Rising sea levels may add to developers’ interest in Miami’s inland areas

Flooding may already be a factor in high-ground development

Jul.July 30, 2017 08:30 AM

Flooding in Miami Beach in 2013

Real estate speculation in lower-cost, higher-elevation areas of inland Miami may draw fuel from sea-level rise, according to an article published by Scientific American.

Hugh Gladwin, an anthropologist at Florida International University, is starting to see evidence that sea-level rise already is playing a role in real estate speculation on Miami’s inland.

Little Haiti, for example, has attracted a new wave of real estate investors, following in the path of other areas that gentrified in recent years, such as Wynwood.

These and other older, urban areas are on higher ground than Miami’s waterfront.  These areas, many of them historically black neighborhoods, have a geological advantage: They are located along a limestone ridge that runs west of the water throughout South Florida.

Racially discriminatory zoning and regulation in the decades-long Jim Crow era prevented blacks from living outside Miami’s urban core. Now, pockets of Miami’s black population are in “prime real estate locations,” Teri Williams, president of black-owned OneUnited Bank, said recently on a WLRN radio program.

Jesse Keenan, a former Miami Beach resident who teaches adaptive approaches to climate change at Harvard University, said survey data show people with average incomes are moving out of Miami Beach and other places prone to nuisance flooding.

Keenan said 20 percent of the population of Miami Beach could move out of the city in the next 20 years, especially if the city is hit by a powerful storm like Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Few real estate developers are willing to talk about how sea-level rise is affecting their decision-making. But local governments are paying plenty of attention to the threat. Miami Beach has tried to adapt to sea-level rise by installing pumping systems that push storm water into Biscayne Bay.

The city government of Coral Gables last fall took the unusual step of preparing an analysis of how it would cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades if sea-level rise causes the city’s population and tax base to shrink. [Scientific American]Mike Seemuth

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