Miami’s Public Market, Part 1
One of the advantages of Bike Miami, the ability to explore Downtown Miami in a slower, more leisurely way, was never more evident for me than during this last iteration of the monthly event, when a new route extension was opened from Downtown to Lummus Landing, right on the Miami River. I’ve lived in Miami for almost 15 years now and I just never knew that was back there, hiding coyly from the bustle of I-95. Getting the chance to explore this area on my bike was fantastic, and I got to see things I did not know we had down here, like the stables of the Miami Mounted Police, Ft. Dallas, the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, and Lummus Park & Landing. Then there was also the Public Fish Market. Wait, the what?
A nondescript building in faded tones of pink, the Public Fish Market sits on NW N River Dr, almost under the SW 1st St bridge and ideally accessible from SW 2nd St. The building is obviously abandonded, not necessarily falling apart, but very much unused for years, all painted lettering almost unreadable at this point. When I first rode by I completely ignored it; it just didn’t exist in my peripheral vision, a phenomenon, I dare say, happens to most passerbys. It was only when we were riding back into Downtown that my wife took notice of it. She read something written on the wall out loud and that’s what made me look right and see the derelict structure for the first time.
The message on the wall read:
Capt Tom says:
This market was built for the benefit of the general public so they may buy fish at reasonable prices.
A lot of questions went through my mind as I turned around to read the inscription myself: We had a public fish market? I wonder how many know of this? Who was Capt. Tom? More to the point however, I wondered how come this building is not in use anymore!
Annoyingly, I have not been able to find any mention of this building anywhere online. The closest references I have found include:
- From City of Miami Plans & Initiatives: Miami River
“Lummus Landing” (Riverside Redevelopment Project)
“Lummus Landing” is another project that combines quality of life improvements in the form of a river walk, public plazas and boat slips, with the economic potential to create additional commercial activity of the River. Located on River Drive, across the street from Lummus Park (where the Pioneers Club used to sit), the City is currently overlooking the construction activities that are under way. Backed by an economic study of the Riverside district that was finished in 2000, the City eventually plans to seek a private entrepreneur to develop marine-related retail establishments, a restaurant, or possibly a fish market to serve the Riverside neighborhood. (Emphasis mine)
- From Miami River Commission Meeting Minutes: August 24, 2004(!)
A. Informational Presentation on the Status of the Garcia Brothers Seafood Inc.
Garcia stated the sites Lummus Park neighborhood was recently studied for historical designation, and his site and buildings are old enough for historic preservation. Garcia stated he is willing to negotiate new lease terms, including a raise in rent, providing improvements to the site such as a public seafood market, etc., yet wants the business to remain at the site. (Emphasis mine)
Neither of these reference are about the public fish market on NW N River Dr. though they do refer to the possible development of such an establishment in the area (Garcia Brothers Seafood now operates a fish market on premises). I’m going to keep digging to see if I can find more info on this building’s history (perhaps this will merit a visit to the library Downtown).
I am fascinated by this building, partly because of the implied history in it, but mainly because of the promise of what it could be again. Having seen the magnificent example of a public market in Pike Place Market in Seattle, my wife and I both had sudden daydreams of a similar space here in Miami. A quick look around us put us in the mindset of developers.
In Part 2 I’ll share our vision of this possible Miami Public Market.