Earlier this week, in a cringe-worthy turn of phrase The Miami Herald business section declared that Miami's Edgewater neighborhood is "located at the intersection of funky and trendy" after realizing, a few years too late, the neighborhood has experienced some classic gentrification. Of course, the Herald only bothered to get around to writing the story because developers are starting to build new luxury high-rise condos in the neighborhood. And whenever developers are involved, the Herald's instinct is to dutifully drop to its knees.
Bordered by Biscayne Bay and Biscayne Boulevard on the east and west and 36th and 17th streets to the north and south, Edgewater abuts the Design District and Wynwood and is just a five-minute jaunt to downtown and a short trip over the Julia Tuttle Causeway to South Beach. Unlike those neighborhoods, and despite its bayside status, Edgewater has been a bit slower in emerging from classic Miami '80s urban blight. Its relatively cheap rents (in aging buildings) and prime locations have made it a hot spot for younger people who live and play in the surrounding neighborhoods but can't quite afford the rent for at least another decade.
I have lived here for the past five years, and, as the Herald points out, it has continued along a path of gentrification toward a generally safer neighborhood.
One morning during the first few months I lived there, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I lived so close to Biscayne Bay. So I awoke early, walked to the end of my block, and gazed at the water for a while thinking it would rejuvenate me and bring some positive spiritual power to the beginning of my day. Instead, an old man began creepily chatting me up and wanted to take me fishing. After I refused, he cut to the chase and offered me $20 to let him blow me in his van. I refused both the offer and any instinct to return to the bay in the early hours ever again.
My car windows got smashed a couple of times. I started to shred things after I realized my trash would surely be rummaged through anytime I threw something out. I learned which people sleeping in doorways to avoid and which ones were generally harmless. During certain hours while walking home, I trained myself not to make eye contact with anyone walking on the street unless I wanted to be solicited for drugs or sex.
However, things are getting better. The crackhead couple who lived below me whose noisy fights almost inevitably spilled out into the street were evicted last year. No one messes with my car anymore. I haven't heard the guy who lives in the building behind me drunkingly yell at no one in particular for a while. The guy who lives in the building to the south has decided to shut his blinds and no longer attempts to make eye contact with me while I'm outside smoking a cigarette while he's masturbating. Family members from Boca and Naples are no longer terrified of visiting and staying the night.
Admittedly, by the time I moved here, change was already well underway, and it's not like crazy things don't happen in areas of neighborhoods like South Beach. But apparently both the character of the neighborhood and generally economic conditions have improved enough that developers have decided to move into Edgewater en masse.
The Herald identified nine high-rises in the area that are either recently completed, under construction, or planned. It points out that "the average sales price of condos built since 2003 soared to $454,317 in the first quarter of 2013 from $236,649 in 2009, at the depths of the downturn."
One developer says, "Edgewater has become one of the hippest, most chic places to live, driven by its proximity to the Design District and Midtown. It's a place people want to be." (Sure, if you consider Latin Café 2000 and that nice little Peruvian restaurant chic.)
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So the Herald's thesis on "real estate explosion" is pretty solid. What the paper doesn't mention, however, are the long-term effects of another building boom. Is Miami's economy creating enough jobs for people to be able to move into more luxury high-rises? (It's not.) How long can the real estate market be healthily buoyed by the foreign investors currently snapping up most of the condo units? What will become of the Cocodorm? To where exactly do current residents both pre- and mid-gentrification move as rents, even on older buildings, increase? In 15 years, will the Herald be declaring a gentrified Overtown Miami's hip new neighborhood when Related Group breaks ground on Icon Innercity? Or will it be at least 25 years and a few more real-estate busts before that ever happens?
Will the Herald ever write about real-estate trends that aren't de facto PR pieces for developers?
Of course, why would we expect such questions to be answered by an article whose lead sentence is "Driving the streets of Edgewater recently, Martin Melo eased the accelerator of his Porsche Panamera..."?