Looking at the Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach is like looking at many shopping streets across the world. The stores that line it are the same ones one finds at many other shopping streets and even at suburban malls. Tourists and locals mingle and there are even a few community spaces that pull families and residents like a play park, a church, a bank, all perks of not being out on the city. But there are also many closed stores.
The “retail apocalypse” is touching shopping streets everywhere and Miami Beach is no exception. Every day we witness a new closing and new replacements do not fill all the vacancies. Some creative interventions have brought a City Ballet storefront showcasing their costume design, and a Botanical garden storefront bringing a bit of the lush to the shopping street in an effort to attract people to the garden. But vacancies are not only evident on the ground floors. Also upper stories remain dark at evenings. Some buildings have offices on upper floors. Others have what seem as dream rooftops with vegetation, string lights and pergolas. But the vacancy ghost looms.
Can residential uses be brought to buildings and terraces like the ones pictured above? Would people want to live there? Would there be zoning issues? Should ordinances be changed? Would it make any difference? Would the experience improve or not? Could we make better use of historic assets along Lincoln Roads everywhere if we keep asking these questions until someone in government sets out to answer them and solve those equations?