Miami River renaissance: The city’s long-neglected birthplace comes back to life

Before there was a Brickell Avenue or a Flagler Street or a Tuttle Causeway, before there was an Interstate 95 or a Dolphin Expressway, before every spectacular boom and bust of Miami real estate, there was the Miami River.

This is where the Tequestas settled, where early pioneers lived and traded, where the Royal Palm Hotel, Miami, Florida’s first major tourist attraction, welcomed well-heeled snowbirds.

Modern Miami owes its very existence to this navigable waterway. In fact, “Miami” is a Tequestan term for sweet water. Yet for decades the Miami River was the forgotten route of a community marching ever westward, a murky mess that was the site of some of the city’s most embarrassing moments.

No more. The River is making a comeback. Its 5 1/2 miles have become the focus of both a land grab and a restaurant renaissance.

That’s where it all started,” says Miami Dade College historian Paul George, who grew up by the banks of the river and now hosts tours of it. “With the flight to the suburbs it lost its luster for a while, but there’s been a resurgence of interest.

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