State of Downtown Miami: Progress and Challenges

As elected officials gathered this week for the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) annual State of Downtown, it was clear that something was different this year.

It wasn’t just the sprawling 270 degree views of the Downtown Miami skyline that framed the backdrop of the room atop the new EAST Hotel Miami. It was the recognition that Miami has come a long way since it’s days as a beach vacation spot. Today, the Magic City is well on its way to becoming the global, 24/7 city it has long aspired to become.

Rilea Group’s Alan Ojeda, Cervera Real Estate’s Alicia Cervera, Commissioner Ken Russell, DoubleTree Grand’s Julie Grimes and Miami Heat’s Kim Stone preparing to discuss the “heart of our city.”

The crowd heard from DDA Board Members Alicia Cervera of Cervera Real Estate; Kim Stone of the Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena; Alan Ojeda of Rilea Group; and Julie Grimes of the Hilton Bentley Hotel. One of the recurring themes was how the real estate crash has helped lure tens of thousands of young professionals and families seeking urban living – and how these residents are now fueling momentum both within the urban core and across the South Florida region.


Downtown Miami’s population has more than doubled since 2000, with a large majority of occupants being young professionals who are bringing with them new ideas, new opportunities and  disposable income. In fact, the DDA’s 2016 retail report confirms that the district welcomed nearly $4.5 billion in retail revenue in 2014. According to the Kaufman Foundation, Miami now ranks as the #2 city in the country for startups, with downtown rising as a hub for budding entrepreneurs and the investors looking to fund them.

It isn’t just residents. Over the next few years, more than a dozen hotels will open to cater to Downtown Miami’s new crop of visitors. All together, they’ll add more than 4,000 hotel rooms to the area.

Additionally, our reputation as a global finance market has exploded as dozens of financial companies are flocking from New York, California and even parts of Latin America to take advantage of our growing international economy, zero state income tax and unbeatable weather.

Schwartz Media Team with DDA

While so much progress has been made, the event served as an important reminder that with growth, comes challenges and the public and private sectors must all come together to ensure Miami’s future is sustainable.

City of Miami District 2 Commissioner and Miami DDA Chairman Ken Russell spoke about the need to address traffic and infrastructure needs, homelessness, education improvements and affordability gaps.

He also highlighted the ways the Miami DDA is looking to address these issues through innovative programs and municipal partnerships such as the Downtown Enhancement Team (DET), which helps keep city streets clean; the Ambassador program that provides visitors and residents with extra eyes and ears on the street; and the Pit Stop pilot program that will provide permanent public bathrooms in the urban core.


While there were certainly no shortages of big ideas in the room, there was also a sense of cooperation and collaboration – and a shared understanding that Downtown Miami is much more than a residential and commercial district. It’s the economic, entertainment and cultural heart of our community and we all stand to benefit by keeping it that way.