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South Beach is a neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, Florida in the United States. It is the area south of Indian Creek and encompasses roughly the southernmost 23 blocks of the main barrier island that separates the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in the 1910s, thanks to the development efforts of Carl G. Fisher, the Lummus Brothers, John S. Collins, and others. The area has gone through numerous man-made and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy, increased tourism, and the 1926 hurricane, which consequently destroyed much of the area.
South Beach started as farmland. In 1870, Henry and Charles Lum purchased 165 acres (668,000 m) for coconut farming, and his daughter Taylor named it "South Beach". Charles Lum built the first house on the beach in 1886. In 1894, the Lum brothers left the island, leaving control of the plantation to John Collins, who came to South Beach two years later to survey the land. He used the land for farming purposes, discovering fresh water and extending his parcel from 14th Street to 67th in 1907.
In 1912, Miami businessmen the Lummus Brothers acquired 400 acres (1.6 km) of Collins' land in an effort to build an oceanfront city of modest single family residences. In 1913 Collins started construction of a bridge from Miami to Miami Beach. Although some local residents invested in the bridge, Collins ran short of money before he could complete it.
Carl G. Fisher, a successful entrepreneur who made millions in 1909 after selling a business to Union Carbide, came to the beach in 1913. His vision was to establish South Beach as a successful city independent of Miami. This was the same year that the restaurant Joe's Stone Crab opened. Fisher loaned $50,000 to Collins for his bridge, which was completed in June, 1913. The Collins Bridge was later replaced by the Venetian Causeway.
On March 26, 1915, Collins, Lummus, and Fisher consolidated their efforts and incorporated the Town of Miami Beach. In 1920 the County Causeway (renamed MacArthur Causeway after World War II) was completed. The Lummus brothers sold their oceanfront property, between 6th and 14th Streets, to the city. To this day, this area is known as Lummus Park.
In 1920, the Miami Beach land boom began. South Beach's main streets (5th Street, Alton Road, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Ocean Drive) were all suitable for automobile traffic. The population was growing in the 1920s, and several millionaires such as Harvey Firestone, J.C. Penney, Harvey Stutz, Albert Champion, Frank Seiberling, and Rockwell LaGorce built homes on Miami Beach. President Warren G. Harding stayed at the Flamingo Hotel during this time, increasing interest in the area.
In the 1930s, an architectural revolution came to South Beach, bringing Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Nautical Moderne architecture to the Beach. To this day, South Beach remains the world's largest collection of Streamline Moderne Art Deco architecture. Napier, New Zealand, another notable Art Deco city, makes an interesting comparison with Miami Beach as it was rebuilt in the Ziggurat Art Deco style after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1931.
By 1940, the beach had a population of 28,000. After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Corps took command over Miami Beach.
In 1966, South Beach became even more famous when Jackie Gleason brought his weekly variety series, The Jackie Gleason Show to the area for taping, a rarity in the industry. Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through the 1980s, South Beach was used as a retirement community with most of its ocean-front hotels and apartment buildings filled with elderly people living on small, fixed incomes. This period also saw the introduction of the "cocaine cowboys," drug dealers who used the area as a base for their illicit drug activities. Scarface, released in 1983, typifies this activity. In addition, television show Miami Vice used South Beach as a backdrop for much of its filming due to the area's raw and unique visual beauty. A somewhat recurring theme of early Miami Vice episodes was thugs and drug addicts barricading themselves in utterly run-down, almost ruin-like empty buildings. Only minor alterations had to be made for these scenes because many buildings in South Beach really were in such poor condition at the time.
While many of the unique Art Deco buildings, such as the New Yorker Hotel, were lost to developers in the years before 1980, the area was saved as a cohesive unit by Barbara Capitman and a group of activists who spearheaded the movement to place almost one square mile of South Beach on the National Register of Historic Places. The Miami Beach Architectural District was designated in 1979.
Before the TV show Miami Vice, South Beach was considered a very poor area with a very high rate of crime. Today, it is considered one of the most wealthy and prosperous commercial areas on the beach. Despite this, poverty and crime still exist in some isolated places surrounding the area.
In the late 1980s, a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving into the area. In 1989 Irene Marie purchased the Sun Ray Apartments (famous for the chainsaw scene in Scarface) and opened Irene Marie Models - the first international full-service modeling agency in Florida. Many of the large New York-based agencies soon followed. Photographers and designers from around the world were drawn to the undiscovered Art Deco oasis.
In both daytime and at nightfall, the South Beach section of Miami Beach is a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. The area is popular with both American and international tourists (mainly from Europe, Latin America, Canada, The Middle East, the Caribbean and within the United States), with some having permanent or second homes. The large number of European and Brazilian tourists also explains their influence on South Beach's lax and overall tolerance of topless sunbathing, despite it being a public beach.
The reflection of South Beach's residents is evident in the various European languages, as well as Semitic languages and many other languages spoken.
Another unique aesthetic attribute of South Beach is the several colorful and unique lifeguard stands, still used today by South Beach's lifeguards. After Hurricane Andrew, Architect William Lane donated his design services to the city and added new stops on design tours in the form of lifeguard towers. His towers instantly became symbols of the revived City of Miami Beach.
South Beach is traversed by numerical streets which run east-west, starting with First Street and the largely pedestrianized Lincoln Road (between 16th and 17th). It also has 13 principal Roads and Avenues running north-south, which, from the Biscayne Bay side, are Bay Road, West Avenue, Alton Road, Lenox Avenue, Michigan Avenue, Jefferson Avenue, Meridian Avenue, Euclid Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Drexel Avenue, Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue (Florida State Road A1A), and Ocean Drive. There are three smaller avenues (that do not run the entire length of the beach) in the Collins Park area, named Park, Liberty, and James. Most locals agree that South Beach's northern boundary runs along Dade Boulevard from Lincoln Road on the bay side of the island, and heads east-north-east until it connects with 23rd Street, which forms the northern boundary on the ocean side.
There are several residential neighborhoods in South Beach. The old stereotype of South Beach as a run-down retirement mecca for seniors is exploited in the Hollywood movie, "The Crew" which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds. In its early existence, black people (African Americans and West Indians), many of whom helped build many of the original Art Deco buildings were not permitted to live on South Beach, or any part of Miami Beach for that matter. Also, during segregation, Jewish people were subjected to Jim Crow laws, and therefore they were not allowed to live north of Fifth Street. Some now call this area SoFi (South of Fifth.) Many synagogues and Yiddish theatres were built in the area during that time. Presently, the same area (SoFi) boasts many of the most affluent and exclusive condominium buildings ever to be built on Miami Beach. In fact, SoFi now accounts for nearly 18% of the residential tax base for all of Miami Beach due to its high property values.
The glittering glass towers of the area include the large resort-like condominium buildings such as Portofino Tower and sister buildings such as ICON (spearheaded by designer Philippe Starck), Murano at Portofino, Murano Grande at Portofino, The Apogee, and The Continuum buildings (I and II) . Now, it also encompasses the area from the Atlantic ocean east to Biscayne Bay on the west, and from Fifth Street to the South Pointe Park. Although mostly residential, the area has some light commercial (mainly restaurants, a few hotels and the Miami Beach Marina complex). This area has several notable nightlife destinations, including Opium Garden, Priv, Nikki Beach Club, and Pearl. It also has several smaller, upscale bars and restaurants, including Joe's Stone Crabs, Smith & Wollensky's steak house, and China Grill. South Beach is also home to two schools in the area; Miami Beach High School and South Pointe Elementary.
Flamingo Park is the neighborhood directly north of Fifth and expands from Alton Road on the west to Washington Avenue on the east, with its northern boundary being Lincoln Road; it does not include Lenox. This area consists mainly of low rise apartment buildings, catering to seasonal and permanent residents, with several Bed and Breakfast Inns. Commercial development is largely limited to Alton Road, Washington Avenue, and Lincoln Road. Presently, there is little notable nightlife, with the exception of Tantra on 15th Street. It is also home to Flamingo Park, one of South Beach's public parks, which includes recreational facilities such as swimming for adults and children, tennis, racketball and basketball courts, as well as a dog park.
Espanola Way Historic District, is a mixed commercial/residential neighborhood extending along Espanola Way from Collins Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, including several homes on a privately owned section of Jefferson Avenue abutting Espanola Way. It abuts Flamingo Park, and is surrounded by the Flamingo Park District, and is often included when discussing the Flamingo Park Neighborhood.
Flamingo West is a neighborhood of single family homes that spans from north of the Park to Lincoln Road on Lennox and Michigan Avenues.
Collins Park is South Beach's most "up and coming" neighborhood, according to the Miami New Times. The newspaper cites the new Sanctuary Spa Resort, an updated public library, and several open projects as evidence for its claim. Collins Park is contained by 17th Street to the south, 23rd Street to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Washington Avenue/Pinetree Drive to the west. It is directly across from the Miami Beach Convention Center. Collins Park consists mainly of low rise art deco buildings built in the 1930s and 1950s; it is also the location of the Bass Museum of Art. The area is currently undergoing gentrification, as many of the old apartments from the 1980s (many of which still have bars on their windows) are being purchased by major New York and South Florida real estate developers to be converted into condominiums.
Additionally, many high-rise buildings are located along Bay Road and West Avenue, and there are multifamily residences located north of Lincoln Road and east of Collins Park. The Flamingo, the world's largest apartment complex, is located on Bay Road across from Dillon Patel Way. *