Miami River looks back and to future

River’s rebirth: The Miami River is becoming property
River’s rebirth: The Miami River is becoming property MIAMI HERALD

Another historic Miami corridor is experiencing a rebirth. It’s not a neighborhood like South Beach, Wynwood or Brickell — it’s the Miami River, the epicenter of the city’s birth.

And this renaissance is not based on beautification — but rather an acceptance of the river’s historic roots as a working waterway, now enhanced because it is also the last remaining swath of waterfront, coveted by condo developers and restaurateurs.

No doubt, the riverfront is a hot ticket. While you blinked, a total of 38 restaurants opened or were in the works along the banks of the five-and-half-mile river. Condos going up along the river are too many to count; there are now nine parks along its banks.

How refreshing to hear that years-long efforts to return the river to what it once meant for Miami’s pioneers are finally — and truly — taking root.

High praise goes to those who are bringing the river’s renaissance to the finish line — largely the Miami River Commission and its chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre, who even helped coin the name for the flowing corridor — The Miami River District, stretching from Biscayne Bay north, and then west to Northwest 25th Avenue.

“This was total teamwork; there were many people rowing on that boat,” Mr. Aguirre told the Editorial Board.

Deserving a special tip of the hat are Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commission Chair Wifredo “Willy” Gort. Last week, they helped welcome to the river Apex Marine, a major yacht servicing business long-housed at Fort Lauderdale’s New River. It’s new home now is on the Miami River, at Northwest 20th Avenue.

“To the yachting and marine community Apex’s move here is huge,” Aguirre said. And a critical piece needed for plans down the road to once again make Miami a destination for the yachting community, what Fort Lauderdale has been in recent decades.

So why is this rebirth finally taking hold after the river’s fall from prominence when Miami’s residents roared west into the suburbs. Today, led by millennials, they’re coming back east, to the urban core where — yes, we get to say it — a river runs through it.

In the past, the low rent part of the river — largely its murky middle and upper legs — were populated by working fishing boats and old docks, not really the desired view from a million-dollar condo balcony. But today that same location has been marketed as quaint, charming, rustic.

“The people who are moving near the river want to see the shrimp boat coming back to port; they want to see a tug boat towing a freighter in the sunset. They like the idea of a working river in the backdrop of their life,” Mr. Aguirre said. Most heartening is that the river remains the source of the livelihood for the people who labor on the waterway.

In other words, the river’s rebirth is smartly based on an acceptance of its functionality and history, which has landmarks throughout, from the Miami Circle at the mouth of the river where the Tequesta Indians settled to the Henry Flagler Workers Home near its bank.

“The history of the river is being incorporated into its renaissance,” Mr. Aguirre explained. That makes perfect sense. Other cities, such as San Antonio, have revived their riverfront. Why not Miami?

So a toast to the Miami River: Welcome back.