For what has seemed like more years than not, Biscayne Boulevard, Miami's main drag, has been very much a drag. Running from downtown all the way north to the county line, it's choked with traffic; blighted by rundown office buildings, shops, and motels; plagued with drug dealers and hookers. It appeared to be a hopeless case.
But the Boulevard (right, in better days) hadn't always been in such despair and disrepair. Back in the 1950s and '60s, those office buildings were buzzing with business. Storefronts were filled with more than just hokey dollar merchandise. And motels were sparkling clean invitations for families on road trips to pull their big gas-guzzling cars right up to the door and stay awhile. On what is now the site of the Omni, a popular movie theater called the Mayfair showed foreign films to appreciative audiences, and nearby vibrant nightclubs and bars such as Les Violins and Club Bali catered to diners, drinkers, and dancers.
Now the sad street is in the throes of a renaissance spurred on by the promise of the Performing Arts Center of Miami, rising on unlucky 13th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. The Biscayne Corridor, as some call it, is the path to once-shabby/now-ritzy neighborhoods such as Morningside and Belle Meade. Condominiums are sprouting up left and right. Eateries and stores are rushing to be first on the block to capitalize on the incoming wave of residents. Undesirable folks are being gentrified out of their hangouts. It's a whole new world!
Who better to explain the changes around us than Miami Dade College professor/local history treasure trove Paul George. His Heart of Miami: Biscayne Boulevard Walking Tour, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, might answer all your questions. Among the topics George plans to cover: Miami pioneers, the city's first port and train station, and the hulking building that houses the Miami Herald (Hey, don't forget us, Paul, we're on the boulevard too!). Meet at the Freedom Tower (once the Miami News building), 600 Biscayne Blvd. Admission is $20. Call 305-375-1621. -- Nina Korman
Some call it the ultimate catalyst for indelible change in the priorities of our government, a day when leaders proved what they'd been appointed for in the first place, under the most dire circumstances. Others say it has been reduced to a grossly exploited symbol meant to manipulate heart and purse strings, and stoke the fires of fear that still burn in our society. Discover more about 9/11 and the presidential election in the first of five events sponsored by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. This discussion is part of the University of Miami's Celebration of American Democracy and Diversity, a slew of events preceding the first presidential debate, to be held on campus on Thursday, September 30. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) moderates a panel that features Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Jack Watson Jr., chief of staff for President Carter, and Bill Fox, director of the financial crimes enforcement network of the U.S. Treasury. The event begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Bill Cosford Cinema, 1111 Memorial Dr., Memorial Bldg., second floor, Coral Gables. Admission is free. Visit www.miami.edu/debate04/debatecalendar.html or call 305-284-1870. -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
Reader, heal thyself
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus; Men who Love Women who Hate Women who Love Men; The Peter Pan Syndrome; The Mickey Mouse Mistake. Sound like the kind of library of self-help books you'd love to have but could never afford to amass? Then you should have been friends with Alfred Silverberg. More than 1000 books from his private collection have been donated to the Center for Positive Connections (12570 NE Seventh Ave., North Miami), a nine-year-old nonprofit group devoted to HIV/AIDS service. A quiet room at the center has been dedicated to housing the books and providing a reading area for clients (or maybe potential volunteers like you). Celebrate the big donation (and bring along some similar tomes you'd like to give away) during a ribbon cutting/dedication party, complete with refreshments and QXCI biofeedback sessions (by appointment), from 6:00 to 10:00 tonight. Admission is free. Call 305-891-2066 to RSVP or firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Nina Korman
Unless you're in the medical profession or you're the owner of a pharmaceutical company, there's not a damn thing you can do to save lives from heart disease and stroke, right? Well, that's the kind of negative, self-defeatist thinking that keeps those diseases America's number 1 and number 3 killers, people. Be a part of the solution and join the eleventh annual Miami-Dade County Heart Walk. This year 750,000 walkers will participate in more than 600 fundraising events across the country. The American Heart Association is on a mission to reduce the disability and death stemming from what is most often a totally preventable, acute combination of ignorance, good old American unhealthy eating, and a slothful lifestyle. Money raised at this year's Heart Walk will be used to fund research and educational programs about cardiovascular health. The fun starts at 7:30 a.m. at Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove. Visit http://heartwalk.kintera.org to sign up or simply to donate. Call 305-856-1449, or email MiamiHeartWalk@heart.org. -- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik