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Overview Of Miami City
Most visitors to the Greater Miami area don't realize that Miami and Miami are separate cities. But while Miami is Florida's commercial hub, Miami is widely considered America's Riviera, luring refugees from winter with its warm sunshine, sandy beaches, graceful palms, and tireless nightlife. The great part of its nocturnal spark takes place at the southern end of Miami's 7-mi-long barrier island, in a relatively small area known as South Beach. There may be more photographs of South Beach than grains of sand on its much-praised shoreline. And for all its international fame, stylish allure, and glossy glamour, it's remarkable that South Beach remains essentially a mile-long stretch along three parallel avenues. In fact, Ocean Drive---which separates the most glamorous hotels and restaurants from the ocean---has pulled the great weight of Miami's revival over the past two decades. In the early 1920s a narrow strip of mangrove coast was transformed into Miami, and tourists wasted no time. In just a few years, Miami Beach was a playground of the rich, and grand-themed hotels held sway. By the late 20s, however, shipping problems and a hurricane turned the boom to bust, and another approach was needed to attract tourists. Enter the Art Deco hotels of the 1930s, the mostly three-story, cheerfully colored, sleek-looking structures that alluded to modern ships, cars, and ocean liners. In the 1950s, larger-than-life Deco hotels, such as the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc, were built, and the days of the small Deco hotels were up. Most aged into flophouses or dirt-cheap homes for retirees. Now a worldwide synonym with glamour and the good life, Miami Beach is a study in urban renewal sparked through grass roots efforts, and a little fortuitous media exposure.
Things started to happen in the 1980s, when the hyperactive cop show Miami Vice played out against the pastel facades of Ocean Drive. A woman named Barbara Capitman proposed the buildings---which were set to be demolished---for the National Register of Historic Places. As bulldozers waited, the preservationist movement rolled forward, and investors began restoring the interiors and repainting the exteriors of classic South Beach buildings. What followed was a mass influx of glamour industries and new fun-seeking residents and visitors. As recently as the late 1980s, Miami Beach was an ocean-side geriatric ward. Today's South Beach residents have the kind of hip that doesn't break. (The average age dropped from the mid-60s in 1980 to a youthful early 40s today.) SoBe---a usefully terse newspaper condensation of South Beach, though a term probably never once casually uttered by a local---is now a shimmering condensation of upscale boutiques, trendy restaurants, hot nightclubs, and restored hotels with slick, avant-garde interiors. Miami finds itself undergoing a seemingly never-ending process of beautification, making it perhaps the best place in the world for a people-watching getaway.
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