Letizia D’Avenia: City of South Miami 2021

Student Bio

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia (CC by 4.0)

Letizia D’Avenia is a Junior at the FIU Honors College, majoring in psychology with a declared track in the Industrial-Organizational specialization and a certificate in Team Management. Her career goal is to help women in the workplace to feel confident in their abilities of leadership. She has lived her entire life in the city of Milan, Italy, and after moving to Miami three years ago, she became involved in different organizations on campus. Some of her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, drinking boba tea and collecting pins from different locations around the world.

GEOGRAPHY

Map retrieved from Google Maps

The City of South Miami occupies an area of approximately 2.30 square miles in Miami-Dade County. The East side of this neighborhood borders Coral Gables, and on the south side, it confines with the green Village of Pinecrest. On the west and north side, South Miami shares its border with Glenvar Heights, a safe and small neighborhood. A peculiar aspect of the limits of this neighborhood is the irregular borders in the north area; this was because, in 1937, the city’s size was abruptly reduced, since many dissatisfied northern residents sued out of the city (due to debt and local dissension created in the city), and at that moment the linearity of the border was not taken into consideration. South Miami, also known as the “The City of Pleasant Living”, has a unique small-town atmosphere with different shops and restaurants for both tourists and locals to relax and enjoy their rest days. The mayor Philip Sally and the Commission (composed of five members) manage many aspects of the city and ensure its smooth functioning. The downtown area is where majority of the entertainment locations are present, such as the Sunset Drive Mall, which includes a movie theater and trendy restaurants such as Cracked, one of the food locations opened by Chef Adrianne, and Garcia Nevett, an artisanal chocolatier of Miami. The urban characteristics of this city are counterbalanced by green areas that can be found in the neighborhood, where children are able to play sports and adults can come together and de-stress. Parks such as Dante Fascell Park and Murray Park are two of the most famous ones.

HISTORY

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

It is known that Native Americans (especially Tequestas) had been living in the Miami area for years; however, the recorded history of South Miami began around the end of the 1800’. In fact, in 1897, W.A. Larkins, an early pioneer and founder of South Miami, brought his family into this area, started a small dairy and a year later established a post office. Additionally, once the Miami to Homestead extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1906 was completed (thanks to Henry Flagler), Larkins bought more land and established the first grocery and general supply store located in the area. An important factor that significantly shaped South Miami was the move of the U.S. Government post office to that location, and thanks to this the surrounding community was named Larkins in honor of its Postmaster. By 1917, the population growth and real estate value of the area drastically increased (a 10-acre tract was sold for $100,000), and in 1926 the first town council was established. The town council worked intensively, establishing a town seal and renting a building to be the town hall. They even purchased the first-ever fire truck of the town! Following these positive events, some issues started to arise. The hurricane of 1926 definitely left the Town damaged, and the citizens tried to ask Congress to void their income tax for that year, but with no success. Another unfortunate event occurred when Florida East Coast Railway station burned down, leaving the town without a station for many years. Due to these circumstances, the citizens wanted to change their “town” status to “city”, since they felt that by obtaining that title the State and Federal Governments would take them more seriously. Therefore, after barely a year, on June 24, 1927, the Florida Legislature approved the new charter (which was prepared by the Town of South Miami) and the City of South Miami was born. Additionally, with these new changes and development of the city comes discrimination against African-American citizens, who become confined into a part of the neighborhood called “Black City” (History of Miami, Youtube). The turbulent events of this newborn city had just started. In the following couple of years racism, financial problems, local dissension, and general dissatisfaction from its citizens created many issues in the city. This reached the point where to lessen municipal responsibilities, South Miami’s total area was reduced more than half in two different moments, downsizing it from 6 square miles to the current 2.30 square miles, hence the irregular borders in the northern part of the neighborhood. Following World War II, the city finally fixed the past issues and created an entirely new charter and form of government, which have led to how we know South Miami now, a growing and developing city that will most likely lead by example in the next millennium.

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to the 2019 census, the population estimate in the City of South Miami was about 11,911 people. There are about 7.2% individuals under the age of 5, 18.3% under 18 years old and 14% of people 65 years old or older; this implies that the remaining 60.5% of people range from 18 years old to 65. The female population is 48.2% and the male one is 51.8%. The ethnicity of South Miami is predominantly white (77.2%), with the African-American population being 13.2%, and the Asian one adding up to 5.2%. The population of  Hispanic or Latino Origin is 54.7% and the non-Hispanic or Latino Origin are 25.5%. Regarding population characteristics, the number of Veterans (numbers recorded from 2015 to 2019) is 223 and the percentage of foreign people born in another country equals to 35.2. The median value of owner-occupied housing units (from 2015-2019) amounted to $569,300 with a median monthly owner cost (with mortgage) of $2,260 and without mortgage of $780. Lastly, the median household income from 2015 to 2019 was $62,067, and the person in poverty amounted to 14.1%.

Interview with Naama

Naama (photo courtesy of Naama)

Letizia: “Please introduce yourself”

Numa: “My name is Naama but I prefer to go by Numa, which is my nickname. I have been living in South Miami for two years now”

Letizia: “Why did you decide to live in the City of South Miami?”

Numa: “The main reason we decided to live here was the close proximity to both mine and my partner’s workplace”

Letizia: “What is your favourite aspect of the neighborhood?”

Numa: “Our favorite aspect of the city is the amount of greenery. Big old oak trees all around, we absolutely love it!”

Letizia: “If you could change anything about South Miami, what would it be and why?”

Numa: “I think this neighborhood is truly lovely, and I do not believe there should be any changes. I love it the way it is.”

Letizia: “What is your fondest memory that you have in this neighborhood?”

Numa: “Some of the fondest memories that I have here are the times spent in the beautiful parks of the community, such relaxing and beautiful times!”

LANDMARKS

St. John A.M.E 

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

The Historic Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the oldest churches in the City of South Miami. Thanks to the generous donation of land from Elnora (Marshall Williamson’s wife), the church was formerly organized by the first pastor, Rev. F.W. Kinslow, in 1915 and took the name St. John A.M.E. Church. Since then, the community built around this religious location has flourished, creating a place where those living in the neighborhood (especially the black community) could freely express their religion and themselves. This church was highly impacted by the 1926 Hurricane, since the building was destroyed; however, it was rebuilt only one year after, in order for it to keep being a vital part of the neighborhood. As stated on St. Johns website: “Our goals are to administer to the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional needs of our members and the community through Christian Ministries and community outreaches, and to serve and preserve our surrounding urban community for present and future generations through economic development and empowerment”. With these words in mind, it is easy to see how this Church has been so impactful and will remain relevant for many years.

Sunset Drive Mall

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

This Mall is one of the most diverse structures in the City of South Miami; with its large variety of shops, and its vast building (with spaces in the open-air as well), this is a place where many people that live in this neighborhood hang out at. The different food options inside and around the mall make this place a great location to eat delicious foods with friends and family. AMC also has a location here, adding another layer to all the entertainment of the mall. A unique aspect of the building is that the facade resembles the Art Deco features of the South Beach buildings, with orange pastel colors, curved edges, and a neon sign saying “Sunset Place”. In recent years however, the mall has been losing its popularity, and according to some, this might be due to a curse. In fact, at the time of the building construction many years ago, archaeological consultants had strongly advised against building on this property after groundbreaking unearthed interment mounds of a previously-unknown indigenous tribe. The building was strongly discouraged due to the high likelihood of an enduring curse, and by ignoring this idea the Sunset Drive Mall is now paying the consequences of it. Additionally, employees have reported hearing footsteps where no one had traversed, experienced feelings of emptiness and purposelessness when patrolling the western portions of the mall, and witnessed apparitions. Another explanation as to why the mall might be losing its popularity is due to the lack of other forms of entertainment (other than the AMC, shops and restaurants). The City of South Miami has declared that they will renovate the entire area in the next couple of years to make it a more popular location once again.

Doc Thomas House

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

While visiting this place, tourists and locals will discover a natural oasis in stark contrast to the concrete. The total area occupied by the house is of about 2.2 acres, which included the building itself and a vast garden, consisting of pine rockland and tropical hardwood hammock. The majestic house belonged to Arden Hayes Thomas and his widowed mother, Margaret. In fact, after they moved from Indiana to South Miami (Larkins at the time) and opened O. K. Drug Store (in 1926), they became popular and respected in the community and that is when the nickname “Doc” was attributed to Thomas (since he had become a pharmacist and helped many people). About a year after they moved, they decided to commission the building of the current Doc Thomas House. For many years the business was extremely fruitful, and after Margaret died, Thomas retired from being a pharmacist and spent the rest of his life gardening, socializing, traveling and managing his own food store. He never had kids, so once he died, the Tropical Audubon Society took formal possession of the property and now uses it as a meeting location for environmental groups, and as an educational and recreational open space for school students, scouts and area residents. This location has now been listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and earned Florida Heritage Site status in 2016.

GREEN

Dante Fascell Park

This is one of the widest green areas present in the City of South Miami. This park is a gem in the southern part of the city, which is perfect for those who live both in South Miami and Pinecrest. Some of the most popular features include a basketball court, a playground, a pro beach volleyball court, a sculpture Garden and six clay tennis courts. This is the perfect area for kids to play different sports and to even have a field day, which is possible thanks to the two pavilions, one slightly larger with five picnic tables and the other one with three tables. Another popular characteristic of this park is the jogging trail, which is about 1,375 ft (.26 miles) long, a perfect length to walk an hyperactive dog or to run a quick morning jog.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

Murray Park

In the City of South Miami, this 3.43-acre park is packed with picnic tables, which makes it a perfect location for a Sunday afternoon picnic. With multiple playgrounds, outdoor basketball courts, open field space, charcoal grills, and a baseball field, this park is another great option to come with friends and family to spend an active or relaxing day, enjoying the company of each other.

Palmer Park

This park specifically focuses on different sports programming. This is the perfect green area for both children and adults to engage in sporting activities. Palmer park offers a variety of interesting and inclusive programs, such as the adult softball leagues, youth baseball leagues, softball tournaments, youth tackle football, cheerleading, soccer (adult and youth) and adult kickball. It is important to have such parks in one’s neighborhood, since it gives the chance to basically everyone to engage in their passions in designated spaces, created for exactly this purpose. In the park, they obviously have all of the fields required to play these sports, so that once an individual is engaging in one of the programs, reaching the field is convenient. 

TRANSPORTATION

Like the majority of Miami neighborhoods, the City of South Miami has their own freebee service, which picks up and drops off people anywhere within the boundaries of the city. It is a free, green and easy service that allows different citizens to move quickly from one location to the other. 

Photo Retrieve from South Miami Website (CC by 4.0)

Another great transportation system is provided by the metrorail, which has a stop at the South Miami Station. Although a ticket is required to utilize this service (with a fare of about $2.25), the metrorail reaches the majority of the most popular locations in the city. Additionally, there are also different buses that traverse the neighborhood, and the fare is similar to the metrorail. An aspect that I find important about the buses is that the majority of them have a ramp for disabled people to be able to get on the bus without assistance, which I think is extremely important because it allows inclusivity and acceptance towards everyone in the neighborhood.

FOOD

Cracked

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Cracked in City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

Chef Adrianna Calvo always had the passion for cooking since she was a little girl. After countless years of experiences in different kitchens and with multiple chefs, she decided to open a restaurant that would reflect her culinary vision. Her idea was to deliver an extremely flavourful menu composed of free-range, organic, locally-sourced, and sustainable ingredients. According to the chef: “Where there is flavor, there is MAXIMUM flavor”, meaning that she looks for those ingredients that will bring the most amount of flavor in the dishes that are served. The menu is also vegan-friendly, a positive inclusive decision to ensure that everyone can try the particular dishes. As the italian I am, the burrata bar is a personal favorite; specifically, the burrata that is served with tomato onion jam and balsamic. The way the simple flavors mix with each other just creates an ecstatic flavor, that leaves an aftertaste of exotic and foreign

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at Cracked in City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

Root & Bone

Root & bone is located in the heart of South Miami. The modern look of the facade definitely tricks the clients into thinking that the interiors will also have a modern style to them; however, once entering the heavy glass doors, the Southern-inspired decor takes over. Its concrete floors that alternate with white tiles, the walls covered in light wood, and the teal booths with white details create the perfect atmosphere for the clients to enjoy the exquisite cuisine. The goal of the two chefs and founders of this restaurant, chefs Janine Booth & Jeff Mcinnis, was very simple: create a menu that was composed of fresh ingredients coming from earth (root) and composed the majority of the time with meat (bone). In fact, this restaurant is extremely popular in the neighborhood for its show-stopping fried chicken, which with its personality has won over many people in South Miami. In addition to the chicken, “Grandma Daisy’s Angel Biscuits” are a pleasant experience for the taste buds; accompanied by a honey butter sauce, this dish is a must-have at Root & Bone. Served warm, the sweet and salty flavor will make the customers leave the restaurant wanting to go back and have more.

Akashi Sushi

The owners Larry Chi and his wife Barbara decided to name the restaurant Akashi because of its symbolic meaning; as a matter of fact, the Japanese word means “bright stone”, which symbolizes the idea of creating a gem in the sushi community. Additionally, Akashi is also the name of a city in Japan that is well known for its seafood, especially their snapper. A peculiar aspect of this restaurant is that originally, all the chefs working there were all family members, who poured their passion and dedication into cooking the most delicious foods. After their establishment in South Miami in 1993, the restaurant has become one of the most popular sushi places in the neighborhood. The environment that they created in the restaurant is familiar and warm, and patrons always feel at peace while eating tasteful sushi dishes. Unfortunately, due to Covid I have not been able to eat inside the restaurant; however, my family and I order takeaway at least once a week. The menu contains a large variety of Japanese specialties, raw and cooked. A personal favorite is the “Jennifer Roll”, which combines crab salad rolls topped with salmon slices. Additionally, the “South Beach” roll uses the same ingredients but adds spicy mayo, that leaves a gentle tingly flavor once finishing the dish. For those who do not enjoy raw fish, the “tempura and teriyaki dinners” will be the perfect options to experience this cuisine in all of its flavors.

Photo by Letizia D’AVenia of Akashi Sushi Takeaway (CC by 4.0)

BUSINESSES

Garcia Nevett

Susan and Isabel Garcia Nevett are two sisters from Venezuela with one passion: chocolate. After spending more than a decade perfecting their chocolatier skills (first in Venezuela and then in France), they decided to open a shop in South Miami, infusing their fine chocolate with the flavors of this exotic city. Since their opening in the Miami location, the Garcia Nevett sisters have won over hundreds of chocolate lovers, thanks to their award winning chocolates and sweet creations. The secret behind this spectacular chocolate recipe is simple: their products are made with 100% Venezuelan chocolate and original recipes inspired both by their childhoods and local Florida ingredients. One of their newer products that will get you addicted is the Chocolate Mousse. The creamy and sweet flavor that is released in the mouth after only one spoonful is an indescribable experience, completely out of the ordinary. I suggest eating the mousse with caramel toppings, to add crunchiness and saltiness. The last product that they just launched is the Advent Calendar, all made with their own artigianal chocolates; such a thoughtful and yummy gift for someone that celebrates the Advent period! Overall, this place is definitely unique and adds new and fresh expectations to the current businesses opening in South Miami.

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia of Advent Calendar from Garcia Nevett (CC by 4.0)

BASE Salon

After working as a hairstylist in LA for many years, Ashley Keenan decided she wanted to open her own salon here in Miami and provide her clients with the many skills she has learned throughout her entire career. She specializes in low-maintenance hair-coloring in her minimalistic and ordinated hair salon. Ashley’s desire with her salon is to not focus on the volume of the clientele but on the experience that each client will be getting during one of her hair cutting or coloring sessions. She works alongside her talented team composed of Brittany Papa, Ashley Marley, and Melissa Martinez, and together they ensure that the clientele attending the salon will undergo the best service possible. I have a really complicated hair texture, and Ashley has always been able to cut my hair that makes them effortlessly beautiful. She has also focused on my curls and helped me revive them after years of coloring them. Her care for the service does not go unnoticed, and she is definitely my go to for any hair services.

Schneider Eye Center 

Photo by Letizia D’Avenia at City of South Miami (CC by 4.0)

Since 1995, the eye care services provided by this center are extensive and professional: from eye exams, contact lenses and lasik consultations, this is the perfect place to assess your eye health. Dr. Schneider and his team are determined to constantly stay updated with the  latest developments in eye care, prescription lenses, and advances in contact lens technology. This way, once the visit is finished, they can help you understand what is the best plan for you and your eyesight. Additionally, they have glasses in the office from a variety of different brands; therefore, the clients are able to be visited and pick up glasses, a real convenience. They also understand that eye care can be expensive and they have in place different plans and flexible payment options to ensure the clients get great service for a reasonable price.

SUMMARY

Overall, the neighborhood of South Miami is an exquisite place to visit and live in. Although the history of the City was definitely troublesome and difficult, the city as we know it now has flourished and is one of the best areas of Miami. With its plentiful businesses, old and new, and its green areas, South Miami is destined to lead by example many other areas in Miami. One aspect of the neighborhood that I wish could be improved is the greenery; although there is a lot, I believe that the City could do even more to become greener. On the official website of the City of South Miami, I did see that the city has plans and intentions to fulfill this idea and I am thrilled to see what is to come. Additionally, renovating the downtown area has also been discussed plenty, and I know that by doing so people will be increasingly interested in visiting this area. I also wish the City of South Miami could improve the transportation system, since I believe it could be more interconnected with other neighborhoods, especially Coconut Grove and Brickell. In conclusion, through its ups and downs, this neighborhood has offered a safe and enjoyable environment, and it will continue to do so for a long time.

CITATIONS

Bureau, US Census. “Census.” Census.gov, www.census.gov/

“Demographics.” Demographics | South Miami, FL – Official Website, http://www.southmiamifl.gov/108/Demographics.

Milo. “Sunset Place Built on Ancient Ground; Announces Plans to Renovate.” The Plantain, 29 Oct. 2020, https://theplantain.com/sunset-place-has-ghosts/.

“History of South Miami.” History of South Miami | South Miami, FL – Official Website, https://www.southmiamifl.gov/217/Citys-History.

Community News Releases. “A Glance Back at Larkins/South Miami.” Miami’s Community News, 23 June 2017, https://communitynewspapers.com/south-miami-news/a-glance-back-at-larkinssouth-miami/.

“Best Southern Food in Miami: Root & Bone – South Miami, FL.” Root & Bone – South Miami, 23 Aug. 2021, https://rootnbonemia.com/.

“Cracked by Chef Adrianne.” Cracked, https://igotcracked.com/.

“About US – Garcia Nevett Chocolates in Miami.” Garcia Nevett Chocolatier De Miami, https://garcianevett.com/pages/about-us_chocolates_miami.

About Us, http://stjohnamesouthmiami.org/about_us.html

“Doc Thomas House.” Tropical Audubon Society, https://tropicalaudubon.org/doc-thomas-house.

“Meet Us – Base Hair.” Skin, https://www.basehairandskin.com/meet-us

 “Schneider Eye Center – Optometry in South Miami, FL US :: About Us.” Schneider Eye Center – Optometry in South Miami, FL US :: About Us Schneider Eye Center – Optometry in South Miami, FL US, http://www.schneidereyecenter.com/about-us.html.

Metrorail, https://www.miamidade.gov/global/transportation/metrorail.page.

History of South Miami – Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdxCIahiNzM.

Service-Area-CivicPlus. http://fl-southmiami.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/4697/South-Miami-South-Miami-Pamphlet—November-2020.

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