Miami Beach, FL Real Estate
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Miami Beach is a coastal resort city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It was incorporated on March 26, 1915. The municipality is located on natural and man-made barrier islands between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter of which separates the Beach from the mainland city of Miami. The neighborhood of South Beach, comprising the southernmost 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2) of Miami Beach, along with downtown Miami and the Port of Miami, collectively form the commercial center of South Florida. Miami Beach’s estimated population is 92,307 according to the most recent United States census estimates. Miami Beach is the 26th largest city in Florida based on official 2017 estimates from the US Census Bureau. It has been one of America’s pre-eminent beach resorts since the early 20th century.
Living in Miami Beach
In 1870, father and son Henry and Charles Lum purchased land on Miami Beach for 75 cents an acre. The first structure to be built on this uninhabited oceanfront was the Biscayne House of Refuge, constructed in 1876 by the United States Life-Saving Service through an executive order issued by President Ulysses S. Grant, at approximately 72nd Street. Its purpose was to provide food, water, and a return to civilization for people who were shipwrecked. The structure, which had fallen into disuse by the time the Life-Saving Service became the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, was destroyed in the 1926 Miami Hurricane and never rebuilt.
The next step in the development of the future Miami Beach was the planting of a coconut plantation along the shore in the 1880s by New Jersey entrepreneurs Ezra Osborn and Elnathan T. Field, but this was a failed venture. One of the investors in the project was agriculturist John S. Collins, who achieved success by buying out other partners and planting different crops, notably avocados, on the land that would later become Miami Beach. Meanwhile, across Biscayne Bay, the City of Miami was established in 1896 with the arrival of the railroad and developed further as a port when the shipping channel of Government Cut was created in 1905, cutting off Fisher Island from the south end of the Miami Beach peninsula.
Collins’ family members saw the potential in developing the beach as a resort. This effort got underway in the early years of the 20th century by the Collins/Pancoast family, the Lummus brothers (bankers from Miami), and Indianapolis entrepreneur Carl G. Fisher. Until then, the beach here was only the destination for day-trips by ferry from Miami, across the bay. By 1912, Collins and Pancoast were working together to clear the land, plant crops, supervise the construction of canals to get their avocado crop to market, and set up the Miami Beach Improvement Company. There were bathhouses and food stands, but no hotel until Brown’s Hotel was built in 1915 (still standing, at 112 Ocean Drive). Much of the interior landmass at that time was a tangled jungle of mangroves. Clearing it, deepening the channels and water bodies, and eliminating native growth almost everywhere in favor of landfill for development, was expensive. Once a 1600-acre, jungle-matted sand bar three miles out in the Atlantic, it grew to 2,800 acres when dredging and filling operations were completed.
With loans from the Lummus brothers, Collins had begun work on a 2½-mile-long wooden bridge, the world’s longest wooden bridge at the time, to connect the island to the mainland. When funds ran dry and construction work stalled, Indianapolis millionaire and recent Miami transplant Fisher intervened, providing the financing needed to complete the bridge the following year in return for a land swap deal. That transaction kicked off the island’s first real estate boom. Fisher helped by organizing an annual speed boat regatta, and by promoting Miami Beach as an Atlantic City-style playground and winter retreat for the wealthy. By 1915, Lummus, Collins, Pancoast, and Fisher were all living in mansions on the island, three hotels and two bathhouses had been erected, an aquarium built, and an 18-hole golf course landscaped.
The Town of Miami Beach was chartered on March 26, 1915; it grew to become a City in 1917. Even after the town was incorporated in 1915 under the name of Miami Beach, many visitors thought of the beach strip as Alton Beach, indicating just how well Fisher had advertised his interests there. The Lummus property was called Ocean Beach, with only the Collins interests previously referred to as Miami Beach.
Carl Fisher was the main promoter of Miami Beach’s development in the 1920s as the site for wealthy industrialists from the north and Midwest to and build their winter homes here. Many other Northerners were targeted to vacation on the island. To accommodate the wealthy tourists, several grand hotels were built, among them: The Flamingo Hotel, The Fleetwood Hotel, The Floridian, The Nautilus, and the Roney Plaza Hotel. In the 1920s, Fisher and others created much of Miami Beach as landfill by dredging Biscayne Bay; this man-made territory includes Star, Palm, and Hibiscus Islands, the Sunset Islands, much of Normandy Isle, and all of the Venetian Islands except Belle Isle. The Miami Beach peninsula became an island in April 1925 when Haulover Cut was opened, connecting the ocean to the bay, north of present-day Bal Harbour. The great 1926 Miami hurricane put an end to this prosperous era of the Florida Boom, but in the 1930s Miami Beach still attracted tourists, and investors constructed the mostly small-scale, stucco hotels and rooming houses, for seasonal rental, that comprise much of the present “Art Deco” historic district.
Carl Fisher brought Steve Hannagan to Miami Beach in 1925 as his chief publicist. Hannagan set-up the Miami Beach News Bureau and notified news editors that they could “Print anything you want about Miami Beach; just make sure you get our name right.” The News Bureau sent thousands of pictures of bathing beauties and press releases to columnists like Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan. One of Hannagan’s favorite venues was a billboard in Times Square, New York City, where he ran two taglines: “‘It’s always June in Miami Beach’ and ‘Miami Beach, Where Summer Spends the Winter.'”
Post–World War II economic expansion brought a wave of immigrants to South Florida from the Northern United States, which significantly increased the population in Miami Beach within a few decades. After Fidel Castro’s rise to power in 1959, a wave of Cuban refugees entered South Florida and dramatically changed the demographic make-up of the area. In 2017, one study named zip code 33109 (Fisher Island, a 216-acre island located just south of Miami Beach), as having the 4th most expensive home sales and the highest average annual income ($2.5 million) in 2015.
South Beach (also known as SoBe, or simply the Beach), the area from Biscayne Street (also known as South Pointe Drive) one block south of 1st Street to about 23rd Street, is one of the more popular areas of Miami Beach. Although topless sunbathing by women has not been officially legalized, female toplessness is tolerated on South Beach and in a few hotel pools on Miami Beach. Before the TV show Miami Vice helped make the area popular, SoBe was under urban blight, with vacant buildings and a high crime rate. Today, it is considered one of the richest commercial areas on the beach, yet poverty and crime still remain in some places near the area.
Miami Beach, particularly Ocean Drive of what is now the Art Deco District, was also featured prominently in the 1983 feature film Scarface and the 1996 comedy The Birdcage.
The New World Symphony Orchestra is based in Miami Beach, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.
Lincoln Road, running east-west parallel between 16th and 17th Streets, is a nationally known spot for outdoor dining and shopping and features galleries of well known designers, artists and photographers such as Romero Britto, Peter Lik, and Jonathan Adler.. In 2015, the Miami Beach residents passed a law forbidding bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding and other motorized vehicles on Lincoln Road during busy pedestrian hours between 9:00 am and 2:00 am.
Miami Beach has several local community news publications. The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce publishes the Miami Beach Community Newspapers, there is the independent Miami Beach Life magazine, and the recently rebooted Miami Beach Times which focuses on local beach culture and sea level rise issues.
Miami Beach is home to several Orthodox Jewish communities with a network of well-established synagogues and yeshivas, the first of which being the Landow Yeshiva, a Chabad institution in operation for over 30 years. There is also a liberal Jewish community containing such famous synagogues as Temple Emanu-El, Temple Beth Shalom and Cuban Hebrew Congregation. Miami Beach is also a magnet for Jewish families, retirees, and particularly snowbirds when the cold winter sets into the north. These visitors range from the Modern Orthodox to the Haredi and Hasidic – including many rebbes who vacation there during the North American winter. Till his death in 1991, the Nobel laureate writer Isaac Bashevis Singer lived in the northern end of Miami Beach and breakfasted often at Sheldon’s drugstore on Harding Avenue.
There are many kosher restaurants and even kollels for post-graduate Talmudic scholars, such as the Miami Beach Community Kollel. Miami Beach had roughly 60,000 people in Jewish households, 62 percent of the total population, in 1982, but only 16,500, or 19 percent of the population, in 2004, said Ira Sheskin, a demographer at the University of Miami who conducts surveys once a decade. The Miami Beach Jewish community had decreased in size by 1994 due to migration to wealthier areas and aging of the population.
Miami Beach is home to the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach.
Miami Beach has been regarded as a gay mecca for decades as well as being one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the United States. Miami Beach is home to numerous gay bars and gay-specific events, and five service and resource organizations. After decades of economic and social decline, an influx of gays and lesbians moving to South Beach in the late-1980s to mid-1990s contributed to Miami Beach’s revitalization. The newcomers purchased and restored dilapidated Art Deco hotels and clubs, started numerous businesses and built political power in city and county government.
The passage of progressive civil rights laws, election of outspokenly pro-gay Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower, and the introduction of Miami Beach’s Gay Pride Celebration, have reinvigorated the local LGBT community in recent years, which some argued had experienced a decline in the late 2000s. In January 2010, Miami Beach passed a revised Human Rights Ordinance that strengthens enforcement of already existing human rights laws and adds protections for transgender people, making Miami Beach’s human rights laws some of the most progressive in the state.
Miami Beach Pride has gained prominence since it first started in 2009, there has been an increase in attendance every year. In 2013 there were more than 80,000 people who participated to now more than 130,000 people that participate in the festivities every year. It has also attracted many celebrities such as Chaz Bono, Adam Lambert, Gloria Estefan, Mario Lopez, and Elvis Duran who were Grand Marshals for Pride Weekend from 2012 through 2016 respectively. There are over 125 businesses who are LGBT supportive that sponsor Miami Beach Pride.
By the 1970s, jet travel had enabled vacationers from the northern parts of the US to travel to the Caribbean and other warm-weather climates in the winter. Miami Beach’s economy suffered. Elderly retirees, many with little money, dominated the population of South Beach.
To help revive the area, city planners and developers sought to bulldoze many of the aging art deco buildings that were built in the 1930s. By one count, the city had over 800 art deco buildings within its borders.
In 1976, Barbara Baer Capitman and a group of fellow activists formed the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) to try to halt the destruction of the historic buildings in South Beach. After battling local developers and Washington DC bureaucrats, MDPL prevailed in its quest to have the Miami Beach Art Deco District named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. While the recognition did not offer protection for the buildings from demolition, it succeeded in drawing attention to the plight of the buildings.
Due in part to the newfound awareness of the art deco buildings, vacationers, tourists and TV, and movie crews were drawn to South Beach. Investors began to rehabilitate hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings in the area.
Despite the enthusiasm for the historic buildings by many, there were no real protections for historic buildings. As wrecking crews threatened buildings, MDPL members protested by holding marches and candlelight vigils. In one case, protestors stood in front of a hotel blocking bulldozers as they approached a hotel.
After many years of effort, the Miami Beach city commission created the first two historic preservation districts in 1986. The districts covered Espanola Way and most of Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue in South Beach. The designation of the districts helped protect buildings from demolition and created standards for renovation.
While some developers continued to focus on demolition, several investors like Tony Goldman and Ian Schrager bought art deco hotels and transformed them into world famous hot spots in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Among the celebrities that frequented Miami Beach were Madonna, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Oprah Winfrey and Gianni Versace.
Additional historic districts were created in 1992. The new districts covered Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue between 16th and 22nd Streets and the area around the Bass Museum. In 2005, the city began the process of protecting the mid-century buildings on Collins Avenue between 43rd to 53rd Streets including the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc Hotels. Several North Beach neighborhoods were designated as historic in 2018. A large collection of MiMo (Miami Modern) buildings can be found in the area.
In 1979, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943. Mediterranean, Streamline Moderne and Art Deco are all represented in the District. The Historic District is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the East, Lenox Court on the West, 6th Street on the South and Dade Boulevard along the Collins Canal to the North. The movement to preserve the Art Deco District’s architectural heritage was led by former interior designer Barbara Baer Capitman, who now has a street in the District named in her honor.
Jackie Gleason hosted his Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine (September 29, 1962 – June 4, 1966) television show, after moving it from New York to Miami Beach in 1964, reportedly because he liked year-round access to the golf course at the nearby Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill (where he built his final home). His closing line became, almost invariably, “As always, the Miami Beach audience is the greatest audience in the world!” In the Fall 1966 television season, he abandoned the American Scene Magazine format and converted the show into a standard variety hour with guest performers. The show was renamed The Jackie Gleason Show, lasting from September 17, 1966 – September 12, 1970. He started the 1966–1967 season with new, color episodes of The Honeymooners, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean as Alice Kramden and Trixie Norton, respectively. The regular cast included Art Carney as Ed Norton; Milton Berle was a frequent guest star. The show was shot in color on videotape at the Miami Beach Auditorium (later renamed the Jackie Gleason Theatre of the Performing Arts), now known as Fillmore Miami Beach, and Gleason never tired of promoting the “sun and fun capital of the world” on camera. CBS canceled the series in 1970.
Each December, the City of Miami Beach hosts Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the United States. Art Basel Miami Beach, the sister event to the Art Basel event held each June in Basel, Switzerland, combines an international selection of top galleries with a program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture, and design. Exhibition sites are located in the city’s Art Deco District, and ancillary events are scattered throughout the greater Miami metropolitan area.
The first Art Basel Miami Beach was held in 2002. In 2016, about 77,000 people attended the fair. The 2017 show featured about 250 galleries at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Miami Beach is home to the New World Symphony, established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. In January 2011, the New World Symphony made a highly publicized move into the New World Center building designed by Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry. Gehry is famous for his design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. The new Gehry building offers Live Wallcasts™, which allow visitors to experience select events throughout the season at the half-acre, outdoor Miami Beach SoundScape through the use of visual and audio technology on a 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) projection wall.
The Miami City Ballet, a ballet company founded in 1985, is housed in a 63,000-square-foot (5,900 m2) building near Miami Beach’s Bass Museum of Art.
The Miami Beach Festival of the Arts is an annual outdoor art festival that was begun in 1974.
Public Transportation in Miami Beach is operated by Miami-Dade Transit (MDT). Along with neighborhoods such as Downtown and Brickell, public transit is heavily used in Miami Beach and is a vital part of city life. Although Miami Beach has no direct Metrorail stations, numerous Metrobus lines connect to Downtown Miami and Metrorail (i.e., the ‘S’ bus line). The South Beach Local (SBL) is one of the most heavily used lines in Miami and connects all major points of South Beach to other major bus lines in the city. Metrobus ridership in Miami Beach is high, with some of the routes such as the L and S being the busiest Metrobus routes.
The Airport-Beach Express (Route 150), operated by MDT, is a direct-service bus line that connects Miami International Airport to major points in South Beach. The ride costs $2.65, and runs every 30 minutes from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. seven days a week.
Since the late 20th century, cycling has grown in popularity in Miami Beach. Due to its dense, urban nature, and pedestrian-friendly streets, many Miami Beach residents get around by bicycle.
In March 2011 a public bicycle sharing system named Decobike was launched, one of only a handful of such programs in the United States. The program is operated by a private corporation, Decobike, LLC, but is partnered with the City of Miami Beach in a revenue-sharing model. Once fully implemented, the program hopes to have around 1000 bikes accessible from 100 stations throughout Miami Beach, from around 85th Street on the north side of Miami Beach all the way south to South Pointe Park.
Primary & Secondary Schools
Miami-Dade County Public Schools serves Miami Beach.
- North Beach Elementary
- Treasure Island Elementary
- South Pointe Elementary
- Mater Beach Academy
- Biscayne Elementary
- Fienberg/Fisher K – 8 Center
- Nautilus Middle School
- Miami Beach Senior High School
Private schools include Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy, St. Patrick Catholic School, Landow Yeshiva – Lubavitch Educational Center (Klurman Mesivta High School for Boys and Beis Chana Middle and High School for Girls), and Mechina High School.
In the early history of Miami Beach, there was one elementary school and the Ida M. Fisher junior-senior high school. The building of Miami Beach High was constructed in 1926, and classes began in 1928.
Colleges and universities
The Florida International University School of Architecture has a sister campus at 420 Lincoln Road in South Beach, with classroom spaces for FIU architecture, art, music and theater graduate students.
- Belle Isle
- City Center
- Di Lido Island
- Flagler Monument Island
- Hibiscus Island
- Palm Island
- Rivo Alto Island
- San Marino Island
- Star Island
- South of Fifth
- Biscayne Point
- Isle of Normandy
- La Gorce
- North Shore
- Bass Museum
- Eden Roc (hotel)
- Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theatre
- Flagler Monument Island
- Fontainebleau Hotel
- Versace Mansion (Casa Casuarina)
- Holocaust Memorial
- Jewish Museum of Florida
- Lincoln Road
- Miami Beach Architectural District
- Miami Beach Botanical Garden
- North Beach
- Ocean Drive
- South Beach
- South Pointe Park
- Wolfsonian-FIU Museum
- World Erotic Art Museum Miami
- The Setai Hotel
Miami Beach Schools
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