Throw away the popular images of bikini-clad women, sparkling blue waters and Miami dolphins—both sea mammals and football players. The metropolitan area of Miami, with tentacle causeways connecting it to Miami Beach, is in the middle of a renaissance that is more about design, culture, fashion, dining and reimagined communities than glitzy beach chic. Don’t fret: South Beach’s pulse is still going strong, but urban energies have emerged that are turning old, underdeveloped and even redlight districts into star neighborhoods.
Urban Sophisticated - Downtown
Life revolves around the water in Downtown Miami. When the land skirting Biscayne Bay was developed with towers for international bank headquarters and luxury condos, developers looked to the river. Today, the construction cranes that caused recent gridlock are gone and the cityscape glistens like Emerald City. Not too long ago, the waterway weaving through downtown was known more for its junk-hauling cargo vessels than Philippe Starck-designed condos like the Icon Brickell.
“People are finally living in downtown,” says Josie Correa, the executive director of Downtown Miami Partnership who has worked in the area for 20 years. Remembering the tumbleweeds and vagrants who once roamed here, Correa excitedly talks about the young mothers pushing Bugaboos and coeds logging on to their MacBooks at neighborhood coffee shops. People who work downtown don’t seem to rush home so quickly anymore. Mary Brickell Village is a popular place with the business crowd, and on any Thursday evening you’ll find suits and high-heeled ladies sipping margaritas at Rosa Mexicana. Head over to CVI.CHE 105, a chic Peruvian restaurant where colorful South American art contrasts with a sleek white décor to make a hip statement. Owner and area resident Juan Chipoco won’t hold back on why he lives here. “I love downtown. It’s real life. It’s action. It’s business.”
Also injecting new life are cultural centers like the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, which opened its doors in 2006 and helped create downtown’s Media and Entertainment District. A few blocks away on Biscayne Boulevard are more crystalline towers with names like 800 Biscayne Plaza and Ten Museum Park. Margaret Lake, who moved to downtown from Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2007 has witnessed the rapid evolution, counting 27 new buildings. As for the price of one of these abodes, a one-bedroom, one-bath condo steps from the Arsht goes for $299,000, a four-bedroom, 4½-bath, three-story penthouse for $2,625,900.
“It’s amazing to live in the center of a metro area that is growing,” says Lake. “Besides, you know it’s changing when people start complaining about parking.”
Explore + Downtown
- Stay: Epic Hotel on the Miami River blends a sobe vibe with business sophistication. Rooms in the tower have amazing views of Biscayne Bay, the river and Brickell Avenue. epicmiami.com
- Play: Visit the historic Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, a crown jewel of Florida’s atmospheric theaters, for a tour or show. gusmancenter.org