South Beach- Miami’s Urban and Architectural Gem

South Beach first started developing around the 1910s, due to the development of several founding fathers. It was the construction of the Collins Bridge in 1915 that really got the City’s development moving. Quickly the town of Miami Beach was incorporated in 1920, and a land boom ensued. This coincided well with the Art Deco styling of the 1930s and South Beach quickly saw the construction of hundreds of Art Deco hotels and apartment buildings. But in South Beach this styling took on the unique pastel color palette of South Florida. South Beach claims the world’s largest collection of Streamline Modern Art Deco architecture. By the 1950s South Beach was primarily a New York Jewish enclave and boasted a population of around 30K. Between the mid 60s and 80s South Beach slowly declined. Slowly drug traffic came into the City and accelerated the City’s decline. Fortunately a grouped of dedicated preservationist activist led by Barbara Baer Capitman saw organized to save the City’s Art Deco gems and managed to create several historic districts to preserve their future. This helped stabilize Miami Beach and elevate its popularity leading to significant investment into the City starting in the late 80s and early 90s. Lincoln Road (now a wonderful pedestrian mall) was also revitalized during this time period.

South Beach continued its revitalization through the 90s and 2000s and is now a national destination for cultural, nightlife, beaches, and architecture. But thanks to its great urban bones it’s also Miami’s best urban environment boasting good density, great walkability, several attractive business districts, and has retained a good amount of affordable and moderately housing thanks to the plethora of small condos and many affordable housing developments run by the local Housing Authority. Areas to improve for South Beach include the continued construction of more affordable housing options as prices continue to rise. There is also need for more schools, quality urban infill along the Alton and 5th Ave corridors, and more family friendly amenities.

Click here to view my South Beach Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great Density at 20K per mile, but actually the 3rd most dense neighborhood in Miami.
* Good but not great access to Dwtn. The island really make a difference.
* Great bike infrastructure with plenty dedicated bike lanes and bike stations.
* Very diverse economically (somewhat surprisingly), and good racial diversity.
* Good number of affordable hsg in Miami Beach thanks to having their own Housing Authority.
* Lots of small and medium size parks providing residents with very convenient access to park amenities. Lummus Park and Flamingo are larger.
* Cultural amenities include tons of restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, there are also several breweries, several movie theaters, a full cineplex, and performing art theaters. There are also lots of art galleries, several live music venues, and lots of museums. This is one of the best night life spots in America.
* Excellent historic architecture including 20s Mediterranean, Art Deco, and Art Modern.
* In-fill is generally a high quality except for a couple auto centric spots around Alton Rd.
* ADA curbs and infrastructure is generally good but a good # of older curbs without modern ADA standards.
* Urban massing is generally very good in the biz districts of Collins, the 16th Street (ped. street), Ocean Dr., Washington Street, and 5th St.. Alton is a mixed bag.
* Great retail amenities including 7-8 supermarkets, a target, numerous drug stores, a hardware store, a Macy’s, Marshall’s, all kinds of clothing stores, a decent # of boutiques, banks, tons of gyms and dessert joints, a couple bookstores, several home good stores, a couple post offices & public library, and several medical centers but no walkable hospital.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* 3-4 public schools generally well rate and a couple Hebrew schools.
* Rentals are expensive but more moderate than other parts of Miami. Studios lease in the mid 1Ks-low 2Ks, 1-beds in the 2Ks & 3Ks, most 2-beds are 2.5K-5K but plenty more expensive, 3-beds are most 10K+ but some in the 3-5K range.
* Hsg is pretty pricy but lots of inexpensive condos. Most studios sell btwn 100K-300K, 1-beds cons sell anywhere btwn 150K-600K, great variety in 2-beds condos btwn 200K-1M. Some luxury condos selling in the multi-millions. 3-beds most sell btwn 500K and the low 1Ms. Some btwn 300K-500K and plenty above 1.5M. 4 & 5 beds sell in the Millions.
* Generally safe but a good # of petty thefts.

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