España 2020 Ineffable Miami: Downtown Miami by Monserrat Garcia

BIOGRAPHY

My name is Monserrat Garcia. I am a senior at Florida International University. Majoring in Political Science, I hope to one day go to law school and advocate on behalf of those who need a voice in the court of law.

Living in Miami my whole life has exposed me to the various cultures of the residents who reside in the different neighborhoods of the city. Being raised by a family that immigrated from Nicaragua at times was difficult, but the diversity in the city and a large Hispanic community always helped me and my family feel at home. Each section of Miami differs from one another. It differs in the residents that reside, the restaurants, businesses, and landmarks that are found in each section of Miami. Downtown Miami is considered to be the NYC of Miami. It is the part of Miami that offers the lifestyle of a big city while being just steps from the beach.

GEOGRAPHY

Downtown Miami is located on the east coast of South Florida. Formally known as the “Central Business District,” the region of Downtown Miami is bound by NE 6th street to the north, Biscayne Bay to the east, and the Miami River by the west and south, as can be seen in the map above. Covering an area of about 2.116 mi², this urban neighborhood is one of the smallest neighborhoods in Miami.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Currently, Downtown Miami is documented to have a population of about 66,769. When compared to the populations of other neighborhoods in Miami, like Kendall (75,371), Homestead (70,477), and Miami Beach (91,718) one can argue that Downtown Miami has a substantially lower population that its neighborhood counterparts. However, despite its smaller community Downtown Miami continues to be one of the most visited neighborhoods in Miami.

A great number of buildings in Downtown Miami are law offices, banks, and large-scale companies. Given its touristic attractions, many of the people who are found walking the streets of the neighborhood are visitors. Despite not starting like this, from its establishment, the small neighborhood of Downtown Miami has grown into a very prominent area.

HISTORY

Image of the Florida East Coast Railway in Downtown Miami taken from the Florida Photographic Archives/ CC by 1.0

Of all the neighborhoods in Miami, Downtown Miami is rich in history and culture dating back to its establishment in 1895. At this time the Florida State Census conducted its regular collection of data and found just nine settlers living along the Miami River. About a year later the railroad entered the city of Miami, courtesy of Henry Flager. This introduction of technology and transportation along with hotels in the area leads to an economical and touristic boom.

Upon entering the 20th century Downtown Miami’s population grew from around 5,000 to 30,000 residents. The city began to expand and the architecture of the city shifted from a more classical approach to an Art Deco style. Despite its increasing popularity in the early 20th century the neighborhood of Downtown Miami hit a roadblock in the 1960s. The 60s were a time where citizens all across America shifted perspectives and became interested in living in a cookie-cutter suburban home rather than in an apartment in a big city. Due to this shift in perspective the popularity of Downtown substantially decreased. After years passed by business owners began to invest in this neighborhood and opened several shopping plazas and business attractions. The coming of these businesses caught the interest of several tourists and have maintained the popularity of the neighborhood ever since.

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS

Back in the 1800s the majority of Downtown Miami’s population were European settlers who had come from countries like Spain and France. Much of the history and traditions of these settlers in housed in buildings such as the Freedom Tower and the Historic Gesú Catholic Church.

The Gesú Catholic Church was the first Catholic church in all of Miami. It was first established din 1567 by missionaries who came from Spain to spread their religion and influence the natives of Miami. Since its establishment this church has been a pillar to the Catholic community in Miami and has promoted the spread of the Spanish culture and the Catholic religion.

Image of an exhibit taken during a visit of the Freedom Tower.

The “ElLis Island” of South Florida

Another historic landmark that can be found in Downtown Miami is the Freedom Tower. Today, the freedom tower serves as a museum that houses ancient artifacts dating back to the 16th century. This museum aims to accurately tell the history of Miami and the influence that European settlers had on the city as a whole.

Years before the museum was was established the Freedom Tower played a big role in helping Cuban immigrants who seeked political refugee from Fidel Castro’s regime. In 1962 the U.S. government gained control of the tower. Millions of refugees were processed and registered in the Freedom Tower. Several programs operated from the Freedom Tower to assist Cuban refugees and give them political asylum. The program known as the “Peter Pan” program which focused on bringing only children under the age of 18 into the United States also operated from this tower, making Downtown Miami one of Miami’s most culturally enriched neighborhoods.

TOURISM

Aside from being rich in history, Downtown Miami is also known for its countless attractions. Millions of tourist throughout the year are drawn to visit Downtown Miami and its museums, theaters, and shopping plazas.

Of the numerous museums in Downtown Miami, the PAMM (Pérez Art Museum Miami) is distinguished for its modern and contemporary display of art. PAMM is located adjacent to American Airlines Arena and across the Freedom Tower. This museum is a must go to if you are a lover of abstract and digital artistic compositions. Upon entering the premise of museum one is greeted by multiple sculptures, aside from being an indoor museum PAMM also offers a “sculpture garden.” This sculpture garden can be found all around the museum and the park located next to the museum. Due to its outdoor location, the sculpture garden is a perfect way to enjoy colorful and interactive artwork while enjoying amiable weather.

Another one of Downtown Miami’s famous attractions is the Adrienne Arsht Center. This attraction is located in the Cultural Corridor (1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33132). The Arsht Center allows is visitors to sit and enjoy broadway shows, ballet performances, operas, and other live performances. This center is compromised of four different stages and theaters—the Ziff Ballet Opera House, Knight Concert Hall, Carnival Studio Theater, and the Thomson Plaza for the Arts. Living in Miami, I have had the opportunity to go to multiple shows and orchestra concerts at the Arsht Center. The Arsht Center is one of the many establishments in Downtown focused on promoting and expanding the culture of the city.

Besides its artistic attractions, Downtown Miami is also known for its outdoor shopping plazas. The Bayside Marketplace is an outdoor mall located on right on the water, with access to Biscayne Bay. This marketplace houses various stores, restaurants, and even lounges. On the weekends Bayside also offers live performances by local bands and artists. Given its location, Bayside has numerous fishing, cruises, and aqua tours that can be booked and taken from the marketplace.

BUSINESSES

Given its big city characteristics several shops, restaurants, and local businesses can be found on every street corner of the neighborhood. Taking a walk through one of the streets of Downtown one is bound to walk by at least three restaurants, two retail stores, and a couple of local shops.

In response to the booming tourism occurring in the neighborhood diverse restaurants serving all types of menus can be found in Downtown Miami. Restaurants and stores extend from relatively cheap to very pricey. In areas such as the Miami Design District high-end stores like Balenciaga and Celine can be found. However, other areas like the Miami Dade West Campus are surrounded with numerous cheap restaurants that offer a variety of delicious choices.

TRANSPORTATION

View of Downtown Miami from the Downtown Metro Mover

Unlike the other neighborhoods of Miami, transporting to and around Downtown Miami is very easy and cost-efficient. To get to Downtown Miami one can take the Metrorail, which extends from the Palmetto to Dadeland Mall. Once getting to Downtown Miami the neighborhood offers numerous free options of transportation.

Two of the most well-known options are the Metromover and the Downtown trolley. The Metro mover is a small electric self-driven train that takes people throughout the entire neighborhood. While the Downtown trolley is a bus that stops at several attractions and shopping plazas throughout the neighborhood. Due to its small size and business proximities, a lot of tourists and residents also decide to walk along the streets of Downtown.

LIFESTYLE

Living in Downtown Miami is to many considered to be living lavishly. Downtown Miami offers numerous apartments with great views and commodities. Of all the neighborhoods in Miami, Downtown Miami has the most “big city” characteristics. It’s a myriad of tall buildings all located within walking distance from each other lower the need for a car and allow its residents to enjoy the climate while they walk to their gym, grocery store, or local restaurant. About a week ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennefrey Sencí0n. Ms. Sencíon was a resident of Downtown Miami five years ago. In my interview I asked the following questions:

Question: Where exactly in Downtown Miami did you live? 
Answer: I lived in the apartment building One Miami, located on 355 S                      Biscayne Blvd.

Question: What was your overall experience as a resident of Downtown Miami? 
Answer: During the time that I lived there it was amazing. I was single and living on my own. The proximity from stores, restaurants, lounges to my home was very convenient. Living in downtown was very lively, the city hosted many events, which were open and sometimes even free for its residents. 

Question: Did living in an apartment building come with any inconveniences?
Answer: Yes it did.  traffic was pretty bad and when visitors came to the apartment it was very inconvenient.

Question: What was your favorite thing about living in Downtown Miami? 
Answer: As I mentioned earlier everything was located near each other, and my favorite part about living in Downtown was the "big city" feeling. I had lived in NYC before and this was the closest I could get to that in Miami.

Question: What made you move from Downtown Miami? 
Answer: Although I lived in Downtown Miami, I did not work there. The amount of traffic to get to and from Downtown was a big issue for me. After a couple of years of living there, I began dating my now husband. After some time, things began to get serious and I began to think about what it would be like to raise a child in my apartment. My husband and I came to a decision that we didn't want to raise our child there and we moved to a house in Doral. 

Question: How is your experience different living in Doral?  
Answer: Doral is more of a family setting, now that I have a child I enjoy living a slower lifestyle, having a backyard for my kid to run around, and a bigger space overall to live. 

From my interview with Jennefrey Sencíon I learned about the lifestyle that Downtown Miami has to offer and the benefits and disadvantages that can come from living there. At times it can inconvenient to receive visitors, given that most apartment buildings require you to pay to park, and at times the attractions and business in this area can be convenient. Overall, Ms. Sencíon feels very lucky to have lived there and really enjoyed the years she spent in Downtown Miami as a young adult. Although everyone has a different taste my interview speaks about things that are all true of Downtown.

SUMMARY

Downtown Miami is 2.116 mi² full of culture, entertainment, and history. From its first nine residents to now its sixty-six thousand, the small neighborhood of Downtown Miami has come a long way. It’s shopping plazas, countless museums, and diverse restaurants are the heart and soul of this prominent neighborhood. For those who wish to enjoy pleasant weather, partake in fun activities, and gain insight to the history of Miami, Downtown Miami is the place to go.

REFRENCES

“Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Downtown Miami Area/Brickell Area, FL.” In Downtown Miami Area/Brickell Area, FL, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/thing-to-do/arts-culture/adrienne-arsht-center-for-the-performing-arts-of-miami-dade-county/3269.

Castillo, Amaris. “The History of the Tower Known as the ‘Ellis Island of the South.’” Remezcla, 17 Mar. 2020, remezcla.com/features/culture/freedom-tower-miami-ellis-island-of-the-south-history/.

“Downtown Miami.” Flashback Miami, 23 Dec. 2015, flashbackmiami.com/2014/07/02/downtown-miami/.

“Downtown Miami’s Historic Center.” Downtown Miami’s Historic Center, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/downtown-miami-s-historic-center.

“Gesù Church.” Gesù Church, gesuchurch.org/.

“Take a Trip through Time in Downtown Miami.” The New Tropic, 12 Jan. 2016, thenewtropic.com/downtown-miami-history/.

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