Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Loving Miami’s newfound glamour, but our excesses may do us in

Once upon a time, not so long ago that we can afford to forget, Miami had a terrible national reputation.

Now everywhere I go, people lust after Miami the way I swoon over Paris.

They’re eyeing that downtown pied a terre within walking distance of performing arts venues, fine dining and museums. Or they dream of retiring to South Beach — rising seas, clutter and road reconstruction notwithstanding. They fancy season tickets to Miami Heat games, although LeBron James’ nostalgia for Akron is (temporarily, I hope) putting a damper on that situation.

And they ask me for insider advice as if I were a concierge at a boutique hotel.

If we were “ Paradise Lost,” as Time magazine famously nicknamed us in the Miami Vice and cocaine-cowboys era, we’re now “Paradise Coveted.”

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Battle-scarred from having to constantly defend the Republic in the past — when the count of dead bodies in car trunks and the river wasn’t all that ailed us, but our intolerant souls at war with each other, too — I am loving the acclaim.

Why, someone from the Northeast accused me the other day of being insensitive because I was from “the big city,” the implication being sophistication and boldness beyond ordinary. Something only a skinny French woman who eats heartily could claim.

If it all sounds too good to be true, it is, in a way.

There’s no utopia — not even in sunny weather.

As it turns out, too much of a good rap is bad for us.

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Our newfound glamour and fame has sent our real estate prices skyrocketing to the point that Miamians can’t afford Miami. Forget any condo canyon with a view — they’re all out of our price range these days.

Most residents don’t have the kind of large cash deposits required to get into the high-priced condo market — nor could they afford the mortgages at those price points anyway, the Miami Herald’s Martha Brannigan reported. The buyers these days are foreigners: Brazilians, Venezuelans, Argentines, Russians and the French are leading sales.

Nor can we, Miamians, afford our rents.

A friend returning to Miami from Manhattan, accustomed to Big Apple sticker shock but not to Miami’s updated real estate market, told me she was asked for $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in the Brickell area. She had bolted from house-hunting in Coral Gables, where rents for small, older homes ranged from $3,100 to $3,800.

“I’m living like a [rich] Brazilian,” she told me about her Brickell address. “I think I’m the only Cuban in my building.”

Prompted by the Herald report, I did some homework on my suburban end of the county, and over a café con leche, learned that I couldn’t afford to buy now the A+ school zone in which I raised my children. A Realtor priced an identical house a few blocks away at a measly $5,000 short of a half-million. Not even with the kind of profit I’d make on a sale, however, can one buy today’s trendy condos.

My excitement at my newfound wealth, on paper anyhow, is tempered by the war-inspired philosophy that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. We were at this point before in the early 2000s — but overdevelopment combined with “creative” financing practices brought on a disastrous bust market.

Our excesses do us in every time.

Love it or list it, Miamians, we can’t have our flan and eat it, too.

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