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Why Are Developers Still Pouring Billions Into Waterlogged Miami?

The Faena Forum cultural center is open, but for how long? Rising tides and groundwater will almost certainly seep into the ground floors of such developments in a few years.

On Sunday, an ebullient procession of artists, performers, and city residents filled Collins Avenue between Miami Beach’s 32nd and 36th streets to inaugurate the Faena Forum, a 43,000--square-foot, $150 million, performing- and visual-arts space that’s the cultural centerpiece of the Faena District, a $1 billion development comprising luxury hotels, restaurants, and real estate. The complex is the brainchild of Alan Faena, an Argentinian fashion designer-cum-developer known for his all-white outfits, and Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian born, New York-based billionaire whose net worth is estimated by Bloomberg Billionaires to be $18.6 billion.

The parade/carnival/performance was was titled “Side by Tide,” which might be an overly optimistic assessment of Miami Beach's sea level. With "king tides" flooding parking garages and a University of Miami study reporting that Miami Beach has seen a 200 percent increase in flooding in the last decade, the tide isn’t on anyone’s side. It’s already beneath the city, seeping upward, often as not, through the ground’s porous limestone and into buildings’ backlogged storm drains. Aside from ruining the undercarriages of residents’ Porsches, this ground-up flooding has a second, perhaps more deleterious effect on the long-term feasibility of Miami Beach: Normal defenses against a rising ocean—such as sea walls or dykes—are useless.