Best Of :: People & Places
BEST RENOVATION Hotel Victor 1144 Ocean Drive
www.hotelvictorsouthbeach.com His name is Victor. He'd been big on the scene for a number of years but then fell on hard times. The last anybody saw of him, he was no more than a gutter punk, a bum surrounded by lowlifes and scum. For a while he was managing, just barely, to remain standing by loitering near the classy people. Not that they were any better, just rich and connected. Still everyone knew he was no more than a con man -- a big phony. Until a couple of years ago, when lady luck finally smiled on Victor. He got a job with the Hyatt hotel company and now oversees 91 opulent rooms and bungalows across the street from one of the world's most fabulous beaches. And not just any opulent hotel rooms, either. Developer Steve Patterson, CEO of ZOM, gave Victor the go-ahead to splurge on the last great piece of underutilized real estate on Ocean Drive. The Deco/Asian feel of L. Murray Dixon's 1937 design remains intact but is enhanced by a sophisticated modern look created by Parisian decorator Jacques Garcia. There's a new pool, European spa, Turkish bath, and entirely new wing, as well as top-quality food and entertainment. That lucky bum.
BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WHILE INTOXICATED Beer Pong Hooligan´s Pub & Oyster Bar
9555 S. Dixie Highway
www.hooliganspub.com Every Thursday night at 9:00 Hooligan's offers a chance for everyone (yes, the distaff included) to get their balls wet. On one of the Ping-Pong tables brought into the pub for this event, each contestant is required to arrange ten cups of beer (sort of like bowling pins). Opponents then get on either side and attempt to bounce a table-tennis ball into the other team's hops. Each time a player scores, the other team must drink. Because a person has to be pretty much drunk before indulging in such a game, a few misses are to be expected. This makes it even more fun, seeing as the ball will no doubt end up landing on the grimy floor a few times before plopping into its intended target. The object is to make the opposing side drink all ten cups of beer -- including any carpet lint, dust, and other fluff. Yummy.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL EYESORE Miami Herald Building 1 Herald Plaza
Miami Plans for construction were announced in 1958, and before you could say Ugh! the views of Biscayne Bay from Overtown and the MacArthur Causeway were obliterated by this squat, hulking orange monument to stifled imagination. Clearly it was at the vanguard of a style (American Utilitarian?) that would inspire for decades to come the builders of high schools and inner-city housing projects. This is no Tribune Tower in Chicago, an Art Deco ode to that city's daily paper. Nor is it the stately neo-gothic 43rd Street headquarters of The New York Times. It's not even the Freedom Tower just down the road, for many years the distinctive home of the Miami News. This is just a generic orange splat gobbling up our precious waterfront. But there's hope on the horizon. This past March the Terra Group bought the building and the property for $190 million. Terra hasn't announced plans to raze the structure, at least not anytime soon. But one can always hope.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL INCONGRUITY Sears Tower vs. Miami Performing Arts Center Biscayne Boulevard at Thirteenth Street
Miami Amid the grandiose high-rise redevelopment of Miami's downtown, the proud old Sears Tower stands nested within the new performing arts center. The 1929 Art Deco masterpiece once anchored a much larger building and served as a kind of beacon that drew Miami's commercial activity northward from the city center. In a way, it is encoring that role today, as it softens and adds warmth to Cesar Pelli's hard-edged design for a huge (and hugely expensive) facility that, it is hoped, will attract new life to a long-neglected part of the city. Today the tower is overshadowed by the cool glass façade of the incipient new opera house. One is half-demolished, one is half-finished. Awkward neighbors, they both await uncertain futures.
BEST AUDIO TOUR Adam Curry's podcast from South Beach http://radio.weblogs.com/0001014/ categories/dailySourceCode/2005/ 01/07.html#a6993 So you've finally set up your blog. That's sooooo 2004. Goodness, you should already be podcasting for your cyber creds. Podcasting is the new blog, but think of it more as radio broadcasting available from the Internet that you save to your personal MP3 and play when you want to hear it. Podcasts are nowhere as slick or commercial as typical radio talk shows, but there's complete freedom of content and language, and anybody -- absolutely everybody -- can create a podcast with simple equipment and software. They are strangely alluring. There's a bit of voyeurism, a bit of old-time radio-show quaintness, and lots of hilarious and shocking moments that never, ever happen on broadcast radio. Anything still goes in cyberspace. One of the major players is Adam Curry. Yeah, that blond dude from MTV. As well as being instrumental in podcasting's development and promotion, he also yammers on his popular Daily Source Code show. The episode linked above is particularly good. Curry takes listeners on a "sound-seeing" tour of South Beach. Typical sounds of the neighborhood waft by like effects from an old-time radio drama. He speaks to colorful locals and wanders around, describing everything he sees. Curry also explains some of the concepts and technology involved in creating his show. It's as much a learning experience as it is entertainment. Podcasting may still be in its infancy, but the buzz in the industry is that it will shatter radio as we know it.
BEST BOONDOGGLE Citizens' Independent Transportation Trust The People's Transportation Plan, approved by Miami-Dade voters in 2002, was supposed to deliver on a lot of promises in exchange for a half-penny surtax. Key to the measure's passage was the Citizens Independent Transportation Trust. The original idea was that the trust would have real autonomy and teeth to oversee disbursement of the $15 billion the tax would generate. But almost immediately county commissioners moved in to play dentist. As the CITT's powers were steadily extracted, the trust began to bleed members. So desperate is it to fill vacancies that it has been advertising for prospective new members since the middle of last year. Plainly obvious to all is that the PTP, despite its billions, will be unable to make good on its biggest promises (mostly the ones involving Metrorail extensions) and that the CITT is making a chump of every person who believed the hype and voted to increase the county's sales tax.