Elements of Urbanism: Downtown Miami

December 1, 2010 22 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville visits Florida's most rapidly growing urban center: Downtown Miami.

Tale of the Tape

Miami Population 2009: 433,136 (City); 5,547,051 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1896)

Jacksonville Pop. 2009: 813,518 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Miami (249,276)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Miami: +10.77%
Jacksonville: +18.29%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Miami: 4,919,036 (ranked 5 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Miami: 4,407.4
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2009

Miami: +70,666
Jacksonville: +72,312

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Miami: James L. Knight International Center (1982) - 28,000 square feet; larger convention center in Miami Beach.
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Miami: Hyatt Regency (615 units)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Miami: Four Seasons Hotel & Tower - 789 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2010 (City limits only):

Miami: World Fuel Services (205), Ryder System (426)  
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Miami: Florida's real estate collapse.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Miami: Park West District, Mary Brickell Village
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Miami: 98 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

City Land Area

Miami: 35.68 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Visual Information

Green = Jacksonville's city limits (current urban core) before consolidation in 1968
Red = Jacksonville's current consolidated city-county limits

Jacksonville's current (Red) and original (Green) city limit boundaries over Miami's land area (Blue).

About Miami

The Miami area was first inhabited for more than one thousand years by the Tequestas, but was later claimed for Spain in 1566 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. A Spanish mission was constructed one year later in 1567. In 1836, Fort Dallas was built, and the Miami area subsequently became a site of fighting during the Second Seminole War.

Miami holds the distinction of being "the only major city in the United States conceived by a woman, Julia Tuttle," who was a local citrus grower and a wealthy Cleveland native. The Miami area was better known as "Biscayne Bay Country" in the early years of its growth. Some published reports described the area as a promising wilderness. The area was also characterized as "one of the finest building sites in Florida." The Great Freeze of 1894–1895 hastened Miami's growth, as the crops of the Miami area were the only ones in Florida that survived. Julia Tuttle subsequently convinced Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon, to expand his Florida East Coast Railroad to the region, for which she became known as "the mother of Miami." Miami was officially incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896 with a population of just over 300.

Miami prospered during the 1920s with an increase in population and infrastructure but weakened after the collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the Great Depression in the 1930s. When World War II began, Miami, well-situated due to its location on the southern coast of Florida, played an important role in the battle against German submarines. The war helped to expand Miami's population; by 1940, 172,172 people lived in the city. After Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, many Cubans sought refuge in Miami, further increasing the population. In the 1980s and 1990s, various crises struck South Florida, among them the Arthur McDuffie beating and the subsequent riot, drug wars, Hurricane Andrew, and the Elián González uproar. Nevertheless, in the latter half of the 20th century, Miami became a major international, financial, and cultural center.

Miami and its metropolitan area grew from just over one thousand residents to nearly five and a half million residents in just 110 years (1896–2006). The city's nickname, The Magic City, comes from this rapid growth. Winter visitors remarked that the city grew so much from one year to the next that it was like magic.

Downtown Miami is the central business district of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and South Florida. Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard are the main north-south roads, and Flagler Street is the main east-west road. Downtown is the historic cultural, financial, and commercial center of South Florida, tracing its history back to the 19th century. In recent years, the area has grown to become the fastest-growing area in Miami. Downtown is home to many major museums, parks, schools and colleges, banks, courthouses, government offices, theaters, shops and historic buildings.

As of 2009, there are approximately 71,000 year-round residents in Downtown (including neighboring Brickell and Omni), with close to 200,000 residents living in the immediate Downtown area. Recent mass construction of high-rise residential buildings and office towers, Downtown has been revitalized with new shops, bars, parks, and restaurants opening up, attracting many new residents. Along with Brickell, Downtown has grown from 40,000 residents in 2000, to over 70,000 in 2009, making it one of the fastest-growing areas in Florida. It was estimated in February 2010, that about 550 new residents move to the Downtown area every month. As of 2009, over 190,000 office employees work in Downtown and Brickell.

Downtown Miami is served by the Miami Metrorail at three stations: Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre Station, Government Center Station, and Brickell Station and the Metromover which encompasses 22 stations on three loops: Downtown (Inner), Brickell, and Omni loops. Government Center Station is Downtown's main station and allows for transfers to all Metromover loops, Metrorail trains, and Metrobus lines.

Bayside Marketplace is a festival marketplace in Downtown Miami, Florida. It's in between Bayfront Park to the south end, and the American Airlines Arena to the north. As Bayside's name suggests, it wraps along the banks of the Biscayne Bay.

The entertainment complex opened in 1987, while a major real estate boom was taking place. Instead of being planned to revitalize a specific area as its sister properties had, Bayside complements an existing marina. The shopping center was frequently featured on the crime drama TV series, Miami Vice.

The center attracts on average fifteen million people annually. It is served by the Metrorail at the Government Center Station, and directly by the Metromover's College/Bayside Station.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties manages and owns Bayside Marketplace.

Bayfront Park is a 32-acre public, urban park in Downtown Miami, Florida. The park began construction in 1924 under the design plans of Warren Henry Manning and officially opened in mid-1925. Starting in 1980, it underwent a major redesign by Japanese-American modernist artist and landscape architect, Isamu Noguchi. Today, Bayfront Park is maintained by the Bayfront Park Management Trust, a limited agency of the City of Miami.
 Bayfront Park is bordered on the north by Bayside Marketplace and the American Airlines Arena, on the south by Chopin Plaza, on the west by Biscayne Boulevard and on the east by Biscayne Bay. Bayfront Park is host to many large events such as the New Year's ball drop, Christmas celebrations, concerts, the Bayfront Park Amphitheater, the Tina Hills Pavilion, as well as boat tours around Biscayne Bay.

The Port of Miami is recognized and has been for many years, as the "Cruise Capital of the World" and "Cargo Gateway of the Americas". It has retained its status as the number one cruise/passenger port in the world for well over two decades accommodating the largest cruise ships in the world and the operations of such major cruise lines as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.

As the "Cargo Gateway of the Americas", the port primarily handles containerized cargo with small amounts of breakbulk, vehicles and industrial equipment. It is the largest container port in the state of Florida and ninth in the United States. As a world-class port, the Port of Miami is among an elite group of ports in the world which cater to both cruise ships and containerized cargo.

The Freedom Tower serves as a memorial to Cuban immigration to the United States. Originally completed in 1925 as the home of Miami News & Metropolis newspaper, the structure was used by the federal government to process, document and provide medical services for Cuban refugees during the 1960s. Today, the tower has been restored and converted into a museum, library, meeting hall and the offices of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Since 2001, Miami has been undergoing a large building boom with more than 50 skyscrapers rising over 400 feet built or currently under construction in the city. Miami's skyline is ranked third most impressive in the U.S., behind New York City and Chicago, and 19th in the world according to the Almanac of Architecture and Design. The city currently has the eight tallest (as well as thirteen of the fourteen tallest) skyscrapers in the state of Florida, with the tallest being the 789-foot (240 m) Four Seasons Hotel & Tower.

The recently completed Wells Fargo Center is a part of the Metropolitan Miami complex.  

Metropolitan Miami is a mixed-use development expected to consist of four skyscrapers and a lifestyle center in the Central Business District of Downtown Miami, Florida. The first phase was completed in 2008 with Met 1, a condo tower, and will be followed by Met 2, making up the Wells Fargo Center (previously called the Met 2 Financial Center) and Met 2 Marriott Marquis simultaneously in late-2010. As of mid-2010, Met 3 and the Met Square shopping center haven't broken ground.

Met 3, if constructed, would be the one of the tallest approved buildings in Miami, and residential structures in the United States south of New York City at 828 ft (252.4 m), behind the Brickell Financial Centre II at 903 ft (275.2 m), which also hasn't broke ground. Both towers would also surpass the incumbent Four Seasons Hotel Miami. The Wells Fargo Center itself is currently the fifth tallest building in Miami and Florida at 647 ft (197.2 m).

The project has gained significant attention due to NBA star Shaquille O'Neal's involvement, by forming The O'Neal Group as a joint-venture with M. D. M. Development Group. The site where Metropolitan Miami is being developed was formerly surface parking, when the Royal Palm Hotel and grounds were destroyed in 1930.

In terms of land area, Miami is one of the smallest major cities in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, the city encompasses a total area of 55.27 sq mi. Of that area, 35.67 sq mi is land and 19.59 sq mi is water. That means Miami comprises over 400,000 people in a mere 35 square miles, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, along with New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago among others

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Flagler Street

Flagler Street is an east-west street that begins in Downtown in Miami in the Central Business District. It is the baseline that divides all the streets on the Miami-Dade County grid plan from north and south.

The 360' Miami-Dade County Courthouse was the tallest building in the State of Florida when it was completed in 1928.

Completed in 1939, the 260' Alfred I. DuPont Building is one of Miami's only Art Deco buildings that is over 20 floors.

Flagler Street is also home to the Galeria International Mall.  This center spans a city block with 80 stores and a food court featuring mainly Cuban and South American cuisine.

La Epoca- founded 1885 in Havana, Cuba began operations as a small fabric store on the streets of downtown Havana. In 1927, Diego Alonso and his brother Angel, both immigrants to the island from Spain, purchased the store with dreams of turning it into the premiere retail destination of Havana. La Epoca soon became incredibly successful and expanded rapidly from its original location.

In 1954, after the completion of a new building on the corner of Galiano and Neptuno Streets, La Epoca became the third largest department store in Havana, employing over 400 persons and spanning five floors on half a city block.
In 1960, the newly formed Castro government forcibly confiscated the store as part of its campaign to end private enterprise in Cuba. Having lost what he worked for, Diego Alonso relocated his family to Miami to start over again.

In 1965, La Epoca opened its doors again in downtown Miami at a small corner store in the Alfred I. DuPont Building. No stranger to ambition, Diego Alonso, along with his sons Tony and Pepe, once again set their sights on building one of the city's best retail businesses. The department store quickly expanded to nearly the entire ground floor of the building, including an upscale boutique for women and its own electronics store.
In 1992, the Alonso family purchased the historic Walgreen's building with a vision to move La Epoca to a new and better location. The six-floor, 50,000 square foot building, built 1936 in Art Deco style, is notable for being the third Walgreen's pharmacy location outside of Chicago.
On December 18, 2005, the Alonso family's dream was finally realized when La Epoca opened its doors for the first time at 200 East Flagler Street. This new store, covering three floors and nearly 24,000 square feet of the building, sets the tone for revitalization of Flagler Street in downtown Miami.

The 5.5-mile Miami River drains out of the Everglades and runs through the City of Miami and Downtown.

The Miami River has long been home to many small cargo terminals at which smaller ships (up to about 230 feet in length) call to load cargo, most of which is destined for ports in the Bahamas and various Caribbean nations. It is also an area into which all manner of contraband—illegal drugs, illegal aliens—has been discharged into the US. Because of continuing efforts by the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), DEA and other agencies, the illicit trade has been minimized in recent years.

Although the part of the river from Northwest 36th Street to its mouth is still polluted, this has been mitigated considerably by rigid enforcement of both international and US laws regarding discharge of oil and sewage by ships as well as of laws addressing industrial dumping. The muddy bottom, however, is still reported to contain undesirable substances in significant quantities.

In years past, many vessels docked in the river at the ends of their last voyages were abandoned and sank alongside the docks, creating eyesores and hazards to navigation. Those derelicts have been removed.

Invoking the authority of Port State Control, the US Coast Guard now vigorously enforces the many international and national regulations regarding safety equipment, construction, maintenance, and manning of ships entering all US ports including the Miami River, virtually eliminating the many dangerously substandard vessels that had sailed from the US in previous years.

In recent years, realizing they had common interests, various business entities along the river formed the Miami River Group. The group works closely with local law enforcement agencies, the US Coast Guard, ICE, and others to maintain clear channels of communication and cooperation. It now acts much as one port with numerous port facilities and support entities such as agents, surveyors, consultants, naval architects and engineers, and ship and machinery repair businesses.

Many of the ships sailing from the Miami River carry much needed cargo to ports in Haiti including Port-au-Prince, Miragoane, Cap-Haitien, Port-de-Paix, Saint-Marc, Gonaives, and Jacmel. Their cargo typically consist of dry foodstuffs such as beans and rice, canned goods, clothing, household goods and appliances, and used cars, trucks, and buses.

In times past, some of the cargo terminals on the river were areas of lawlessness. Law enforcement and regulatory agencies have eliminated most of that sort of activity. When the International Ship and Port Security Code and the U.S. Maritime Transportation Act of 2002 came into force (and in the prior runup) on July 1, 2004, most opportunities for crime were eliminated.

Some of the terminals and other business related to cargo shipping on the "lower end" of the river near downtown Miami have been eliminated or moved farther upstream because of illicit shipping activities. The "lower end" of the river has been the subject of much renovation and building of high rise offices, hotels, and living structures.

Brickell Financial District

Brickell lies south of the Miami River, extending south to SE 26th Road (the Rickenbacker Causeway), and is mostly mixed financial and residential north of Broadway (SW 15th Road), and mostly residential south of Broadway. Brickell is home to approximately 17,500 year-round residents. The area of Brickell south of Broadway and is mainly low and mid-rise residential buildings west of Brickell Avenue and high-rise residential to the east of Brickell Avenue. This area of Brickell includes the "Millionaires' Row" section of Brickell Avenue, home to many expensive residences, and home to many of Miami's most expensive apartments and condominiums, as well as some iconic Miami skyscrapers, such as the Atlantis Condominium.

Although Brickell has traditionally been known as a financial district, in recent years, construction of numerous condominium and apartment towers in Brickell, has extended the upscale residential neighborhood feel of lower Brickell into upper Brickell. Recent construction in Brickell has also enlarged the urban core of Brickell from Brickell Avenue west to the Metrorail line, with new office and residential towers, such as Axis at Brickell Village. Today, over 25,000 residents live in Brickell, among them the superstars José José and Luis Miguel.

At the center of Brickell is Mary Brickell Village, with an assortment of restaurants, boutiques, services that create a gathering area for high-class retail and restaurants. Some the best and most well-known names are leasing space in the project. The project is designed after a French style village and attracts social gathering and entertainment.

The Shops at Mary Brickell Village is a lifestyle center located in the Mary Brickell Village neighborhood of the Brickell district in Miami, Florida. It has become a very popular downtown destination, bringing new stores and eateries to the area. Although the center spans two blocks (9th and 10th Streets) of Miami Avenue, the nighttime crowds spread throughout Brickell from the center, most notably up and down Miami Avenue, where a large number of upscale bars and restaurants are located.

Mary Brickell Village is served by the Miami Metrorail at Brickell Station and by the Metromover.

Front: Espirito Santo Plaza is a 505-foot, 36-story skyscraper that was completed in 2004.  The building's architecture is based loosely on the Saint Louis Arch, of which its front facade loosely mimics.  One of Miami's common nicknames is "The Gateway to Latin America," which also closely resembles Saint Louis' nickname, "The Gateway to the West." It is said to welcome people to the United States as the arch welcomes people to the west.  Back:The 70 story, 789' Four Seasons Hotel and Tower is the tallest building in the state of Florida.  At the time of its completion in 2003, it was the tallest mixed use building in the U.S. south of New York City.

Brickell Financial Center is an under construction skyscraper office complex in the City of Miami, Florida, United States. It is located in Downtown's northern Brickell Financial District, on the corner of Brickell Avenue and Southeast 7th Street.

The complex contains the state of Florida's first building to be pre-certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It includes office space, a hotel, luxury condominiums and a public plaza. Brickell Financial Centre Phase I will be a 517 foot building with 40 floors, and is scheduled for completion in 2010. Brickell Financial Centre Phase II, scheduled for completion in 2011, will be the tallest building in Miami and Florida upon completion, at 903 feet. It will contain 68 floors.

Manhattanization is a neologism coined to describe the construction of many tall or densely situated buildings which transforms the appearance and character of a city. It was a pejorative word used by critics of the highrise buildings built in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s, who claimed the skyscrapers would block views of the surrounding hills. Recently, "Manhattanization" has been used to describe the recent real estate developments in Miami.

Article and photos by Ennis Davis