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  1. #1
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    Default Need artsy, walking, small-town feel, diverse neighboorhood near FIU North

    Hi there!

    My husband is taking a faculty position at the FIU's North Campus on Biscayne Bay in North Miami. So we will be moving from our much hated tent in the bush in South Africa to Miami this summer (your summer). We need some help navigating your neighborhoods. I've been researching the area and reading many of the threads on the post and now need some advice about where we should live.

    Get ready we have a long wish list.

    We'd like to be within a 30 minute commute south of FIU's North Campus. We want to be in a community that feels like a small town, one where you can walk around to shop, go to the farmer's market, art galleries, theater, and community events. We might only get one car, so a walking neighborhood is pretty important. Suburbs are out. I'm an artist and would love to be in an artsy neighborhood. We are in our early 30's and don't have kids yet but plan to in a few years, so we would like to be in a neighborhood that does have some young families. We'd also like for our neighborhood to be diverse since we have lived or worked all over the world (Panama, Africa, Indonesia, Honduras) and enjoy being with people of different cultures. We're also pretty progressive thinkers politically and with regards to lifestyle (green), so it would be nice if we lived in a community that supported our choices. It would be really nice if we lived in a low crime area, but after living in the middle of Atlanta for six years we understand that is not really a possiblity. Also, we don't want to be in a high rise or a condo or an apartment. We really want to rent a cottage or a 2 bedroom house. We lived in a condo in Atlanta for six years. We just can't do it again. Congrats to all of y'all who do. After being in the middle of the bush for 2 years, we need our space.

    To sum up: 30 minute commute from FIU North, small town feel, walking community, artsy flair, some young families, diversity of culture, progressive thinkers, low crime, some cottages/houses for rent.

    So here are the areas that we think might suit us. Please tell us if we are right or wrong.
    On Miami Beach: Bay Harbor Islands, Surfside, North Beach and Mid Beach.
    On the mainland: El Portal, Upper Eastside, Belle Meade, Morningside, and the Design District.

    Do any of these neighborhoods jump out as "yes, that's the one for you" or "no, don't live there, it's all wrong"?

    Thank you so much for your help. I have really enjoyed reading all of your advice. I am so glad there are people like y'all who help people like me find places to call home in Miami. Also, the maps are fantastic! Thanks so much for all of the time and energy y'all must have spent making them. They are great and so helpful.

    Thanks again!

  2. #2
    Suzanne C
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    Hi African Tent Woman and welcome to our forums!!!

    I can tell you that right off the bat most people will tell you to stay away from the Design District. The areas with nicer houses are surrounded by pockets of crime. I've never lived and really, short of a few gallery visits and poetry readings, I've really only been in Design District while at Gus and Michelle's former digs. I can tell you that I saw no crime.

    Along the crime line, Morningside is another area that you may want to shy away from. The parts that are within walking distance of anything are also prone to crime. The best part of Morningside is a gated residential community- just houses.

    I'd also say that any where along the beach might not be your cup of tea since you want to stay away from the hi-rises and that area is predominantly condos.

    I don't know...I guess I like the Design District area...like I said, I never saw crime there.

    Is there any way you'd adjust that commute time?

    If it weren't for that 30 minute commute you've got listed there, I'd definitely say the Grove would be the place where you'd feel most at home.

  3. #3
    Editor Matt Meltzer's Avatar
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    I gotta agree. The Grove is really the only part of Miami I can think of that has that feel to it. Your commute will be bad, but not awful as you are going the opposite direction of traffic once you pass downtown.

    While we do have a burgeoning art scene here, we are not exaclty Santa Fe East either, so if you are looking for that you may be limited.

    Miami Springs is actually pretty nice with a small town feel. You may see that it is located right north of the airport, but do not be fooled. It is a really nice, normal family community sith s trong sense of neighborhood. Not very artsy, though. I would at least check it out.

    Surfside is kinda neat. Not a real family place, but sort of quirky and "old beach" if you know what I mean. It doesn't have as many of the brutal high-rise condos as some other parts of the beach. Much like a lot of Miami Beach once you get further north.

    Also check out Miami Shores. Not unlike Miami springs, but on the water. Losts of nicer, older houses there. And crime is not too bad.

    El Portal, maybe not so much. North Miami isn't really big on having anything walking distance, and you get a lot of crime in there.

    Wynwood is near Morningside. It has some of the same issues as that area, but that whole Biscayne corridor is changing fast.

    So, yeah. you have a lot of options. But if you want what you've described above, Coconut Grove is the place for you. Just make sure your car has good A/C.

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    Thanks y'all for the great advice. I really appreciate it.

    Your advice about COCONUT GROVE is in line with our original thoughts about the area. When we first started reading about neighborhoods, we thought Coconut Grove! That's it! But when we looked on the map, we thought NIGHTMARE! After living in Atlanta, we are so spooked about traffic. My husband commute from our condo in Atlanta began as 15 minutes in rush hour, but after 5 years was 45-60 minutes. So I guess part of my concern about moving to Coconut Grove is how much growth is predicted in the next several years in between Coconut Grove and FIU North? Meaning will a commute of 45 minutes become a commute of 2 hours in 5 years?

    Thanks for your advice about crime. We lived in an really nice area of Atlanta, but it bordered a very poor area, so I understand about not walking at night and being careful where you are. Also, we had to drive 25 minutes to grocery shop. And cars were constantly stolen from the gas station across the street from our condo buildings. If possible, I would prefer not to deal with that again, but I think it is just part of city living. And why you don't drive a really nice car.

    Also, from what I am gathering Miami doesn't really have any small town feel areas or walking communities except for South Beach. So I need to just drop that as a wish right?

    So next, we aren't party people. We are home bodies who like to go out to a local bar, a favorite restaurant, art gallery, the occasional theater, ballet, and opera. We want to live in a quiet part of Miami, somewhere where people know there neighbors. So we want to live close to the artsy parts of town so that driving in from galleries and the theater isn't a long haul.

    I've gotten the impression from what the few people in Miami that we have met that Miami Beach might be best. (Unless my husband can stand the commute from Coconut Grove) That way at least we would be close enough to visit the Design District and Wynwood and other areas with galleries and the opera in South Beach.

    Could someone tell me about life in North Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, Surfside and Mid Beach? Is Surfside all touristy? Is North Beach more deserted? Are Bay Harbor and Mid Beach more towny in that they have schools, pharmacies, groceries, and more?

    Is El Portal all residential? And someone hinted to us that the we shouldn't walk around at night. Does that mean the crime is high there? We really liked the idea of living in a bird sanctuary and near nature trails.

    Should we just be on the beach?

    Thanks again for your help and advice

  5. #5
    Editor Matt Meltzer's Avatar
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    Can't tell you much about those northern communities, but if you guys are homebodies South Beach might not be for you. A lot of nightlife there, and parking is tough if you don't have a spot. And there is always stuff going on.

    the opera is more than likely going to be at the Carnival Center, which is just north of Downtown.

    The growth thing is a tricky issue. There are currently a bunch of unoccupied condo buildgins downtown and in Brickell that, if they fill up, MAY create more triffic going up north. I say MAY because it would depend where business goes. If businesses start pringing up in the downtown area, a lot of those people won't be on the road. Although the traffic may be at a saturation point, in that it can't get a lot worse. Just maybe longer rush hours.

    Hope that helps. Maybe someone else can enlighten you a little more on those northern communities. Surfside, I know, is not touristy.

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    Hi there and welcome!

    I'm in agreement that it seems like Coconut Grove is closest to meeting your wish list. If you live right by U.S. 1, your husband can hop on in the morning (or, because traffic in that area may suck, get on Coral Way and cut to I-95), and zip up the highway. I've taken I-95 North in the morning - as early as 7 and as late as 10 a.m., and it's always been traffic and hassle-free.

    You might also consider Little Havana - in recent years, it's become somewhat of an artsy/boho haven, because rents were cheap enough for artists. The most eastern part of Little Havana has really bad crime, but in the middle - between 17 and 12 Ave., let's say, within a few blocks north or south of SW 8 St., you should be fine. It's not a sophisticated part of town, but there are lots of galleries and unique restaurants, plus some bars and small clubs. Not sure it's the ideal, but I just thought I'd toss it out.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Hi, as long as we're pitching out places that randomly come to mind, Hollywood has a great smalltown feel, with a walkable, up-and-coming downtown. Some of the surrounding neighborhoods are a little Jerry Springerish, but there are some really beautiful areas as well. It has the only Atlantic City-style boardwalk in the state (I think), and some pristine nature areas closeby. Prices are also a lot lower there than in Miami or Miami Beach.

    The only thing is, you'd be looking at a bit of a commute. That's why I didn't mention it before...However, I do believe that it might just fit in your 30-minute boundary!

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    That's a good one, Doug. I actually really like Hollywood, and it really isn't far from FIU North, just straight up Biscayne / U.S. 1 for 15 to 25 min...

    It definitely has an older feel to it, which I personally love, and the downtown area just west of the beach is indeed unique and laid-back. The houses in that area are older, too, and full of charm and nice touches.

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Thanks, Tere. I really like this area, too. They also have a beautiful park they recently constructed in Young Circle, complete with sacred Baobab tree, water and "dream-wave" sculptures designed by Japanese artist Ritsuko Taho. Despite the traffic buzzing around it, the "arts park" has a powerfully relaxing feel to it, especially with the music that plays by the Baobab tree.
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    I was going to mention Hollywood, but then I thought about all the traffic getting to 95. I guess it isn't really that bad though. Yeah, it may be the only sleepy beach town left in Dade and Broward.

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Well, to quote the great Broward visionary, Vanilla Ice, there's always the "A-1A"...

    In the sleepy town category, I'd bet Dania is sleepier still. The high point of life there is going to play Jai Alai.

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    Hi there!

    Thanks everyone! I really appreciate all of the advice. My apologies for taking so long to reply. Our power and internet service is sometimes spotty in the tent.

    Well, I must admit, Doug, at first I was really skeptical about Hollywood because I had read another post of yours talking about how there wasn't anything to do up there, but I went on the town's website and several other Hollywood websites and discovered that there is a lot of what we are looking for going on up there.

    I mean, yeah it is a small, quiet beach community, but it seems to have an active arts community with music, ballet, and art galleries and a farmers market. Hollywood also seems to meet all of the criteria on our massive list of what we want in a community.

    So we are going to check in out in June when we are back in the States.

    Thanks so much for everyone's help and for the warm welcome.

    Peace!

  13. #13
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Hi, African Tent Woman, I don't remember exactly saying there wasn't anything to do up there. Because I could think of plenty of things, from the Broadwalk to the nature parks, to walking around the downtown. However, the problem is that many of the downtown buildings tend to be occasional type businesses, rather than ones you'd use every day. Occasional as in upscale restaurants, boutiquey shops and lots of doctors offices and medical-related businesses further afield. Daily things like banks and the post office and little markets aren't so integral to the landscape. There is a Publix right on Young Circle, and a Walgreens, which helps. Still, the artsy aspect of its downtown would definitely appeal to you.

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    Hi!
    I just wanted to pop in my two cents about Hollywood. I've spent a lot of time there over the past year researching the neighborhoods, visiting apartment complexes...just general stuff (and BTW, Wikipedia has a great article about the history!). I love Hollywood, esp. the Art Park and the movies on the beach, the sidewalk eateries, Jazz bars...and was very excited about the thought of living there. The town has a great e-newsletter they send out with all of the events in town. The center of town was only 18 blocks from the beach...I was in heaven! I figured only 18 miles from work (downtown Miami) would be a breeze. I am coming from Atlanta and figured nothing could be worse!

    Unfortunately, I've since learned that 18 miles in Miami could equal 2 hours in my car on I95...no deal! I've resolved myself to moving to Miami.

    I actually say all of this to say that if the commute is do-able, given your criteria, I think you will love that city!

    Good luck!

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    NJhandygirl, based on your research of the neighborhoods in Hollywood, which areas did you find were the nicest and most walkable (as far as getting to stores and stuff)?

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    Hey Doug,

    There are a lot of businesses on Harrison Street. So, I had decided to live east of Dixie Highway and West of 15th Street; south of Fillmore, north of Jackson. I know, very pinpointed. It just seemed to me that as you get further north or south of Hollywood Blvd., things can get rather sketchy...as well as too far west of the circle (things seem more deserted). West of 15th was just a preference of mine in order to walk to the main area, as there is too little parking on the strip. Although I really liked the high rises on the beach, I didn't think there was enough in walking distance. But with the beach only 18 blocks away from the circle, it was close enough to just drive (or bike!). Besides Harrison St., there are a lot of businesses on 17th, just east of Young circle.

    Until deciding to move to Miami, I was planning to rent a condo in one of the Regent Park complexes on 19th and Van Buren. Now, with the opening of the Radius and Hollywood Station, there are more close-by options. It also seemed like there were some really great deals on rental houses on Hollywood Blvd...reminiscent of old Beverly Hills and Hollywood, CA.

    As you can tell, I was slightly infatuated with Hollywood. Hope that was helpful (and an answer to your question!). I remember reading one of your posts and you were considering moving out of Miami...are you still planning to do that?

    Suzanne

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    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Hi Suzanne, I like being in an artistic, pedestrian-friendly area, just like African Tent Woman. South Beach is a little too congested, however, especially for my friend Dave, who, due to his difficulty in dealing with social situations, feels a little overwhelmed by the density here. I personally still feel that the 24-hour culture, beach and mix of world cultures more than make up for these disadvantages. However, Dave definitely needs a more peaceful setting, as he's practically turned into a shut-in! I think a place like Hollywood would be a great compromise, as it offers access to the beach and an interesting downtown, without the craziness you find down here. It's less condensed, with more green space and less people on the sidewalks. We have until May 31 before the lease runs out, so I still have lots of time to research different options.

    Finances are also an issue, as you could probably get an equal-sized place for nearly $300/month less in Hollywood or Dania than you would in SoBe.

    Thanks a lot for your suggestions! They will make a great guide for me next time I go scouting around Hollywood.

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    Welcome, African Tent Woman!

    The commute from Hollywood to North Miami, down US-1, is not going to be bad at all - 30 minutes at the most I would say. In fact, I'm glad Doug mentioned Hollywood because I think there and Coconut Grove will be your 2 best options, with Hollywood having a much shorter commute.

    Gus mentioned to me just the other day that he saw a lot of "For Rent" signs in Hallandale/Hollywood area.

    Good Luck!

  19. #19
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    Hi African Tent Woman

    I concur with the others here that Hollywood may be a great option, esp. if your husband is a faculty member, he will probably not have a typical 9-5 commuting schedule anyway.

    Everything along US1 (Biscayne Blvd) is like one giant strip mall for miles on end, but there are lots of conveniences.

    Surfside is actually full of condos on the east side, but mainly residential (single family homes) on the bay. It is a tiny township just in between Bal Harbour and Miami Beach. The thing about North Beach/Surfside/Bal Harbour and Bay Harbour is that you are close to the toll causeway (Broad Causeway), which puts you smack on 125th street at US1, which is a good commuting option for FIU North. Also, if you look into Sunny Isles, you'll have a very easy commute just over the 163rd street causeway (826, non-toll).

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    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks for your advice! My apologies for my long delay in getting back to you. We had a long series of storms that knocked out our electricity and then the internet was down for a few weeks. Then my parents can for a few weeks. So my research on Miami neighborhoods has been delayed.

    But now I'm back, and I've got a couple more questions.

    We moved Hollywood to the top of our list until that we discovered that the schools there are all graded C, D, and F. We are planning on starting a family soon and would like to be near good public schools. Coming from Atlanta, we know that you can find good elem and middle schools in pockets of the city. And Miami has a great magnet school program, so we would love advice about neighborhoods with good elementary schools.

    I know that Coconut Grove and Miami Beach has good schools. We don't have a problem living in an up and coming neighborhood and are still considering the Design District and the Upper Eastside. Surfside, Mid Beach (if we can afford it), and North Beach might also be options because we love the beach. I would love to hear if you think these might be good places for us. We'll be visiting next month to check out neighborhoods.

    Also, we are middle to upper middle class intellectuals with liberal views. My husband's an ecologist. I'm an artist and writer. We have lived all over the world, value diversity and want to be in a community that does also. We haven't spoken Spanish since we moved from rural Panama six years ago, but figure it will come back quickly. So we are ready to embracing the international flare of Miami.

    Thanks for all of your help!

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