| By Mark Ingraham |
Over the last couple of years, the MiMo Biscayne Association (MBA) has taken a keen interest in the re-emerging area adjacent to the MiMo District known as the 79th Street corridor.
The street has been subject to an FDOT Roadway Plan and construction has been ongoing for approximately a year now and is nearing completion. The MBA took the position that the Roadway Plan should incorporate a 2/2 lane configuration going East and West, the implementation of alternative parking lanes on each side of 79th ST, minimum safety standards including crosswalks and additional traffic lights, and lastly the reduction of design speed to 30mph.
Well to nobody’s surprise, only some of the recommendations above have been implemented, but it’s a start. It’s FDOT, mind you, and sometimes you have to take what you can get until the next go around.
The lane configuration change was not in the cards, however, some additional on street parking has been created on the North side of the street where none had previously existed. Crosswalks and additional traffic signals have also been implemented. No luck with the reduction of design speed.
To understand the potential of the 79th Street as a pedestrian friendly corridor, one should look back upon its history. I happen to have a good resource for this information and that would be dear old dad, who himself is a 3rd generation South Floridian who lived as a child in Buena Vista, and rode his bicycle to Edison Sr. High, graduating in 1949!
He reminisces “79th St and Little River were always a major crossroads in South Florida. The Tequesta Indians dwelled here a thousand years ago on the banks of the Little River and Biscayne Bay. The 1940’s and the 50’s were the heyday of 79th St, Little River and Biscayne Blvd. Then Biscayne Blvd. was the principal entrance to Miami and the 79th Street Causeway was the principal route between Miami Beach and Miami prior to construction of the Julia Tuttle. 79th St and the Little River District were on the direct route to the Hialeah Race Track which in those days was one of America’s premier racing venues. On the same corner was a popular Junior’s Restaurant. Little River had its own movie theater, the Rosetta, its own bank, the Little River Bank and Trust Company, library and department stores. And an excellent restaurant, Watsons which was part of a local chain. There was a major grocery store, named Shells, located a few blocks south of 7th Avenue, which occupied an entire block. It was one of two of Florida’s largest markets. 79th ST and Little River were an important part of Miami that was lost to the spread of suburbia that filled the cow pastures to the north.”
But the pendulum seems to have swung back in the right direction. Perhaps some of the pedestrian friendly street improvements mentioned above will help continue revitalize the street and surrounding areas.
Along with the strongholds like Magnum, and the newer Mena’s, there is a diverse group of new dynamic businesses that are giving it a go on 79th St. I spoke to a couple who are new to the neighborhood and they see a bright future. There is Scott at the Auto Gallery at 367 NE 79th St who specializes in trading beautiful vintage European modern classic motorcars. He states that “I set up shop on NE 79th St approximately a year ago and business is great. I have great visibility and am getting many more walk up customers than I ever expected. New businesses are sprouting up all around me since I have moved here.”
Another interesting business to set up shop recently is Veni Vidi Vici at 863 NE 79th St. Roberto the proprietor, alone, is well worth the price of admission (admission is free). Roberto states “I am new to the street and have much faith in it. We have started a live music night and the response has been great. We are getting foot traffic from nearby Boteco and other establishments who are curious to pop in and see what Veni Vidi Vici is all about.”
79th street is a major artery that connects Mimo to Miami Beach and others Municipalities given the relationship to I95. It is transitioning quickly to a place to eat, drink, work, play, shop…
The Upper East Side has so many interesting projects and tenants in the pipeline that one cannot help but not be excited. –Avra Jain
79th St is destined to improve with time. It is unfortunate that not all of the recommendations made by the MBA were embraced by FDOT. But with renewed interest in the street, there will be more of a voice to seek the necessary changes for a more pedestrian friendly thoroughfare.
Just last week I came across a bad high speed motor vehicle accident at 79th and Biscayne, one of the vehicles having completely flipped over. This is just one of countless that I have seen. Too bad FDOT wasn’t watching.