Eye-catching, pastel-colored concrete half cylinders sit in a park between 72nd and 73rd Streets and Collins Avenue. At times the structures are still, silent. At other times they emanate music. Did they drop in from outer space? This modern Stonehenge of sorts might lure people to it, but there%u2019s nothing alien about it.
Actually the unique building is the North Shore Bandshell, a small outdoor amphitheater. which lies just north of the North Shore Community Center The center is no longer there and we are now waiting for the new North Beach Senior Community Center to be built by Unidad. This important and beloved work of Mid-Ccentury Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture sprang from the mind of the renowned Norman Giller in 1961. And soon another prominent local architect will showcase one of his fine structures in North Beach when the North Beach Senior Community Center designed by Rene Gonzalez rises just south of the Bandshell.
Old and new meet effortlessly in the area dubbed the Bandshell Commercial District, which runs from 73rd to 75th Streets and from Collins Avenue east to Ocean Terrace. The nearly 50-year-old bandshell and community center have been spruced up over the years, and the bandshell has hosted regular concerts of world music plus the occasional roller skating night for kids. Yoga classes are also offered for those who wish to get centered by the sea.
Immediately north, Collins Avenue is busy with restaurants and shops, many catering especially to the large local Argentine population that lives in the surrounding environs often referred to as Little Buenos Aires. But one can just easily enjoy an enchilada as an empanada thanks to the many ethnic eateries in the area that cater to a variety of tastes.
East of Collins Avenue, the two-block-long street known as Ocean Terrace faces the Atlantic Ocean. With a generous expanse of sidewalk, the area features a row of beach-facing hotels in the Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Miami Modern styles, a tall condominium, and a few restaurants and shops. The older buildings offer elegant details like etched glass, colorful terrazzo, and striped banding. Some of the hotels seem reminiscent of those on another street further south which also contains the word %u201Cocean%u201D in its name. Low-scale, Moderne hotels on Ocean Drive as well as many other buildings on South Beach were created by the several of the same architects who worked in North Beach: Gilbert Fein, V.H. Nellenbogen, and Anton Skislewicz to name a few.
Filled with historically important architecture, the Bandshell Commercial District was originally part of the Harding Townsite subdivision. It was platted in 1922 thanks to a mandate by then-president Warren G. Harding who turned over the land, a federally controlled lifesaving station since 1875 – House of Refuge – to the public. It is also a central section of the Harding Townsite/South Altos Del Mar Historic District, which was designated locally in 1996.
On a weekend evening, a drive through the Bandshell Commercial District reveals a lively scene. A cool breeze blows in from the beach. Live music fills the air. Restaurant patrons eat, drink, and laugh. Soon a glowing new community center designed by the celebrated South Florida architect Rene Gonzalez will inhabit the park, nearly 50 years after the first was built. The Bandshell Commercial District endures just as preservationists had hoped%u2014 continuing its steady evolution while maintaining its inimitable character.