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Miami hopes to revive urban living

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Orlando Sentinel - 1/2/04

The city's attempt to lure people back to its core could hold lessons for similar efforts in Orlando.


Construction cranes just south of downtown Miami herald more than $1.8 billion worth of residential construction under way in the area.

Miami hopes to revive urban living

MIAMI -- Today, maybe 400 people live in downtown Miami's central business district, which bustles by day with the suit-and-tie crowd strolling to offices and shoppers browsing jewelry shops and electronic and discount stores.

By night, the workers and shoppers leave, turning the downtown core into a dead zone dotted with vacant parking lots. But fast forward to Miami's near future, and more than 12,000 people will call the area home.

As Orlando launches an ambitious redevelopment of its downtown, a glimpse of what the future may hold is just 250 miles down the road in Miami, albeit on a much larger scale.

Florida's most cosmopolitan city is experiencing an urban renaissance, putting it several years ahead of Orlando in luring back the essential ingredient for creating an inviting place to live: people.

In downtown Miami, residents will live in sleek towers rising at the mouth of the Miami River, in converted apartments in some of the city's oldest office buildings or lofts with open floor plans and concrete floors, all within walking distance of movie theaters, museums, concerts, Miami Heat games and waterfront parks.

Head north, past the $255 million performing-arts center under construction on Biscayne Boulevard, and nearly as many new residents will enjoy bay or city views from towers whose names evoke the edgy, artistic direction of this long-blighted uptown neighborhood: Blue. Platinum. Sky. Ice. Quantum.

Head south to Brickell Avenue, and the future already is bursting from the ground amid the banks and office towers in Miami's financial district. In just the four blocks near the new, 70-story Four Seasons Hotel & Tower, the tallest residential building in the Southeast, construction cranes herald the emergence of 2,500 new apartment or condo units.

Billions in construction

More than $1.8 billion worth of high-rises, midrises, apartments and lofts are under construction in the four-mile stretch encompassing downtown, the financial district and the Biscayne Boulevard corridor. At least $2.5 billion more is in the pipeline, with many plans including sidewalk caf

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I hope it works out. I love Miami.

Minneapolis is going through something similar, with a huge explosion of lofts, condos, etc being built downtown. We have about 24,000 people living DT and number will surely go up with the construction of two residental buildins, one is 25 stories, the other 40.

"It is a national trend," said John McIlwain, senior fellow for housing at the Urban Land Institute in Washington. "People are moving downtown because it's cool to live downtown."

That's definately true.

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Thanks for the rendering...That's the same tower, but a different rendering than I saw previously.

Hmm...$99,000...Those condos are pretty cheap by big city standards...

It's easy to find a one bedroom condo in Detroit for under $100k....I've seen them even lower than that before!

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The problem with "urban living" in Miami is that it's not really urban, or at least hasn't been to date. Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami is home to 1000s and 1000s of people in highrise condo towers. However, the sidewalks are hardly lined with continuous retail and bustling with activity outside business hours. The towers basically serve as mini-gated subdivisions, set well back from the sidewalk behind greenery with no (or little) retail. Instead of walking out the front door of their tower onto the sidewalk to do their shopping, the residents get in their cars and drive somewhere, just like suburbanites. I know there's a focus on creating a more urban environment with upcoming projects, but up until now, downtown Miami has been the classic case of how NOT to build downtown residential.

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Bringing people downtown will make Miami a much more lively city, no question about that. I like a lot of the new buildings and plans. However, since people like the sun, and it is a hallmark of Miami, too many highrises and the canyon effect they make seems like a pit fall they should be careful of. They should at least limit height near the beach where shadows ruin the whole beach experience.

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