Anthony Mena is a senior at Florida International University double majoring in History and International Relations. He is interested in 18th-century European history and the history of political movements. He plans on attending law school in 2021.
Brickell is located south of Downtown Miami and the Miami River. It is bordered by the Miami South Channel in the east and Little Havana in the west. Extending south to the Rickenbacker Causeway, it is also closely linked to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Brickell is divided into three sub districts: West Brickell, a primarily residential district. South Brickell, which borders Biscayne Bay and the Financial District, the most recognizable area and the location of Brickell’s large financial industry.
William Brickell and his wife Marry are two of Miami’s earliest founders and it is their name that the area of Brickell now bears. Originally from Ohio, William had moved to Australia in search of gold during a gold rush period, which were common throughout the century. Here, William met Marry and the two eventually moved back to America. Once in America, they opened up a successful wholesale grocery business in Cleveland but wished to move somewhere with a warmer climate. Eventually they would select Florida as their new home.
In 1871 William purchased 2,507.83 acres of land in what was then undeveloped and swampy land and relocated his family to South Florida. Once in South Florida, he built a house in what is now Brickell Point and shorty after his wife and children joined him. According to The New Tropic this was a particulary dangerous move, as not only was the area still largely undeveloped but there had been three massacres of white settlers by Native Americans in the area. Of course, these deaths while obviously a tragedy, must be put in historical context. After widespread genocide of Native Americans by both the U.S army and white settlers in Florida, prejudice and violence against further settlers could not come as a surprise. However, the Brickell family seems to have been successful in fostering positive relations with the natives in the area and even established a successful trading system.
Eventually, Henry Flagger’s railroad would reach South Florida with land gifts by both the Brickells and Julia Tuttle, the famous founder of Miami. With the railroad came growth and expansion and new, rich settlers began to move in. Mary, who had inherited control of the properties after her husband’s death began to sell land to these rich settlers and the houses built would eventually become known as Millionaire’s Row. Once such house is that of three times presidential candidate William Jennings Bryant, whose mansion is pictured below.
Growth continued throughout the 20th century but beginning in the second half of the century, Brickell’s growth began to be dominated by the emergence of office towers, apartments and hotels rather than mansions. Thus, Brickell, although still a neighborhood for the rich is know recognized more for its skyscrapers, hotels and apartments than the historic mansions that originally made up and defined it.
The demographics of Brickell are as follows:
The total number of residents living in Brickell are 27, 776 according to the 2010 census. The number is likely to have grown over the past decade. The racial makeup of the neighborhood is 62% Hispanic of any race, 33% white, 1.6% Asian and 1.4% black. Brickell has one of the highest average household income, at $125,000 it is more than twice the average for the city of Miami.
Comments on demographics:
Demographics alone cannot serve to tell the story of Miami however, nor that of Brickell. It is important to remember that much of the growth in the city of Miami happened during a period of segregation. Many Americans mistakenly believe that segregation was limited to the discriminatory practices commonly portrayed in the media such as separate drinking fountains and schools. Yet, the lack of African Americans in neighborhoods such as Brickell is not a coincidence. Rather, it is the result of both defacto and dejure racism that made property acquisition impossible for African Americans, particularly in valuable real-estate zones, like those in Brickell and surrounding areas. Legal historian Richard Rothstein discusses the racist and discriminatory housing laws that were prevalent throughout the United States in his book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America and mentions the city of Miami in particular. He points out how the city government established plans to designate areas for African Americans only and points out a quote from a Miami civic leader at the time, in which he stated that the policies were “chosen to remove the entire colored population from places that had been reserved for white occupancy”. Brickell, of course, was one of such places.
Racial discrimination is as much a part of Miami as are the beaches and the sun. The history of Miami’s neighborhoods is shaped and defined with legacies of racial discrimination, both at an individual and institutional level. In analyzing the wealth and racial makeups of particular areas, it is important to not take this data in isolation and realize the circumstances that have led to it. If we are to praise the beauty and wonders of our city, as will be the case in this very post, we must also be critical and reflecting. The story of Brickell is that of success, of innovation and of building but it is also one of inequality and disenfranchisement and that must be acknowledged.
The Panorama Tower deserves a spot as a key landmark of Brickell for the simple fact that is not only the tallest building in Miami, but in all of Florida. Construction on the tower began in 2013 and finished in 2018. The project is estimated to have cost around $800 million dollars and currently serves as a mixed used skyscraper with residential properties, hotel rooms and retail and office space. In 2011, Florida International University opened up campus space in the building and it is currently referred to as FIU Downtown on Brickell.
The Miami Circle
The Miami Circle is an archeological site in Brickell and of great historical importance. The circle is 38 feet in size and consists of 600 post molds, which are hole locations, which are found during archeological excavations and it is surrounded by smaller holes. As it stands currently, it seems to be the only evidence of permanent prehistoric structure in the Eastern United States. The site was discovered in 1998 where an apartment complex previously had been. The circle is classified as U.S national historic landmark and is in the U.S register of historic places.
Four Seasons Hotel Miami
The Four Seasons Hotel is a very recognizable landmark of Brickell. Previously the tallest building in the state and currently bested only by the Panorama Tower, its historical importance and imposing height makes it an important and easily recognizable building in Brickell. Being part of the Four Seasons Franchise, it is also one of the most luxurious hotels in the city and one of great tourist interest.
Brickell has multiple parks and green spaces for the general population to enjoy in an otherwise very urban area crowded with skyscrapers and heavily trafficked roads.
Brickell Key Park
Brickell Key Park is one of the most popular parks in the area and it is located outside the main neighborhood itself in the nearby Brickell Key. It is near the world-famous Mandarin Oriental Hotel and it consists of a small park near the waterfront with beautiful and scenic views. The park’s proximity to luxurious hotels and the ocean often makes it a popular tourist attraction. The park is also often used as a jogging location for those that wish to find a place to exercise within the city.
At 7.8 acres and in the mainland, Simpsons Park is significantly larger than Brickell Key park. This particular park also serves as a nature reserve and contains a wide variety of plants and other organisms. Much like Brickell Key, one can often find people jogging around the park. These parks are such popular running places because due to the high urban density and crowded streets, it is hard to find open spaces to run and exercise anywhere else.
Southside Park is yet another green park, this one a little more inland and further removed from the hotels and tourist destinations. It is a public park and it popular with dog owners and kids, as after school events are often held there.
American train infrastructure is extremely limited, particularly when compared to our European counterparts. Yet, the Metrorail provides a valuable opportunity to use efficient and budget friendly public transport. It is one of the few efficient ways to get around the city of Miami, including Brickell without having to rely on a car. The Metro is particularly useful for travel around the city as a whole, rather than just Brickell. Nevertheless, it remains an important and valuable method of transportation, particularly for those who are looking to be efficient in terms of both environmental and monetary cost.
Another efficient method of public transportation, the metro mover is particularly great for getting around Brickell and Downtown Miami as a whole. It is free to use, which makes an extremely attractive alternative to high costs of owning a car in the city and the high parking costs that come with owning a car in Downtown Miami. In order to avoid traffic and save a significant amount of money, the metro mover is the single best option for residents of the Downtown area.
Crazy About You
Crazy About You is a Spanish and American themed restaurant that has exploted in popularity in recent year. The restaurant is frequently attended by couples celebrating anniversaries or simply dates, but it also often visited by families as well. The restaurant’s menu includes a wide variety of dishes ranging from Churrasco to Tacos to Cauliflower Pizza. Whether due to the restaurant’s unique name or quality of the food, it cannot be denied that it has largely become one of the most famous restaurants in the city. This can also be largely due to its affordable prices despite its luxurious setting. In this regard, one can get an authentic Brickell experience at an affordable price.
The famous NAOE restaurant serves some of the best Japanese food in the city. Relatively exclusive and with required reservations, the restaurant feels intimate and authentic. The restaurant is rated as one of Miami’s best by Eater Miami and is a Forbes Travel Guide five-star restaurant. The international nature of the city makes NAOE feel like it truly belongs in Miami and Brickell.
Quinto La Huella
Another international themed restaurant, the diversity of food once again highlights the international nature of the city. This one is Uruguayan themed, bringing a bit of South American flavor to the city. With its beautiful decorations and deliciously cooked meat, the restaurant is renowned around the city and also considered one of the best by Eater Miami.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Miami
It is impossible to fully discuss Brickell without commenting on its extensive and growing hotel industry. At the forefront of this, stands the Mandarin Oriental. One of the most luxurious hotels in Brickell, it is also one of the most famous. Located in Brickell Key, its beautiful panoramic views of the city and sea, make a preferred choice for tourists around the world. It is also near the previously discussed Brickell Key Park, providing a nearby green space for running and relaxation.
Brickell City Centre
Costing a whooping $1.05 billion, the Brickell City Centre is a luxurious shopping center housing some of the most popular fashion and jewelry brands from around the world. It is one of the premier shopping locations for Brickell and it attracts thousands of tourists each day. The center also contains a variety of dining options and even has nearby residences.
Brickell is a beautiful and eccentric place. As one of the earliest neighborhoods of the city, it has a long history and decades of economic development. Its perfect location and beautiful scenery make it one of Miami’s most famous and most recognizable. With its imposing skyscrapers and general affluence, it is hard to not be awed at what stands before one’s eyes when one visits. The Panorama Tower, the hotels, the luxurious cars that pass by as one walks the streets, it perfectly encapsulates how one imagines America. As an immigrant to the country, I know it is how I imagined it. Yet, like everything, it must also be viewed with a critical eye. The neighborhood is largely a product of the contributions of thousands who are now overlooked by history. They are not the affluent residents of the city, but some of the original residents, African Americans and Caribbean immigrants who worked tirelessly to build the American dream for millionaires while they themselves suffered harsh conditions and racism. They suffered the indifference of a city and in the modern-day, Miami’s poor view Brickell as a stark reminder of the wealth inequality that exists within our country and city.
Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright Publishing Corporation, a Division of W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Nebhrajani, Roshan. “Who Were William and Mary Brickell?” The New Tropic, 22 Feb. 2016, thenewtropic.com/william-mary-brickell/.
“Population & Demographic Profile” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 20, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
“Demographics of Brickell Miami, FL”. city-data. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
“Four Seasons Hotel & Tower – The Skyscraper Center”. Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Tallest buildings in Miami” (pdf). Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
National Register of Historical Places – Florida (FL), Dade County”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-08-17.
Miami Circle®”. HistoryMiami. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
Langston, Angel (October 16, 2014). “PANORAMA TOWER: MIAMI’S FIRST EB-5 DESIGNATED DEVELOPMENT”. Florida East Coast Realty
Smith, Dara. “Where to Dine in Brickell: 15 Top Spots.” Eater Miami, Eater Miami, 27 June 2019, miami.eater.com/maps/brickell-dining-map-guide.