Some said the message was this: Let them eat paper towels. In any case, images of President Trump at a San Juan free throw line, seemingly more concerned with his follow-through than his empathy, reveal something that he alone should not be scapegoated for. No one is advocating a Shakespearean First We Kill All the Developers philosophy here, but if the Jimmy Choo fits, it fits. Who bears responsibility for a place?
I love Miami. Still, much of Miami looks like a third world country. Third world itself can be a disparaging term, but developing country is more wildly inaccurate for a city where lots of things are falling apart in a nation where lots of things may seem to be under siege. There is water and electricity here, but life is expensive, displacement commonplace, and economic predators circle all high ground. We are hardly developing this city beyond a few prosperous districts.
In coastal California and South Miami, the term knockdown may be used to describe well-situated property with small bungalows lacking in square footage. In other words, we can go vertical on a McMansion. The same is true wherever you see cranes in Miami. There is soundness in the philosophy if we are talking about urban density; taller buildings yield lesser sprawl. But elsewhere it is just every man for himself.
On the other hand, a strong argument can also be made for the horror inflicted by demolishing neighborhoods in order to provide glassy construction or high-rise playgrounds for a tragically hip population desperately demanding pomegranate-jicama juice, designer maple-bacon donuts, and cold brewed, single source, gluten-free coffee.
In a sprawling city like Miami, contemplating the various magnets to which we are attracted further muddies the rising water. From Homestead to Hollywood, sweet dreams are made of this; everybody is looking for something. Brickell demolished itself and became an otherworldly kind of traffic jam with theme park restaurants and a creepy shopping mall; it seems that Brickell’s only historical remain is Perricone’s. Wynwood demolished itself and became an international hipster meets Ocean Drive kind of traffic jam with breweries, restaurants, bakeries, and Portlandia food truck courts; it seems that Wynwood’s only historical remain is the broken glass on the street.
Few begrudge the pursuit of making a little money, but some begrudge the pursuit of gouging and pillaging to make a fortune. The trickle-down theory goes something like this: if the richest get more money, then the guys at the stoplight peddling will get more quarters. In a society which seems to demonize one another more and more with license to ill coming from everywhere including the Oval Office, developers seem to have displaced lawyers as the most stereotypically despised and despicable creatures among us. Calling them community members is a stretch because what is the evidence, with a few exceptions, of their caring about community? The simplistic question remains: Is gentrification good?
Look at prices. In the obscene Design District recently, I saw Roberta’s pop-up pizza truck selling gorgeous pies the size of big bagels for $14 in an empty, artistic courtyard ridiculously called Jungle Plaza. Roberta’s is expanding from Bushwick in Brooklyn where the Rent is Too Damn High Party might have won had the uneducated deplorables understood, voted, or had not been working on Election Day, too tired to weigh in. In Wynwood, Dizengoff offers bowls of fast-food hummus, salads, and lemonade which will set you back around $20.
This high rent and wholesale destruction displaces people, obliterates memory, and marches north. Little Haiti and the Little River are both fully in the cone now, and in time, the rent will no longer be viable. Evidence is the nice little Bousa Brewing Company a mile from the soon-to-house trendies, indies, and swankies at the Citadel, one of our soon-to-blast-off food hall concepts.
Meanwhile, people who lived in humbly neglected neighborhoods for many years must do the limbo under 95 as developers surf the wave of prosperity, taking a machete to block after block. Like the coke snorters in the 80’s, athletes in Ballers, and oxycontin users in West Virginia, nothing exists which can stop these viruses from spreading, in this case, in exchange for an ale, a baguette, and some kombucha. Small independent businesses and chefs would be wise to fight for long term leases or they will also end up temporarily in Allapattah. As for the displaced, let them eat paper towels or croquetas or just go to Big Lots.