It’s all over instagram, twitter, and even on CNBC, and it makes you think to yourself… is Miami having a moment, or is it just in my head? And more importantly, are we ready to handle it?
According to the census bureau, Florida added almost 250,000 residents in 2020, adding the second most people in the country, only behind Texas. This is no surprise to us in Miami. It has been a year of hype filled headlines like Blackstone signing a lease for 41k square feet of office space in Downtown Miami, and tech leaders on twitter discussing relocating to Miami with Mayor Francis Suarez. Major Food Group, proprietors of the infamous Carbone in Manhattan, recently announced 3 new restaurants in Miami, and hedge fund managers continuing to move their offices to South Florida to be closer to their Palm Beach mansions.
However, Miami has also been in the headlines for issues related to sea level rise, COVID-19, and income inequality. How do we reckon with these divergent ideas? On one hand, a mass migration to a young, globally-connected city on the verge of maturation; And on the other, an existentially threatened coastal metropolis, with trillions of dollars of real estate on the line, and an affordability crisis for those that already call Miami home.
There are plenty of reasons given for this migration, including a lack of state income taxes, beautiful weather, and quality local culture and entertainment. Many have migrated temporarily due to the pandemic, causing them to question whether or not this should be a more permanent move for them and their businesses.
Miami is called the Magic City due to its unprecedented population boom in the second half of the 20th century. As a city, we have dealt with large migrations in the past poorly, building massive suburban sprawl, without proper infrastructure, commercial zoning, or public transportation. This failure has lead to exacerbated issues of affordability, traffic, and crime. Our governments have still not shown that they are ready to move forward on simple fixes, such as the South Dade BRT, let alone the large infrastructure improvements needed to take Miami to a truly mature city.
According to State Estimates, over 300,000 people will move to Miami-Dade County over the next decade. If Miami is truly to mature into a global city, that can withstand a mass migration alongside sea level rise, then we need to leverage this moment. Migration of high dollar industries means a large tax base, and an increased need for long term thinking. Our government must finally get serious about our biggest issues, listen to the activists on the ground that have been working on them for years, and build a better county for those that live here and those that want to.
Our county must heavily invest in public transportation now, so that new Miamians can live here without adding to our already car-centric culture. This means building the South-Dade BRT now, expanding dedicated bus and bike infrastructure, improving sidewalks, and working towards a larger rail infrastructure.
Make Miami the center of sustainability infrastructure by investing in new ideas to mitigate Sea Level rise. Make a County-Wide sea level rise master plan that brings together planning, zoning, prevention, and mitigation, and get to implementing it.
Build quality, accessible affordable housing for the workers that form the base of our economy. Many who work in hospitality, construction, medical care, and more.
Miami faces many challenges in the near future, but we must use this centerstage moment to better our long-term position, instead of continuing to kick the can down the road. Higher paying industries and jobs moving here is a welcome change of pace, and will hopefully translate to higher wages for those that already live here. But jobs without a better quality of life for all is not sustainable. Our leaders need to focus on making sure that Miami deserves all of the hype, and finally fix the problems that they were elected to fix.