Miami's Aging Icons are Signs of Future Opportunity

» Featured Columnists | By Kevin Brass | March 5, 2013 2:38 PM ET

Landing in Miami, I spent a few nights at the Hotel Deauville, one of Miami Beach's faded glory hotels. Online reviews for the old resort were horrid. But I've learned to read between the lines of consumer posts, which only occasionally reflect my peculiar tastes.

The Deauville is a Miami's classic. The Beatles famously stayed at the Deauville, once a mainstay of the Miami Beach scene. The elevators may be painfully slow, but the hotel is full of ambiance, from the old steel elevator doors with the Deauville logo to the barber who has been cutting hair of guests for 33 years. For a fraction of the price of resorts within walking distance, I stayed in an oceanfront room perched over a long stretch of white sand.

Miami Beach is awash with properties like the Deauville. After decades of boom and bust, no other major U.S. city boasts so much crumbling waterfront property. For every shiny new tower, there are still pockets of aging three-story apartment complexes, art deco hotels badly in need of refurbishment and '60s-era retail strips--swatches of buildings pounded by the coastal elements, waiting for the development cycle to turn and give them new life.

More than blight, the old buildings serve as a symbol of Miami's potential. They speak of history, turmoil and the chance for refurbishment and renewal. Despite all the depressing headlines and rampant over development, they tell us Miami is still the land of opportunity.

In San Diego, where I spent most of my life, there are almost no coastal areas left where a savvy designer or builder can make a mark. On Miami Beach they are everywhere. Miami is a city of dreams in a way that other American cities can't match.

Few economists are surprised at the latest numbers, which show Miami's housing marketing recovering. With a strong international vibe and miles of waterfront, there are economic drivers for Miami that will always work against any downward cycle or misguided development process.

The funky elements of Miami's coast, the mashup of old and ridiculously new, are part of the city's charm, a foundation of its identity. Old facilities like the Deauville may disappoint travelers looking for chrome and black leather, but they represent the style and glamour of Miami's landscape, icons of the past and unseen future.

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