This past Saturday, Miami’s oldest bar, had its last call for drinks. After more than 100 hundred years in what used to be the Brickell neighborhood, it was forced to close by over-development and greed. It is a sad story. TOBACCO ROAD was more than a bar, it was a neighborhood institution, a casual restaurant that served excellent meals, provided a cozy spot to watch a game or enjoy happy hour with friends. It has the best live music shows in the area and we are going to miss it. At least those, like myself, who believe that a city should have neighborhoods.
Since moving to Miami over 11 years ago, I have witnessed the so called development of Miami’s downtown. Granted, this is not an old city. At just over 100 years old, it has nothing on Boston, New York or Chicago. Still, the quaint buildings that I so liked are mostly gone replaced by huge high risers that have made the area a maze without sun. There is construction everywhere and there is no end in sight.
In the process, the sense of neighborhood has been lost. The local businesses have been slowly replaced by chains or have closed down or lost their charm. Green areas are mostly gone and there are no parks. Bikes share the road with thousand of cars endangering both drivers and bikers. Crossing the street is scary and even walking on sidewalks is not pleasant.
Mansions along Brickell Avenue, the ones that were left, are quickly disappearing to give way to more condos. Who is going to live in all those apartments? Do developers really think the world is moving here? And where are all those people going to go with their cars? Is there a plan for public transportation? Replacing houses by apartment buildings has the double negative effect: it brings more cars into these areas and traps their toxic fumes in urban canyons. As it is, rush hour is a nightmare. There is no space to build new roads either.
In many studies on over-development and its impact on cities and people, getting rid of institutions that make a neighborhood is the biggest cause of the decline in the social lifestyle. Many health issues, such as noise and air pollution, a lack of diversity in the population should also be considered. Environmental concerns have to be taken seriously. Miami is on the water and on the path of hurricanes. Evacuating this area in case of a hurricane could prove a disaster of epic proportions. The East Coast of the US is sinking slowly because seas are rising. Miami is not immune to this phenomenon. There are no schools, no churches and no hospitals planned for this area. At least not yet and probably not enough to satisfy the amount of housing and business units being built.
The number of vacant units, and I see a lot from my balcony, will rise further as many approved permits are built and more projects are approved. Thousands of new units will be finished by the end of next year. The local government mistakenly assumes that it is only developers who bear the brunt of the risks. Consequently, these developers get a lot of breaks from the government. The people who live in the area and are being pushed out often do not get the same consideration. This is very disturbing.
I know this post is not something you would expect from my blog, but caring about where I live, caring about my neighborhood has made me think twice. I believe it’s about time that the people who live in the area has a say in the development. This is a new city and money comes here in abundance from Latin America and Europe. Planners should think twice about how to make this a living, breathing, socially diverse place where neighborhoods can thrive.