If this were the early 90's and you had slept over my house under the pretense that we would go to work with my pops in downtown Miami, then once we got to Government Center we would have taken the easternmost exit, the exit that winds under the awningned escalator and onto NW 2nd Street. Crossing NW First Ave, we would have caught up with the gusts and rafagas hiding in the corners of the state of the art courthouse. We would have gone south on North Miami for one little block while gawking at the Haitian shops, the Creole pouring out of speakers, lace as static.
But this was the end of 2016, so we took the escalator down into the officious plazita at the read end of the Main Library and east on NW First Street because Pops wanted to show me the obtruse, metal carcass of the future train. But this was the end of 2016, so pops made us walk north on NW First Avenue until we reached the corner of the Dade County District Court on NW Second Street to creep a peep. But this was the end of 2016, and you could clearly see the platform for this beast was going to be 60 feet in the air, towering over the residents of Overtown, looking down on the diaphanous frame of Miami's first sports arena.
From the corner of NW 2nd Street and NW First Ave you can clearly see the terminus; there are enormous red cranes hoisting sections of lattice lay eyes can barely articulate. Make no doubt, though, something large and girthy as the Government Center itself is coming and will ransom just as much airspace from the downtown landscape.
In the early 90's we would have wrapped around the court building and walked up NW Second Street to North Miami Ave and turned south one block to NE First Street, turned east on NE First Street and crept up on Seybold in the shadow of the MetroMall. In the early 90's you would have seen MetroMall open for business with at least a minimal amount of busy work in the small, bottom-feeder shops that ringed the atrium. Don't get me wrong; there were never lines to get into the MetroMall, but it used to be a working mall with working people inside helping working customers.
Pops tells me its been shuttered for the past 8 years and I remember that during that time he ran a 20 person operation for an Indian expatriate with a PhD in Physics named Michael. This was before he moved into the Seybold and went to work for himself, so I must have been twelve or so when he ran a whole operation up on the third floor of the MetroMall. You look at the building now and all you see are sooty grates.
Later that day, Pops took me on a tour of adjoining ecosystems and buildings to the Seybold. So we walked down NorthEast First Street, sharing shoulder space with the Dupont Building on Second and Flagler. We passed a trendy Italian restaurant and pops threw his hands up at the cooks in the back as if he played futbol with them on Tuesdays and shouted, Rosario, como estai? To which a stout little miscreant that should have shaved this morning shouted back, Chai, Horacio, como estai?
Pops tells me that on the weekends there are Ferraris and Lambos throwing up their doors to get a space by the curb, and yet the inner repository and sanctum of the restaurant, their jazz catacombs is and has been condemned by the city of Miami. And yet, on the day when we went, the restaurant was doing a brisk sale of Sicilian pizza with soy instead of cheese and I am sure looking forward to globular wine glass sales later on that night. We passed the building with little discs pressed into the face of the building, across the street from the Dade Commonwealth Building and hung a right into the 777 International Mall
Inside, I can not tell you the horror of vacancy, the silence of the dirty panes, the manner in which shops are closed, the debris and detritus of having to close a shop in a depressed city center. Regardless of whether the stores were former nail salons or gold-plated purveyors, their doors were closed and debris lay strewn on the ground as if the owners had left in a hurry. You could taste the soot on the plastic shutters or at least it seemed like that to me. I had the feeling that we were excavating this mall instead of passing through like a errant breeze.
These are taken inside the 777 International Mall.
Yes there were workmen painting some of the shops on the second floor, but for the most part the mall was dead, the dream of this place as a money-making waterfall was more than dead, and here we were getting a rare glimpse into the
The author and Pops inside the 777 International Mall.