For those who follow tales of revival and turnaround stories, you will appreciate the story of Miami’s urban neighborhood revival like South Beach, Wynwood, Downtown and the Design District. Time Magazine published an article in 1981 called “Paradise Lost”. The magazine wasn’t short of material for its extensive story on the city’s woes. Since the 1970s what public relations people like to call the “Magic City” had been awash with cocaine and drug money.
Yet in a few years things gradually began to improve. A key factor was the crackdown on drug smuggling through the Florida Straits, which drove away much of the drug business. South Beach, which in the 1980s was an area with serious crime and low rent housing, was transformed among other things by a movement to restore the decaying Art Deco structures along the beach. Glamour quickly replaced grit in a peculiar form of gentrification, one centered around young singles rather than upwardly mobile families.
Miami proved its paradise once lost could be found again. It took both a defensive measure to crack down on the ills the plagued the historic areas as well as an offensive approach to bring an appreciation of the area’s history and architecture and the little known subliminal sociological driver call urban planning.
Cities are in a constant state of change. Paradise is as much a reflection of an attitude of the people as it is a natural setting. The challenge for any return to paradise isn’t that an area needs cleaning and polishing…it is convincing the people that there is real value underneath the mess and that it deserves the TLC, investment in renovation and capital to build new creative structures.
The point is that some of us live with perceptions of old articles. Miami didn’t allow their community to be a place where paradise was lost. Miami is by no means a place for me, but the Miami of 1981 is not the Miami it is today. The community has changed, fought both negative actions and perceptions. They began to embrace neighborhood revival tools. The city became a place that plans, invests and builds or renovates around the idea of villages. This passion to change has served them well and they are on the way back to the paradise that Henry Flagler discovered back in the late 1800’s.