Massive tower to define ‘new Miami’

If Miami is defined by its beaches, the humidity, and the widespread availability of cafe con leche, it is also unmistakable for its skyline. But that iconic silhouette is about to change.

In 2017, Skyrise Miami, a 1,000-foot skyscraper to be built next to Bayside Marketplace near downtown, is expected to be completed. The tower, intended as a tourist attraction, will feature panoramic observation decks, a nightclub, and thrill rides like a 50-story free fall experience.

It is destined, as its developer Jeff Berkowitz told The Huffington Post, to “forever change the skyline and become a symbol of the new Miami.”

But what exactly is the “new” Miami? For that matter, what is Miami currently?

Even if neither answer is clear, the contrast is obvious. With the sleek, futuristic curves of its hairpin shape, Skyrise Miami will look out of place in the city’s otherwise razor-edged profile. It certainly seems that this building has emerged from an upcoming era.

A city, however, cannot develop its own history by constructing buildings that look like they were sent from 100 years into the future. Does Miami really need to be known worldwide for its possession of a fancy, 1,000-foot-tall tourist gimmick?

Of course, New York wouldn’t be New York without a Statue of Liberty, nor would Paris be Paris without the Eiffel Tower, and even these landmarks were initially criticized for changing the cities’ impression. It may be that opposition to Skyrise Miami stems at least in part from an internal resistance to change.

Nevertheless, each major city has its own essence that may be impossible to describe in words, but which certainly exists; few will argue that being in New Orleans feels exactly like being in Philadelphia. That essence does not appear in an instant.

A city should come into its own gradually and organically. It should not be wrenched into a possible future with zero comprehension of its slowly developing identity.

Already approved by voters, Skyrise Miami will sprout in the skyline no matter how we feel about it now. But before “the new Miami” arrives, we should all take a moment to reflect on what Miami currently means to the people who call it home.

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