When Lebron James made his decision in 2010, the Heat were mired in controversy, criticized for their hubris and 'over the top' celebration before a championship had yet to be won. While flames were fanned by sports critics across the nation, Miami faced its own battle at home: a sluggish economy, a crippling real estate market flooded with foreclosures, and an oil spill that threatened its coast.
The real estate boom-turned-bust brought nearly 23,000 residential condo units to Miami's urban core, creating a surplus of inventory that even the most bullish economists thought would take a decade to absorb. But out of the ashes of the crash, a 24-7 community has emerged as thousands of new residents flood the district seeking a more urban lifestyle.
Today, downtown Miami's residential market is more than 93 percent occupied with 70,000 full-time residents living within the district, an 80 percent jump from 10 years ago. Population is only expected to grow as new projects come out of the ground to keep pace with this heightened demand.
On the heels of this residential growth, new businesses are opening, new cultural amenities are taking shape, and foreign investors from all parts of the globe are setting their sights on the district with plans for major mixed use projects. In fact, more than $50 billion has been invested in Miami's urban core in this year alone -- a figure that would be staggering even at the peak of an economic cycle.
Downtown Miami's hospitality market is also sizzling, with more four and five-star hotels per capita than anywhere in the state and ranking as the second most popular destination in the county for overnight stays.
Today, Miami has reversed course, shedding its perception as a lazy beach town and emerging as a true metropolis and international destination for commerce, tourism, and arts & culture.
More than 400,000 fans took to downtown Miami's streets on Monday, most of whom traveled just steps from their homes, offices, and storefronts to cheer on the Heat as they took their hard-earned victory lap. It was a celebration of a team that fought back in the face of adversity and a city that stood resilient -- and bounced back even stronger -- following its own set of challenges.
To be sure, the dust will settle from our revelry but we can sustain the momentum by rolling up our sleeves and looking ahead to the task at hand. Just like the Heat will have next season to prove themselves, Miami has more work to be done to realize its vision as a world-class city: stimulating economic development, enhancing access to public transit, and increasing quality of life for its residents and visitors. The lessons learned in these past few years have made both team and city more than up for the challenge.