Before & after: Miami's Bayside Marketplace

By Ennis Davis, AICP, ModernCities.com
ModernCities.com photo

Does your city have an aging urban retail center that has seen better days? If so, the recent renovation of Miami's Bayside Marketplace should serve as a visual example of what a makeover can do.

Festival Marketplaces were viewed by American cities during the 1970s and 1980s as the leading one-trick pony concepts to turn around decaying downtowns. If you’ve spent time in a couple of major cities across the country, you’ve probably been inside one. Underground Atlanta, Baltimore’s Harbor Place, Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Chicago’s Navy Pier, New Orleans Riverwalk, Jacksonville’s Landing and Manhattan’s South Street Seaport are all examples of festival marketplaces.

Characteristics of a successful marketplace were said to include having the right mix of shops and entertainment, adjacent to water and a large number of people nearby. However, despite the fanfare, many of these centers never lived up to their original expectations.

In Toledo, Portside Marketplace failed six years after its opening and was converted into a museum, now known as The Imagination Station. In 2007, the city of Richmond gave tenants in its struggling Sixth Street Marketplace 90 days to vacate and tore the entire complex down. In its place, a street was built. In spring 2017, after decades of struggling with high vacancy rates, Norfolk’s Waterside reopened as the Waterside District, a dining and entertainment hub featuring a food hall, a popular local craft brewery, a local seafood oyster company and a restaurant named after the Food Network’s Guy Fieri.

In Florida, Miami’s Bayside Marketplace can be described as a festival marketplace with staying power. Instead of being viewed as the single gimmick to revitalize a morbid downtown, it was built to complement an existing public marina. Drawing over 12 million visitors in its first year of operation, the $93 million, two-story open-air 140,000-square-foot shopping center was developed by the Rouse Company in 1987.

Lured with an incentive package that included the City of Miami kicking in $16 million for a parking garage and $4 million to prepare the site, Bayside quickly become a popular destination in a central business district that was considered to be pretty sleepy at the time. In fact, during the early years, the shopping center was frequently featured on the crime drama TV series, Miami Vice.

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