have aesthetic quibbles with some of the style decisions, but in terms of substance, this is development done right: mixing retail, office, and several styles of residential buildings in a dense and walkable little mini-district.

midtown miami map

The map. From here, it looks like a regular mall. The residential developments aren’t on this map; they’re to the east. The Target, Linens ‘n Things, and West Elm are a godsend. Petsmart and some of the other stuff I could give or take. Marshalls, there’s one downtown, so I don’t see the point of that really. Plus, who shops at Marshalls, anyway? I have no idea what Loehmanns is.

Midtown Miami residences

Here are the towers going up. Taken from the parking lot of the Target. Some of this stuff has a loooooong way to go before it’s done.

Midtown Miami Target

Target (my camera was set incorrectly; it didn’t really look Satanic). No pictures of the inside — it looks exactly like every other Target in the world, except for the customers, who were maybe slightly hipper looking. It’s not a “super” target (in the parlance of large discount retailers, “super”=“has a big food section”), but there is a sizable food area; just no produce.

Midtown Miami facade

This is a bit of the facade. It’s all still getting finished up, but it looks good. The brick finish I guess is supposed to put the “town” in “Midtown.” Just behind those storefronts across the street is a working-class neighborhood with lots of small old single-family houses. Someone should do a comprehensive photo project on the neighborhood, which is now going to be undergoing some fast and drastic transformation.

Midtown Miami West Elm

Some of the rest of the development, looking quite a bit more generic, though it’s unfair to say that when it’s not finished. This is the West Elm store, which I’m looking forward to. After the target, the only other thing open is Circuit City, which I have zero interest in.

One other interesting note: unlike most malls, the parking garages charge. The rates are weird, too: free for the first hour with Target ticket validation (a pain in the ass), $1 per hour for the next four hours, and then $10 per hour after that. I have no idea what the logic behind those rates is. Someone obviously did some deep thinking about how to maximize their profits, logic and sense be damned. I’ll be surprised if they don’t get so many complaints that they have to change this soon.

Update: Oldswish points out that they got $170 million from the city to build this thing and paying for parking was always part of the plan.


Monday October 30, 2006

Villamagna ad

This ad, for the development on the last empty bayfront lot in Brickell, is notable for its insistence that prospective buyers show the class and cachet to own unimpeachable pop art. (It’s across the street from this cute, and very historical, building.)



Crosswinds approved


Here’s an issue that a lot of people are disagreeing about: the Crosswinds development for Overtown was just approved by the Miami City Commission. Since the Herald’s open comments seem to be a thing of the past, it seems worth getting into here.

What we have is a big mixed-use project, mainly residential, now approved to be built in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Hundreds of people showed up to either support or oppose the project. On the pro side, obviously, is the observation that the development would be an economic boost to the neighborhood. Those opposed (who included Arthur Teele) say that the project would hurt the character of the neighborhood, raise property values in the whole neighborhood, and kick-start gentrification.

The question is whether, with the Performing Arts Center, places like Karu & Y (here), and even historical renovations like the Lyric Theater, gentrification isn’t inevitable. Otherwise, it’s worth pointing out that the plan seems to follow Miami 21 principles; the tallest buildings are on the side of the busy boulevard (exact address?), with a height-transition down to the existing houses and apartments.

Of the 1,050 condo units in Crosswinds, 112 will be “heavily subsidized” (up from the 50 the developer was originally offering), and another 210 will be partially subsidized. Hardly makes a dent in the 1,200 new subsidized units the city wants for the neighborhood, and doesn’t really square with the 50/50 market-rate/subsidized ratio that was previously discussed, either. This is peculiar, since by my reading the city gave the developer the land.

Two lawsuits must be resolved before construction can begin, one of which was brought by the Power U Center, the folks who brought the 25-foot inflatable rat to the commission meeting. Should be interesting.


Wednesday October 18, 2006

Miami Vision Blogarama reports about a new affordable development in downtown, where condos will start at $159,000. What, you don’t read MVB? Get with it, yo!



A meeting about the Miami streetcar will take place tonight. btw, the url at the end of the Herald article is so mangled I can’t even guess what it is.



Pathetic: not a single building in Miami-Dade is green. “Miami Mayor Manny Diaz is considering incorporating green elements in Miami 21, the city’s new building and zoning blueprint, and requiring that new city buildings are LEED certified. Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson has pushed the county to require sustainable building for any facilities it owns, operates or finances.”


Wednesday October 11, 2006

Look at what I missed: a new Target opened in Midtown, and what a difference it makes: the end of only going to Target when you’re out running errands in North Dade or Coral Gables.


Tuesday October 10, 2006

The Carnival Center for the Performing Arts

Carnival Center Montage

Here’s my full write-up on the Carnival Center’s—Miami’s—new building. Lots of text, lots of pictures = too long to go into the main text flow. Hence the unprescented move of doing a jump. Sorry. Deal with it and click:


Friday September 29, 2006

Home Depot to build in the Grove

proposed home depot design has trees along the street and a sloped roof

It appears that Grove residents have lost the fight, and the Grove Depot is going forward. On the other hand, maybe what they got for their trouble is a much more neighborhood-aware, smaller design. But they sure aren’t satisfied. Although some disagree that it’s much of a compromise.

I guess I just don’t get it. This is a gigantic property along US-1 which formerly held a K-Mart. Is having a Home Depot and a Milams there really the end of the world?


Thursday September 28, 2006


A couple of months ago, the Dirt had a thing about the photo of Gil Dezer at the Trump construction site in Sunny Isles. I thought it would be fun to go photograph it, finally got around to it. He’s the second guy from the left. Here’s more about Gil.


Wednesday September 27, 2006

rendering of citysquare, CCPA, some weird building

Speaking of the PAC, do I read this right, that Citysquare has been approved?


Monday September 18, 2006

Updated plans for Watson Island.


Monday September 11, 2006

3,000 illegal building permits issued.


Thursday September 7, 2006

The chilling effect

new ac

Here’s Brook Dorsch hanging out on the roof of his Gallery, with one of three gigantic new A/C units, which are recently purchased (e-bay, baby), shipped from California, installed, wired, debugged, and switched on. And they work great — the opening this Saturday (Lucas Blanco and Marc Roder) shall take place in a pleasantly cooled gallery. So I sat down yesterday to chat with Brook about the A/C, the future of the Dorsch, and Wynwood in general.

The units were purchased (new) from California at a bargain price because a recent law made them uninstallable there. But it turns out that wasn’t the problem; nor was the problem installing them. The big pain in the ass was wiring them for power, which required a whole new electrical panel for the gallery, and ended up costing thousands of dollars. But nevermind: they work.

Standing on the roof, it’s impossible to miss the gigantic new power-lines running down the block eastward — not the ones you see in the picture, the much bigger ones supported by the fat pole rising in the the mid-right). They were rush-installed by FPL to power the almost-complete Midtown development, and they crackle softly in the damp air, murmuring about the changes rapidly approaching for the neighborhood.

When Dorsch moved his gallery from Coral Gables to Wynwood six and a half years ago, the only art-related thing there was “Locust”: and maybe the “Rubells”: (though they weren’t open to visitors yet). He was the first of dozens of galleries which flocked there at first because rent and property values were cheap, later because everyone else was there. But now, thanks to Midtown, the art-ification of the neighborhood, and general property-boom, property values are maybe about ten times what they were then. And when Miami 21 hits and almost certainly re-zones the whole area from industrial to some sort of residential/commercial combination, it’s really going to take off. At some point (methinks less then five years), the forces of the marketplace are going to force the galleries to begin to move out, and the Lincoln Road cycle will begin again somewhere else.

Update: Brook mentioned this about a million times, but not enough for me to remember: Onajide did a podcast Steve Kaplan did a podcast on Onajide’s blog about the AC. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but there it is. Why isn’t Critical Miami podcasting? Why is the Miami Art Exchange blog opening in a funny box (rendering permlinks useless)? What do you get when you drop a piano on an army base? All excellent questions.


Tuesday August 15, 2006

Coconut Grove Grapevine has a very definitive vision for the Grove: No big tourist attractions, no housing developments, and businesses that cater to the locals. “Mayfair used to be a Winn-Dixie and Cocowalk was a gas station that I think ended up being a mini-flea market on weekends after the gas station closed. To be honest, this was the Grove to me, not the monolithic tourist traps that took over.”


Thursday August 3, 2006

Verticus is not crazy about the port tunnel.


Monday July 31, 2006

Some folks got together and decided to create a proposal that would combine as many bad ideas as they could think of: Let’s build a new stadium for the Marlins out past the Urban Development Boundary. Is this a joke?


Thursday July 27, 2006

Miamivision Blogarama

worlds tallest proposal

I don’t normally link to fresh new blogs, on the grounds that they’re often here today, gone tomorrow. But Miamivision is too good to pass up. Witness the picture above, from this post about the proposed Empire World Tower. No idea where they got the rendering (which is a year old in any case), but it sure is impressive.

Even more impressive are the observations about on the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts:

Architect Cesar Pelli was forced to keep [the Sears tower] in his design by well-meaning but misguided preservationists who went epileptic when they found out that it might get nixed in the plan. Although it is not a great example of the Art Deco style, it seems it was the only example of Art Deco architecture left in Miami. Too bad there isn’t any money in the budget to hire Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen to turn it into a giant flashlight pointing skyward. That would give Miami that elusive signature piece of art or architecture it sorely lacks because no matter how grand the design and effective the acoustics are, Pelli’s buildings would be hard to pick out of a lineup of concert halls.

[ . . . ]

” connects with a past that was precious to many people.” [Pelli] As someone who grew up here, that statement reeks with irony. It was in the Sears tower that I was first exposed to the Jim Crow laws of 1950’s Miami. I was probably five or six when I made the mistake of going to the wrong water fountain. . .

Snap! And there’s much more: a proposal for the soon-to-be gentrified Overtown, a tribute to Churchill’s Pub, and more more more. See also the original site, a mecha of (flash) weirdness. (via Transit Miami)


Wednesday July 19, 2006

Let's build offices

Biscayne and 19th Street

Some interesting developments (ha!) in the last couple of days. Over at Transit Miami a guest writer points out that downtown needs more office buildings. And the Herald suggests that more office buildings we shall have:

Currently 1.5 million square feet of office space is under construction—including the University of Miami’s 350,000-square-foot Clinical Research Institute in Miami’s newly named Health District. Another 6.4 million square feet have been proposed, according to the city’s Planning Department.

In some ways this is a perfect compliment to the glut of condos springing up. But keep in mind that part of the reason for the cool off are worldwide skyrocketing prices for construction materials. They may put a damper on some of those proposed projects.

Particularly foreboding is that the developer of Midtown Miami wants to sell. Midtown is that huge development in Wynwood in what used to be a shipping yard: probably the biggest construction project in Miami right now. The owner is claiming that he wants to sell “for tax reasons,” and that he’ll make about the same amount of money selling now as if he held on until construction was finished and sold the finished units. Which idea the article pretty well refutes, suggesting the obviousness of the assumption that he’s trying to sell now because of low and dropping demand for residences. Maybe someone else can “buy the risk” and get hosed down the line.

Or maybe not. Over at Blueprint:Miami, we get Gary Hennes’ 10 reasons why Miami will keep booming. Not uninteresting, and quite plausible:

4. New luxury hotels and restaurants bring new visitors each day, many who explore possibilities of owning something here.

5. Continued low crime rates, expansion of cultural institutions and sports venues make the quality of life better each year.

Go read the rest. What to do with all these contradictory messages? Maybe just to hang on for a bumpy ride.


Wednesday July 12, 2006

Bicentennial Park/Museum Park

First of all, before you get all exited, this has nothing to do with the design of Miami Art Museum, Miami Museum of Science, or any museum. This is all about the park that will (maybe) contain them, plans of which have been released. MAeX linked to a Herald article which linked to the Miami Planning website which linked to two PDF documents, a big one (which crashed my computer) and a little one.

We get a restaurant, some fountains, some open space, a “promenade,” some fancy gardens, no parking to speak of, and room for two buildings, the models of which are there just to fill space, ‘cause nobody knows what they’re going to look like yet. In fact, they may never happen, which who knows what that does to the park layout?

In the interest of sparing you downloading the PDFs, and of burning some bandwidth, each of the images below links to a (near) full-size graphic. Enjoy.







Monday July 10, 2006

What's up with the S&S Diner?

ss diner

Uh-oh, first Smitty’s closes, and now the S&S is threatened. According to this article sent in by an anonymous reader, the site of the S&S is shortly to contain another giant condo development. The developers have “agreed to maintain the S&S building as a restaurant,” which sounds a little ominous to me. They will also build a new kitchen (‘cause they’re demolishing where the current kitchen is), which to me implies that the place will close at least temporarily.

The Miami city commission still has to approve the project, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t: developer doing as he likes with his property, agreeing with the recommendations of the historic preservation board, blah blah. This is cause for some major concern!


Sunday July 2, 2006

A discussion and some great photos of Miami’s skyline over the years on Skyscraper City. The Freedom Tower was the tallest building in Miami from 1925 to 1928, when the Dade County Courthouse was completed. Obviously, the conversation is going to have to be updated very soon . . .


Wednesday June 21, 2006

Transit Man has a pretty great rant about parking around MPAC. I think his point is that there’s public transportation around, so less emphasis should be paid to a parking shortage. To which I say: more power to you! On the other hand, opera fans are older, well-dressed people. I find it difficult to picture 2,200 of them riding the rails to get to the theater. But overall the point is well taken. (p.s. The site design still needs some work. Can we have some margins between the text and the edges of the column? And can we not have a “MORE>>” link with each article witch doesn’t take you to anything more?)


Tuesday June 20, 2006

The crashing halt of downtown Miami’s condo express couldn’t have come at a better time. Michael Lewis with another good point: “Not all the speculators were condo builders or buyers. Put government, too, on the list of speculators, willing to extract a property-tax bonanza from condomania without the pain of infrastructure development. Here comes the pain.”


Wednesday June 14, 2006

Coconut Grove activists win one. Nice work, guys. (via CGGV)


Tuesday June 13, 2006

A county board is considering historic status for an ancient Tequesta Indian burial ground in the far northwestern corner of Miami-Dade. Yes, of course. But let’s do something with it then, so it can in some way be appreciated by the public. Unlike Miami Circle, which sits dormant and behind a fence all these years later.


Tuesday May 30, 2006

RIP stupid flyover

63 st flyover w/ truck knocked flat on its ass
Image: City Debate

For those who haven’t had a personal relationship with the concrete slab at 63rd street on the Beach, it might seem astounding how much sentiment has been shed over its impending destruction. The 63rd Street Flyover is a menace: it’s just about the width of a regular lane, with no shoulders whatsoever. Driving it is (was?) always a hair-raising experience, followed by a sense of accomplishment upon each successful traversal. My dad, ever the daredevil, liked to joke (?) about taking it a little bit faster each and every time. Driving underneath it is no better: two lanes are split by the boatlike concrete median which houses a thick supporting column. The underside of the flyover itself is missing chunks where too tall box trucks slammed right into it.

So I feel for the North Beach residents who are so upset to see it go. But I don’t think traffic concerns are the reason for their consternation. I think the love/hate relationship with this thing, of which I’ve only had a taste, is the issue. How could someone live with something this insane for so long (the flyover dates back to the 1950’s) and not have an emotional relationship with it? Then FDOT comes along and just decides we’re better off without it? Oh, the bittersweet taste of progress!


Wednesday May 17, 2006

Miami 21 meeting

meeting @ culmer

Went to a Miami21 meeting yesterday. Miami 21 is a great big master plan the city’s working on with Duany Plater-Zyberk and Company, and they recently unveiled a draft of the document (actually, the “document”: is a Powerpoint presentation, so I’m not sure it technically counts as a “draft”); this meeting was one of three intended to be an opportunity for citizen feedback. In the first hour, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk ran through the Powerpoint. A lot of her presentation was in city planning lingo and acronyms (sample slide: “Calculation of NFA based on GLA”), and I hadn’t really done my homework.

Still, the plan is commendable: it re-does the current zoning codes to create a logical distribution of density, human-scaled development, pedestrian-friendly streets, agreeable public spaces, and the like. If Miami were being built from scratch according to a plan like this (don’t laugh: see New Songdo), everything would be great. Coming, as it does, at the tail end of a building boom, well . . . we’ll see – it’s still a worthwhile effort, I guess.

The second half of the meeting (which ran quite precisely 5:45 – 7:45 pm) was for citizen comments and questions, which ran more or less as you would expect: a few property owners complaining that the changes would reduce their property’s value, a few passionate citizens with problems specific to their neighborhoods, and general grumbling that the process isn’t allowing enough time for citizen input. With regard to the latter, they have a point – the plan has only been on the web a couple of days, and there were a number of hands still up when the meeting ended. Ms. Plater-Zyberk handled this part of the meeting very well, answering the questions as best as possible, promising, as appropriate, to revisit each of the specific issues raised, and assuring everyone that, while the whole process was being rushed, they’d take the time to work through everyone’s concerns and stretch the schedule if necessary.

More meetings follow for Little Haiti, Upper Eastside, Wynwood, and Edgewater over the next couple of days (the plan is divided up into four quadrants, and all this is really just referencing the first of them).


Wednesday May 3, 2006

Development and planning around MPAC

satellite view of Miami Performing Arts Center

Well, the Miami Performing Arts Center seems to be pulling its parking situation into shape nicely. Meanwhile, I have the recent Herald piece, Development blossoms around Performing Arts Center—with no plan in place, which is a criticism of a lack of urban planning (rather then the PAC), specifically singling out the unfinished Miami21 plan. Well, a public meeting to present a draft of the first quarter of the plan has just been announced. After the meeting (on May 13), the draft will be available online, and a series of open houses will begin (presumably to allow the public to comment on the plan).

This will be interesting; we have the opportunity to create the city of the future here, and the Herald is quite pessimistic:

[Development] is occurring with no comprehensive development plan in place. Even as the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency . . . spent three years and $716,000 preparing a 250-page master plan for the area, the City Commission has approved one massive project after another, rendering moot some sections of the CRA’s plan before it was ready. The city’s vaunted new, neighborhood-friendly development rule book, Miami 21, is months behind schedule and may not be in place until fall. Even some in the real estate business question whether stacks of high-priced condos—with few provisions for new parks, public spaces or other public amenities, much less affordable housing or a solution to the area’s persistent homeless problem—are what the MPAC district really needs amid signs of a possible condo glut.

Gee, when you put it like that, it sounds kind of crappy. Something tells me, though, that Miami21 will restore that green space, and that the MPAC district will become pedestrian-friendly and appealing. And with the impeding condo crash, it will, for a time at least, even be affordable. Hipsters all over South Florida are saving their money and biding their time. Meanwhile, look at that map – it turns out that MPAC was surrounded by parking lots and garages all along—check out the picture. How did we ever get into conversations about putting parking underground?


Monday April 24, 2006

Miami gridlock is a map of poor leadership, plans. Larry Lebowitz reflects on the recent shutdown on Biscayne, and what will happen after the various road re-re-reconstruction projects are complete. “What you won’t find is a lot of extra roadway capacity. Now imagine those same roads supporting traffic from 70,000 new condominium units, a Performing Arts Center, two new museums in Bicentennial Park, 600,000 square feet of stores at Midtown Miami, and another 10-story mall across from the PAC called City Square.”


Wednesday April 19, 2006

Broward home price medians still rising. (Allegedly,) after a dip post-Wilma, housing prices are back on the rise. Yeah, right; I’m thinking this is a slight uptick on the way down. Witness: (1) ”[t]he number of homes sold during March continued to decline, though, to 649 homes from 958 single-family homes sold for the same month the year before,” (2) the source is realtors who have much to gain from everyone thinking everything’s hunky-dory, and (3) no data given for Miami-Dade. I’m sticking with my predictions.


Wednesday February 15, 2006

The SoBe library's gone + buying furniture in Miami

So, the other day, I'm coming home along A1A, stopped at the light at 21st street on Collins, and I glance over to my right at the Bass Museum of Art[1].

?! The Bass Museum? Shouldn't I be looking at the South Beach Library? Well, exactly: no: the library's gone, in it's place a grassy field, the rotunda the only thing left. I doesn't look like a demolition site - looks like it's been this way for years.

I pull over to snap the photograph above, and walk around the site a bit, and a cop pulls some poor sucker over, blocking my car in with his cruiser. Just then I notice the new library, across the street to the north side of the block. I've got some time to kill now (who wants to ask a cop to move his car?), so I check out the new library.

It's the same collection (I checked out a couple of books!), and the layout is OK - pretty generic, nothing special. Two stories (kids on the 2nd floor - who thought of that?), much less interesting architecturally then the old building. On my way out, I notice the chairs they have at their computer workstations. I try one out (they look pretty plain), and instantly I'm in love. I find it on the DWR site when I'm at home and the thing is over $600 with shipping, which brings me to my real point: it's a pain in the ass buying furniture in Miami.

Unless you're a Rooms-to-Go kind of person, your choices are limited, and generally are going to involve overpaying.

Ikea is decent furniture at reasonable prices. But there's no store anywhere in reasonable driving range (even the one in Atlanta is only recently opened), and boy does their online/mail order system stink[2]. Not to mention, my $180 order became $300 when shipping fees were added in.

There are lots and lots of small stores with modern furniture in town (a number of them are clustered around Biscayne Blvd. between 125 St and Miami Gardens Dr), but they tend to have minimal selection and high prices - great if you have lots of time and money on your hands.

Then there's Design Within Reach, which recently opened a store on Lincoln Rd. - expensive, but at least it's the real deal, right? No: problem is that it's a showroom, and whatever you want is ordered, just like from the catalog, and shipped to you, with the same shipping charges as if you were calling in to the catalog.

And yes, there are thrift stores (the best being Faith Farm in Ft. Lauderdale) which have amazing furniture, but less so with every year that goes by.

So what's the solution? A friend of mine is trying to cook up a scheme involving cheap one-way flights to Atlanta, a trip to the Ikea store, and a u-haul back - that's how desperate we're getting. But so with no further fanfare, we are pleased to announce that yes, the rumors are true: Ikea is planning to open a store in South Florida. In a mere year and a half, all our furniture-related troubles will be over.

[1] Anyone know why it says 'Bass Mvsevm' on the front? Some sort of ancient alphabet thing?

[2] I recently ordered a wall unit and dresser from their online store. Mind you, I had to enter my credit card information before being told the actual shipping cost. I got an e-mail a week later with the shipping cost, asking me to confirm my order. I immediately did. It took another week for them to acknowledge the confirmation[3], and tell me I'd be getting my furniture within 3 weeks. If that wasn't bad enough, I called them today, and (after about an hour on hold) was told that it was actually 3-4 weeks, and I had to call another number still to get any more specific information (I gave up on that one after half an hour on hold).

[3] See West Elm for an example of how to manage an online furniture purchasing experience. A clean and beautiful web site, pre-submit shipping charges, and no-hassle confirmation.


Thursday November 3, 2005

Port of Miami tunnel

The problem: Trucks coming from the Port of Miami need to drive through downtown to get to I-395, causing traffic congestion and problems regular drivers.

The solution: A $3.1 billion (we were tempted to round off the .1, until we realized it represents 100 million dollars) tunnel to connect the port directly to 395, bypassing surface streets.

The scoop: Actually, it’s not exactly like that. As this video [35meg .avi] explains, the tunnel actually connects the port to Watson Island (beautifully shown with all planned improvements in place), from where the bridge (widened by a lane in each direction) takes you to 395. The image above is from the video; the image is the tunnel openings, with Parrot Jungle on the left, the MacArthur causeway in the distance, and said development on the right.

We got exited when we saw this article, which says the tunnel may soon be a reality. But then we noticed this other article (same publication), from 2002, which also says the tunnel may soon be a reality. Turns out the tunnel has been “about to happen” since the 80’s. Larry Lebowitz pointed out that the construction in downtown is really going to make this a necessity (although . . . um, did the budget double since his column came out in July?), although Mr. Tunnel remains skeptical. On the other hand, FDOT seems very optimistic: they have a whole web site devoted to the project, including some very detailed plans.

Does democracy suck, or what? In China, they’d have built a dozen tunnels by now, while here in Miami, supposed crossroads of the world, hands are wrung over a single one (and only a mile long).


Monday September 19, 2005

The Lincoln Road effect

This guy came up recently on Artblog, though folks have been chuckling about him for months. He’s an artist/model being used to advertise a condo development in Wynwood. The joke is that (1) he’s not much of an artist and (2) unless he’s a stockbroker of lawyer by day, he’s not going to be able to afford $250,000 for 386 square foot efficiency. And if he can afford it, why’s he using brushes that cost $5 for a 10-pack? Brook, who snapped our picture, says

Update from the heart of Wynwood. That famous photo of the artist with the clean brushes is reproduced as a gigantic banner outside of the sales office here in da hood. Some clever artist(s) have graffitied the banner to add a big X over his mouth and a $ over his eye. I makes me smile everytime I drive by.

We’re biding our time. The cycle or artists moving into a poor neightborhood, attracting the rich, and getting squeezed out by rising rents has been repeated numerous times, even in a city as young as Miami (before lincoln rd it was coral gables). The smart (like Brook) buy early, and reap the benefits. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they get to stay. As high-rise condos go up, property value appraisals do, too, and with them taxes.

Let’s say you own a small apartment building in Wynwood. You see all this development happening , but let’s say you want to keep your rents low for the sake of your tennants.

Well, when your taxes start to go up, you’re essentially forced to raise the rent. Since your building isn’t nice enough to justify the increase in rent, the only option at that point is to sell, because you don’t have the money to kick everyone out and pay out-of-pocked for a 12-month restoration. Wow.

Mayor Many Diaz wanted to do something about it, changing the way appraisals are done to more favor these building owners, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to fly.

Update: Bonnie Clearwater touches on how all this has effected artists in the essay for Moca and Miami (this via The Next Few Hours):

In the late 1990’s, inexpensive rent made it attractive for artists to live in Miami. The real estate boom in recent years has made it difficult for artists to find affordable houses and studios, thus creating a great demand for subsidized studios at such places as Art Center/South Florida. It seems that as soon as they set down roots in one neighborhood and become involved in dynamic relationships with other artist residents, their homes are demolished to make room for condominiums or, more ironically, “artist” loft-type living.