All eyes on downtown Miami this weekend

Traffic mayhem! A sudden uptick in neon bracelet sales! A disproportionate number of Dutch speakers overheard at Starbucks! It can only mean one thing: the Dade County Youth Fair has arrived. Not so fast.

skyline3This weekend marks the 14th anniversary of Ultra Music Fest, the biggest, baddest techno/house/trance fest this side of Ibiza. Estimates indicate up to 150,000 people – many of whom are from out of town – will descend upon downtown Miami for this year’s festival, injecting even more life (and bass) into our urban core for the next few days.

But Ultra isn’t the only game in town. The County Fair aside, downtown Miami is hosting scores of events this weekend, underscoring the area’s emergence as an international destination and the center of arts and entertainment in South Florida.

What’s going on, you ask? For starters, you have a flurry of shows and concerts taking place at the Adrienne Arsht Center (“Come Fly Away” and The Cleveland Orchesta among them). Nearby, Disney on Ice will thrill the little ones at American Airlines Arena. Next door, Cavalia’s Odysseo takes the stage under a big top in soon-to-be renamed Museum Park. Didn’t get your fill of fist pumps at Ultra? Check out Swedish House Mafia’s shindig over at Grand Central Park. And that’s not all: Miami Art Museum’s new exhibit, The Record: Contemporary Art & Vinyl (see photo) and the Sony Ericsson Open on Key Biscayne are also on tap.

So what does all this mean – street gridlock aside? Look beyond the sheer number of people in downtown Miami this weekend and you’ll begin to see a trend emerging: folks from all over South Florida – and the world – are increasingly coming to Miami’s urban core to be entertained, to do business, and to live. The numbers speak for themselves: a record number of apartment units and condos are now occupied; major corporations are setting up new offices; downtown Miami’s retail base is among the strongest in the nation; the metrics are adding up fast.

Given this momentum and with the area’s cultural institutions moving full speed ahead, it’s time for civic leaders to determine the next step in downtown Miami’s evolution as a top-tier urban district. Is it the revitalization of Flagler Street? The realignment of I-395 and creation of a street-level park linking the central business district with the Omni area? The development of large scale destination resorts? The construction of a new conference center to complement the Miami Beach convention center, as the Miami Herald’s editorial board contends in today’s paper?

The list of possibilities goes on and on. What do you think? Sound off in the comment section below. In the meantime, see you at Ultra (assuming the traffic starts moving).