Miami has been undergoing a huge transformation over the past decade and change. From the building of the Biscayne Wall during the real estate boom, to the current revitalization projects going on in Wynwood, the wave of gentrification has crashed upon our fair shores. However, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily better…
Yesterday, while on business at Space, I looked across the street, and saw the remains of the notorious strip club, Goldrush. Regardless of it’s seediness and bad reputation, that little run-down building and it’s shady cast of characters represented a gritty counterpoint to the glittering condo towers just to the east, and in a bizarre sort of way, a bulwark against the homogenization that gentrification can bring.
Which, at the end of the day, is the downside of too much gentrification. Listen, I am all for cleaning up a neighborhood. No one wants to deal with street crime, the homeless, and substandard infrastructure. Sure, in Florida we can defend ourselves against street crime, but there’s a lot of post-mortem paperwork involved with that. And, at the end of the day, we live in a society, we’re not animals. However, that being said, at some point, the unique character of what makes Miami into the exciting subtropical paradise it is, shouldn’t be stripped away for a gaggle of chain stores, Starbucks, BlackBerry-wielding guys in suits, and minivan moms.
Not that I’m singing the praises of Gold Rush, by all accounts it was a pretty seedy establishment, even for a strip club. However, again, the fact that it hung on for so long kind of represented a bizarre “normalcy”, compared to the out-and-out go-go gentrification going on around these parts. Now, it’s no secret the whole 11th Street neighborhood is slated for demolition in about five years, but, as of right now, the area still stands as it is. Space, even with the change in ownership, continues on as Miami’s monument to real dance music. A new venue called Therapy has sprouted up in the old Studio A space. And the Corner Bar continues to be the hipster haven well into the morning hours a few nights a week.
It is possible to clean up a neighborhood and keep it’s essential character. Wynwood is actually right on that border at the moment. There’s enough commercial presence to justify government actions to keep the area safe, but not enough to encourage the likes of Starbucks, Burger King, and McDonalds to set up shop there. Local businesses can and do continue to thrive in the area, while allowing for local artists and personalities to add their vibrancy to the local scene.
It would be a shame if we lost the essential gritty character places like these bring, in the name of some sort of misguided sense of commercialism and conformity. Miami needs to be Miami, and not just a subtropical outpost of bland American conformity and whitewashed culture.