So, now that we agree on that: get people thinking about what makes a great neighborhood. I also had to laugh because I couldn't think of a great block in Miami, the place I've lived for 20 years. A great block depends on a dense urban fabric. We don't do that in Miami.
Moreover, a great block doesn't stand alone. It depends on context within the urban fabric. That context -- and one Miami doesn't have -- features public spaces like pocket parks where people go to get relief from the "great block". We used to know that sort of thing, but we forgot it when we became rich building strip malls and low density scatter/sprawl and dependent on the automobile.
And that is where I have to cry. The reasons we don't have great blocks in Miami is the same reason we can't prosecute Congressman David Rivera for clearly running a Ponzi scheme out of his back political pocket: laws that sound like they do the right thing -- on zoning, permitting and development -- are designed to fail just like the campaign finance laws that should put Rivera and the other scammers in jail. In point of fact, the Florida legislature -- run by Rivera's cronies from Miami-Dade -- just eviscerated state planning authority for growth management. What's left? The Great Block Contest?
On this point, The Miami Herald is complicit: over the years, the newspaper has favored growth-at-any-cost and these massive, monstrous civic buildings like the Performing Arsht Center, Marlin's Stadium, and the Jorge Perez Museum of Vanity that impose billion dollar liabilities without any urban context. You can't create a city through the back door and for trying, you shouldn't vest a single share of McClatchy stock.
The last city I visited that had great blocks was Havana. That is why I had to rub my eyes when I saw Jorge Perez in Havana recently. If there is a God, please don't let Miami developers and builders ever have the run of Havana like they did, here!
Well. Back to the "great block" contest. I think in the late 1980's Lincoln Road used to have sort of/ better kinds of blocks before the mass merchandisers took over. No pocket parks though. The Miami River could have had great blocks. I once tried to talk to Art Teele about that, when he was chairman of the county commission. That was a short conversation. Then, speculators like Jorge Perez got hold of the river. Miracle Mile in Coral Gables has potential for great blocks. I always thought that Main Street in Homestead had potential but that was wasted, too. I'll tell you where there was a great block: it was in Key West when I moved there in 1988 down by the then Waterfront Market on Caroline Street with a modest restaurant, Pepes, and hardware store and the harbor beyond. If you want to see how to wreck a great block, take a look at it today.
This is the point about South Florida (also chewed over in yesterday's post about the Miami City Ballet): we value the wrong things, here, or destroy things of value as a routine matter of privatizing profit and socializing risk. But what the hell, In the massive transformation of the South Florida economy through sea level rise, we might as well give it a good try. What's your best block?