MIAMI (Reuters) – On Sunday, thousands of locals will descend on Miami Beach for the annual Miami Beach Open Air Festival, the biggest open air outdoor event in the United States, with thousands of fireworks and parades.
But the festival has become more of a symbol for Miami’s increasingly aggressive approach to urban renewal, and a key battleground for local and state officials seeking to build more homes and businesses in the neighborhood where it has been the site of the city’s worst housing crisis.
Local leaders and residents have long argued that the city has not kept pace with the development of the neighborhood, with many of its most vibrant neighborhoods abandoned and replaced with empty warehouses, blighted buildings and vacant lots.
A state judge recently ruled against the city and rejected plans to build a high-rise condominium tower.
And in the city where the United Nations designated Miami as one of the world’s most polluted, a plan to redevelop a site near the Florida State Fairgrounds that was once the main shopping and entertainment district has fallen apart.
Critics of the state’s efforts say the city lacks the funds, technology and legal framework to manage the redevelopment.
But in an interview, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he had the support of the community and city council, and was confident that the process would be successful.
He said the city would continue to pursue redevelopment projects, but only as necessary, without further delay.
“We are not going to stop now,” Gimenez told Reuters.
“We are going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The city’s mayor, who was not part of the lawsuit, said the process of getting the city approved to redevelop the site was not yet complete.
“It’s not over, and we are not done,” Giminez said.
“There’s still a lot of work to do.
We’re trying to do it the right way.”
In the past two years, the city of more than 2 million has demolished about 300,000 structures to make way for more housing, businesses and a public park, and it has purchased an additional 1,000 acres of vacant land.
The city also has spent $2.4 billion on projects such as roads, parks and green space, and has created thousands of jobs.
“The city of Miami has been at the forefront of bringing our city back to life,” said Mayor Carlos Arroyo, who is the son of former President Felipe Calderon.
“This project is the culmination of that.”