Miami has long been an oceanfront vacation destination, but two decades of vertical development in the city’s urban core has shifted the world’s perception to the point where the Miami of today is known as much for its sand and surf as its shopping, spas and symphonies.
The focal point of this brand evolution has been downtown Miami, home to fine dining, world-class arts institutions, premium hotels, haute shopping, and cutting-edge architecture.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Mainland Miami’s coming of age as a luxury destination can be traced back to the mid-1990s. As South Beach began hitting its stride as an international playground, a long-overlooked stretch of downtown known as Brickell Avenue emerged as a new frontier of development.
Ugo Colombo was among the earliest adopters of the idea that Brickell could become a desired address. The Italian-born developer arrived in Miami from Milan in 1983 and spent a decade understanding his new hometown and searching for the perfect development site.
Everything changed in 1992 when he built Bristol Tower, considered the first true luxury condo built along Brickell Avenue. Nearby Santa Maria followed in 1996, featuring oversized units dubbed ‘mansions in the sky’ and the finest imported materials. For the first time, Miami had condos capable of attracting buyers around the world.
As wealthy homeowners entered the neighborhood, the banks and wealth managers followed – earning Brickell its “Wall Street of the South” nickname. Soon, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental hotels were under construction, new restaurants opened up and trendy retailers arrived. Class A office buildings weren’t far behind, with Rilea Group’s 1450 Brickell tower luring some of the biggest brands in the world to downtown Miami.
Fast forward to today and Brickell is the epicenter of the so-called “Manhattanization” of Miami. The neighborhood is among Miami’s densest, most walkable and best-connected. All told, there are more than 15 residential towers going up, with Colombo’s Brickell Flatiron marking the final Brickell-area condo that will be built this cycle. Nearby, the $1 billion Brickell City Centre development will offer shopping, dining, offices, residences, a hotel and entertainment under one roof.
While many of the world’s most desirable urban neighborhoods – from Tokyo’s Ginza and Paris’ Left Bank, to New York’s Midtown and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile – have been shaped over centuries, Brickell’s rise as a fashionable district has taken place over just 20 years.
For the first time in modern Miami history, a neighborhood’s global appeal isn’t synonymous with the waterfront. The Miami of today is decidedly urban, cosmopolitan and international – and Brickell is where it all comes together.