Downtown Miami: The Comeback Kid

by Kevin Gale | Editor
May 27, 2011, 12:32pm EDT

It seems like downtown Miami was a national poster child for overdevelopment just a few months ago, but now a flood of development plans is sweeping into the area.

The latest capper is Genting Group's plans for a sprawling hotel, convention, entertainment, restaurant, retail, residential and commercial complex on 14 acres along Biscayne Bay where the Miami Herald is headquartered. It promises to bring a heavy dose of South Beach glitz to the mainland, perhaps even with a casino.

Three years ago, I did a walking tour of Miami's bayfront area and critqued some of its design issues, comparing it to what Chicago has accomplished with projects such as Millennium Park. Now, the morning after the Heat vanquished the Bulls, I can tick off a checklist of accomplishments, deals and plans in the Magic City:

  • A Bayfront Park bolstered with a new canopy of trees.
  • A refurbished concert amphitheater in the park.
  • An arena with a team playing in the NBA Finals, instead of finishing with one of the worst records in the league.
  • A stalled development deal at the Herald site resurrected at a $236 million price that's reminiscent of the past boom era.
  • The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts firmly established as the winter home of the Cleveland Symphony, and well past its financially shaky start.
  • The wasteland known as Bicentennial Park, which is that dark blob just north of the American Airlines Arena in aerials shots during the Heat games, being transformed into Museum Park. Philanthropist Phillip Frost and his wife pledged $35 million for the $265 million Miami Science Museum, which reminds me of how Chicago got its big corporate citizens to help pay for Millennium Park.
  • The potential for redevelopment of the Omni Center and Hilton Downtown Miami after a joint venture among the Related Group, Tate Capital Real Estate Solutions and ROK Acquisitions cut a deal for the property's $100 million promissory note. Like the Herald site, the Omni site is 14 acres.

Further north, the Design District, Wynwood and Midtown Miami continue to have developments, too – something I blogged about last week.

The Miami area still has challenges, such as unemployment, but all of this signals a brighter future ahead.