New York developers take aim at Wynwood

Aug 6, 2014

Article courtesy of The Real Deal

A Madison Avenue-based real estate investment firm founded by developers Jonathon Yormak and David Peretz is aiming to transform a wholesale shoe warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood into a trendy retail plaza with a rooftop lounge. The proposed 23,500-square-foot project by East End Capital and Yellow Side Ventures is among several retail developments being proposed by New York investors, who believe Wynwood is fast becoming Miami’s version of some of their city’s trendiest neighborhoods. “We see it as the next Meat Packing District, Soho and Williamsburg,” Yormak told The Real Deal. “We believe we are coming in during the second inning of a nine-inning game. What you are seeing now is just the beginning of what Wynwood will be in 10 years.” Yellow Side is a partnership between New York developers Chaim Cahane and Dan Arev. Local retail operators and potential tenants from New York and Los Angeles have shown interest in the 8,500-square-foot of the East End project that includes the rooftop lounge and restaurant, according to SKH Realty real estate advisor Shane Davis. SKH was hired by East End to find tenants for the space. East End has Metro 1 Properties marketing the project’s 15,000 square feet of retail space. Considering the price East End paid for the land, the owners must expand the potential tenant base beyond Miami. Industry experts say only national retailers are in a position to afford the potential rents at projects like East End’s. In February, East End spent $5.3 million on the property, which is located on Northwest 23rd Street, just west of North Miami Avenue. The seller, Mega Shoes Inc., paid just $268,000 in 1997. In May, East End bought a 20,911 square foot warehouse a half-block away at 2214 North Miami Avenue for $4.7 million. For New York investors like East End, an opportunity to “create something unique” exists in Wynwood, said Charles Penan, director of real estate finance specialist Aztec Group. Land remains much more affordable than areas like Edgewater, despite a steady increase in Wynwood property sale prices. Penan recently represented New York’s Atlas Real Estate Partners in its $3.5 million acquisition of a 13,853-square-foot warehouse at 2301 North Miami Ave. “They have already leased two of the three bays to a furniture dealer and an art gallery,” Penan said. New York players started flocking to Wynwood after developer David Edelstein staked a claim in the neighborhood last year, when he purchased a 1.75-acre site at 2801 Northwest Third Avenue, according to local broker and developer David Lombardi, one of Wynwood’s pioneers. Edelstein is planning a mixed-use development that includes 264 residential units, 39,000 square feet of retail space and 19,200 square feet of office space. In May, he added to his Wynwood portfolio by scooping up two properties at 2701 Northwest Second Avenue and 187 Northwest 27th Street for $4 million. “Edelstein is 15 minutes of ahead of everybody,” Lombardi told TRD. “In 1998, people thought he was crazy when he was buying property on Lincoln Road at $300 a square foot. Today, he’s selling it off at $2,500 a square foot and buying in Wynwood at $300 a square foot.” Since Edelstein ventured into Wynwood, Harvey Krasner’s Brooklyn-based Forte Capital bought a 22,462-square-foot building at 48 Northwest 25th Street for $5.3 million in November 2013. Krasner is planning a mixed-use project with retail and restaurants. Lombardi warned that some investors are rushing into Wynwood without really understanding the neighborhood, however. “This is not Brooklyn,” he said. “We need more residential to fuel retail and commercial. Some of these guys think they can put high-end retail in Wynwood. It’s craziness.” Some residential development is on its way. New Yorkers Marc Kovens and Shawn Chemtov recently announced plans to build Wynwood Central, an eight-story condo that will also include some ground-floor retail at Northwest Second Avenue between 24th and 25th streets. Fortis Developments is also looking to build a condominium at 250 Northwest 24th Street. But Lombardi believes the number of proposed residential units doesn’t justify how many retail developments are in the pipeline. “We need a few thousand units to really achieve the dream,” Lombardi said. “I think in five years, Wynwood will be a different place.” Until then, the neighborhood should grow organically and retain its creative appeal, he said. “I think we are a great location for tech companies and creative agencies that need office space,” Lombardi said. “But with the prices investors are paying for land, they need to get $50 to $60 a square foot in rent. I don’t think it is sustainable.




Jul 24, 2014

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New York investors drive Lincoln Road pricing surge

Jul 22, 2014

Article courtesy of

A property investment frenzy is leading to an unprecedented surge in sale prices at Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road mall. And real estate experts believe the upward pricing trend is not going to stop anytime soon.

In May, 818 Lincoln Road — home to Miami-based artist Romero Britto’s gallery — traded for $34.5 million. Montreal-based 818 Lincoln Corp. paid $4,119 a square foot for the two-story building. That deal followed the January purchase by New York-based Imperium Capital and Centurion Realty of a 10,000 square foot building at 643-657 Lincoln Road for $33 million, or about $3,300 per square foot.

One broker, Ackman-Ziff principal Robert Kaplan, told The Real Deal Lincoln Road sale prices could eventually surpass $6,000 per square foot. Kaplan, who is marketing 800-810 Lincoln Roadon behalf of nonprofit organization ArtCenter/South Florida, cites a shortage of high-quality buildings on primary Lincoln Road intersections as the driver for rent and sale price gains.

Prices began climbing in December 2012, when Miami firm Terranova Corp. and New York-based Acadia Realty Trust snatched up three Lincoln Road buildings between Euclid and Meridian avenues totaling 60,000 square feet, according to Kaplan, who represented the buyers. The $139 million transaction set a Lincoln Road record at the time.

“You saw it hit $2,600 a square foot,” Kaplan said. “Previously, it had been $2,000 a square foot. Today, the $3,000 threshold has been reached.”

The trajectory isn’t straight up. Last month, New York-based The Nightingale Group paid $28 million, or $2,100 per square foot, for a Lincoln Road Walgreens building. But experts say that deal reflected the corporation’s desire to move the property quickly. Consensus has it that Nightingale picked up a bargain in an otherwise accelerating market.

Stephen Bittel, chairman of Terranova, also put a target at sale prices breaking the $6,000 per square foot barrier before 2014 is over.

“However, I don’t think it will surpass $10,000 a square foot in my lifetime,” Bittel told TRD.

To Miami Beach land-use attorney Wayne Pathman, Lincoln Road prices are rising at such a rapid rate that predicting a specific apex for the market is futile.

“Every time a new high is set, buyers continue to break it,” Pathman said. “Obviously, they believe there is room for more growth and upside when they sell.”

New York institutional investors are flocking to Lincoln Road because the list of national retailers that want to establish high-profile stores keeps growing. In the past two years, brands such as H&M and Zara opened stores there. In the next few months, Apple and the Gap plan to debut new Lincoln Road locations.

“Clearly Lincoln Road has some of the hottest real estate in the country.” Pathman said. “National brands want that Lincoln Road address.”

As a result, rents are also going up, forcing mom-and-pop retailers to move out.

David Lombardi, principal of Lombardi Properties, told TRD national retailers are willing to pay high rents because of Lincoln Road’s prominence. Today, rents are in the $300 per square foot range. Lombardi expects the figure to exceed $450 per square foot soon.

“Certain stores are only there to act as billboards,” Lombardi said. “I know some are not doing enough sales to justify the rent.” The retail chains look at the extra rent as an advertising expense related to establishing their presence in the area, he said.

According to Kaplan, New York investors believe Lincoln Road has many of the same dynamics as Madison Avenue and Soho, where rents are as much as eight times more expensive.

“From their perspective, Lincoln Road is a bargain,” he said.

Despite the influx of out-of-town buyers, several buildings are still owned by locals, including the Comras Cos. and former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Paul Cejas.

“These are people who bought in the 1970s and 1980s and never sold,” Kaplan said. “They have been riding the tsunami to shore.”



Wynwood 2.0

Jul 3, 2014

Article Courtesy of Biscayne Times

Written By Anne Tschida, BT Arts Editor; Photos By Silvia Ros

JULY 2014


The metal outer gate of the Dina Mitrani Gallery on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood has been thrown open this Thursday morning,

revealing a much more hospitable glass door. Dina Mitrani’s, one of the dozens of art galleries in the Wynwood Arts District, is dedicated to international contemporary photography, and inside the space is a group exhibit, “Freshly Squeezed,” featuring emerging local artists.

Across the street, construction workers are completing a complex called the Wynwood Block, which will house retail and restaurants. Two blocks north, a Ducati motorcycle showroom opened a few months ago. The sidewalk in front is beginning to fill up with visitors, even on this steamy day.

Sitting with Mitrani inside her office is her father, Eli, and mother, Aida. They all remember when Wynwood was similarly jumping in the past, albeit in a different way, and then, too, when it was decrepit and dead. Eli, a native of Cuba, and his Argentine wife, bought this warehouse row complex at 26th Street and NW 2nd Avenue back in 1975 to relocate their women’s apparel factory from downtown Miami.

Back then, local apparel manufacturing and sales, retail and wholesale, was the lynchpin of the neighborhood, recalls Eli. The warehouses on this street and west to NW 5th Avenue were filled with all sorts of goods — men’s and women’s dresses and suits, shoes, handbags. Eli says that buyers for the local Burdines department store, as well as South American and Caribbean buyers, were all regulars in Wynwood, and among his own clientele.
Dina remembers wandering around the streets as a child during the daytime with little thought to crime, fetching cafecitos for the adults when business was bustling. Grandma Mathilde handled the accounts, a brother learned Creole to facilitate interaction with the growing Haitian community, and the sprawling warehouse space was filled with rows of women’s garments.

“This area was the place to shop for merchandise,” says a jovial Eli, whose store was named Mr. Eli of Miami.

The Mitrani family footprint
encompasses a slice of the history
of this fascinating, erratic, and
unique neighborhood. Mirroring the
fate of textile manufacturing
around the nation, the local
industry fell into decline by the late
1980s, with work shipped off to
cheaper factories in Asia. The
Wynwood warehouses began to
empty. Racial tensions in the area
and to the west, starting after the infamous McDuffie Riots of 1980 and more upheavals in 1990, were reaching a crescendo. Miami’s drug trade added its toll.

Like the Mitranis, Shelly Bloom’s family has been in the clothing business in Wynwood for decades. He remembers clearly when things started to turn ugly for sales, and for the community — the riot of 1980.

His father, Nathan, had opened a discount men’s wholesale store back in 1965 on NW 5th Avenue, when there was a Bernie’s deli across the street. Son Shelly took it over as the clientele started to change from Jewish to South American. After the riot, “people didn’t want to come to the neighborhood anymore,” he recalls, “and stores couldn’t make it.”

The area became blighted, helped along by the cocaine and crack epidemics. By the 1990s, he recalls, most people on the street had shopping carts, but they weren’t buying goods. Still, Bloom stuck with the business, eventually finding new customers in the Haitian community. The original store is still standing. “I am the last of the Mohicans,” he says.

As for the Mitranis, they kept their women’s apparel outlet open until 2000, when they were finally forced to shutter it. The area’s small houses, with their working-class occupants, for the most part remained, but business disappeared. Even so, the family held onto the property.

Signs of new life slowly began to appear. Major art collectors Mera and Don Rubell and Martin Margulies, for example, opened up their private collections to the public in restored warehouses in the 1990s (in fact, the 45,000-square-foot Rubell space occupies a repurposed Drug Enforcement Administration facility on 29th Street). By 2000, several galleries took the plunge and set up shop in a still dingy and dark — literally; there were few working streetlights — neighborhood.

After receiving a master’s degree in art history and working in New York, Dina Mitrani returned to Miami and saw the burgeoning possibilities of the area. In 2002 the family starting to rent out cheap studios to artists and eventually carved up the cavernous space.

Dina opened her gallery in 2008, and her sister Rhonda opened up the video- focused Screening Room next door. At the corner of the Mitrani block, the well- regarded Alejandra von Hartz Gallery has been ensconced since 2006.

Art began to redefine the area, especially after the arrival of Art Basel in 2002. More galleries poured into Wynwood, whose boundaries are roughly between I-95 to the west and the FEC train tracks to the east; and between 20th Street to the south and 36th Street to the north (excluding Midtown Miami).

Related developments like the Wynwood Lofts from pioneering developer David Lombardi came onto the grid. And then Joey’s restaurant opened in 2008, an event almost everyone the BT interviewed identifies as a turning point.

Wynwood had finally moved from off the beaten path onto the main road. Joey’s was the neighborhood’s first major new eating establishment, sitting between the Wynwood Lofts and the Mitrani warehouse on NW 2nd Avenue.

The restaurant’s success also
confirmed the late Tony Goldman
as the man who would shepherd
the area into a brave new world.
His Goldman Properties, which
owns Joey’s, had been buying up
buildings and land in the area, securing a good portion of the 25 liquor licenses allowed within the city-designated Wynwood Arts District (which Goldman initiated), and signaling that his juggernaut company would try to do for Wynwood what it had done for SoHo in Manhattan decades earlier: turn it into the hippest place, well, south of SoHo.

“There was a steady trajectory happening in Wynwood,” says Brook Dorsch, who opened one of the first galleries in the area, Dorsch Gallery, in 1999. “And then came Joey’s.” After that, the energy changed, he says. Inspired by the graffiti and mural art that was proliferating on building façades, Goldman opened up the Wynwood Walls outdoor park, filled with large works from internationally acclaimed artists commissioned by him and his partner in the project, outlandish New York curator Jeffrey Deitch. They bookended the park with Joey’s at one end and Wynwood Kitchen at the other. Suddenly, not only were people appearing, they were using valet parking.

But still it was hard to break a reputation as bad as the one Wynwood had developed. For many people, the enclave was too iffy to visit, filled as it was still with debris and the homeless. Combined with the financial crisis that began in 2007-2008, it was a struggle for galleries and new establishments to attract a steady clientele.

The Wynwood Arts District Association (WADA) was created in 2009 by some of the neighborhood’s developers and gallery owners in an effort to change those perceptions; it concentrated on increasing security, lighting, and doing some marketing. With the popularity of Art Basel’s mainland satellite fairs, many of which took place in Wynwood, the area did start to burnish its reputation.

And once the economy itself 
began to rebound, the flood gates
opened. The handful of restaurants
and bars gave way to more than a dozen by 2013, followed by retail stores and office spaces. Today there are several major condominium and apartment complexes and a boutique hotel in the works.

Of course, all this comes at a price. While few want a return to the grim days of the late 1980s, some caution that the rapid and expensive development may change Wynwood’s special character. As Eli Mitrani points to the Wynwood Block across the street and speaks hopefully of the new metropolitan ambiance, he also knows it could come at the expense of the authentic and unpretentious element.

“I bought my place long ago for cheap, so I can afford to still rent out reasonable spaces,” he says. “Across the street, with what they’ve paid, they just won’t be able to.”

Last month, the Miami Herald estimated that Wynwood lots are selling for $300 a square foot. A new property owner will likely not be able to give artists or galleries much of a deal.

Tom Curitore, the first executive director of the Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID), began his job in March. The BID itself was formed just last year as a vehicle to raise money for improvements in the area and to lobby for business-friendly zoning and regulatory requirements. The Wynwood BID encompasses 47 blocks and includes about 200 property owners at this point. They’re assessed a tax for these improvements, which so far has added up to around $700,000.

While the BID has a new office
on NW 26th Street, Curitore 
doesn’t seem to spend much time
 there. He’s walking — running, 
really — around, talking to everyone he encounters.

Unlike the Mitranis, Lombardi, or Dorsch, Curitore hasn’t seen the dramatic changes of the past decade. He moved from New York for this job and proclaims Wynwood to be the “most unbelievable outdoor museum in the world.” A former director of the Union Square redevelopment project and once a New York Police Department detective, he says his mission is to make Wynwood “clean and safe,” but true to its roots.

To that end, the Wynwood BID has hired two people who clean the streets five days a week as “sanitation ambassadors.” While walking into one of the most recent hot spots in the neighborhood, Zak the Baker’s kosher café, Curitore explains that the association will also add trash cans, long absent, and is working on crosswalks, along with widening the sidewalks. The narrow streets can’t handle parking on both sides, so several one-way streets will be introduced in the next six months to help alleviate parking and traffic issues.

After saying hello to several police officers and private security officers — these days they walk, ride bikes, and drive around in cars — Curitore points out some small but lovely green spots recently introduced along NW 2nd Avenue. One is a rock garden, courtesy of a nonprofit group.

The street on which Brook Dorsch’s gallery sits (it is now known as the Emerson Dorsch Gallery), NW 24th Street, is one of those targeted for one-way traffic. Two years ago, Dorsch and his wife, Tyler Emerson, revamped the warehouse space he had purchased in 1999. Unlike gallery owners who rented, Dorsch had the advantage of knowing he wouldn’t be as vulnerable to the vagaries of property prices, and the two decided to invest in the space, and therefore the neighborhood.

Instead of a protective metal- grate doorway facing the street, the stunning renovation now has a glass double-door entrance on the side of the building, facing a courtyard. It doesn’t look like a place that would close up shop on the spur of the moment. “That was the biggest chance,” says Dorsch, “wondering if people would come in through the side.” But they did, he adds, because it looked like a place you could come in and really look at art — and not a dilapidated warehouse.

That run-down warehouse look was an attraction back in the early 2000s, when it shouted alternative and experimental. But as the community grew and more people came, the grunge was no longer so attractive, and certainly not when visitors had to walk blocks over broken glass, when there were no trash cans, when it became difficult to park as the Second Saturday art walks took off. Dorsch’s path exemplifies the latest incarnation of Wynwood. He bought into a semi-abandoned block surrounded by crack houses, and now the block is being rezoned to accommodate a ten-fold increase in visitors.

With a mural from artist Brandon Opalka covering one side of his building, Dorsch explains that he likes the singular aesthetic that grew up here, and of which he was a trend-setting leader. But he’s happy to see the increase in security, including a crackdown on graffiti tagging that he says has gotten out of control, as well as the cleaning and greening efforts.

As Tyler takes over for him at the gallery, the two agree that improvements are necessary for the up-and-coming neighborhood; but they hope it doesn’t go overboard and end up looking like Brickell. With that, Dorsch says, he’s off to watch a World Cup game at Gramps across the street, a bar that, like so many others, didn’t exist here two years ago.

Curitore has heard that refrain often: Please, no Brickell here. Even new property owners say they don’t want Wynwood to turn into a high-rise canyon, he notes, and BID members want to keep the area low-rise. But not low-density. Part of the concern, he knows, is that new condos, replicas of Miami’s other developments, will be too expensive and drive out the very population that helps makes it an arts and culture center. So higher-density buildings,
with smaller and more affordable
units, are what BID is pushing for. These can require zoning tweaks, and part of Curitore’s job is to work with the city and the county — “the business owners don’t want to deal with that!”

As Curitore takes in the crowd drinking coffee on the patio at the always crowded Panther Coffee, he says there’s also a push to make the area pedestrian-friendly. More bike racks are coming, he promises, and more sidewalk space. And he adds that there’s a desire to be community-friendly as a whole.

“We want to be good neighbors, work with Overtown and its residents, so we’re not all cut off from one another,” he says. Currently, an area south of NW 22th Street and NW 5th Avenue is literally barricaded off from Wynwood; it’s a relic of the riot era and a barrier that Curitore says the BID wants to have torn down.

Nonetheless, the flurry of recent development can’t help but transform the nature of the neighborhood. The eight-story Wynwood 250, with up to 80 living units that is going up on NW 24th Street, and the proposed Goldman Properties’100-room boutique hotel at 27th Street, will, for better or worse, bring change.

While the number of galleries
and art outlets have remained well
above 50 for years (although
individual spaces have changed
hands), in the past three years or
so, Curitore estimates, more than a
dozen restaurants and bars, 15
businesses classified as
professional services, four beauty and fitness outlets, and eight new design and retail stores have opened, although that number will change even by the end of this month, when several new complexes open. Some businesses, like Wood Tavern on NW 2nd Avenue, have become so popular it can be difficult to squeeze in on a Friday evening.

There are also a growing number of new spaces categorized as “nonprofit and education.” One of these is the private Metropolitan International School of Miami, opened by Maria Padovan Kindell in 2013. A former biology teacher in Uruguay, Padovan Kindell says she had no preconceived negative notions about the area when she bought the future school building on NW 2nd Avenue. Like Curitore, she saw only a vibrant, centrally located positioning for a school oriented to a culture-related curriculum, for students from pre-school to fifth- grade.

“I didn’t expect the success we’ve had in this first year,” she says. “I heard no complaints about the location.” In fact, the opposite. “The families with students here know Wynwood and appreciate what it is — slightly avant-garde.” She wants the students to experience what the neighborhood has to offer, and to take field trips to nearby cultural outlets.

What she worries about isn’t crime or urban location, but that the “flavor” of an artistic Wynwood will fade with all the new development. “But that’s inevitable,” she concludes.

That wistful prediction seems to be the consensus. While almost everyone wants to try and keep that flavor, they also know that districts change and nothing stands still, especially when big developers see a bull’s-eye target.

But Wynwood has always been changing. Once known as the garment district or Little San Juan (owing to its early Puerto Rican population), it has never been a settled place. And there’s always been tension between arts groups and developers about the future of the area. And tension between the original residents and the recent arrivals. While Dorsch decided to plant himself in the area, another heavyweight gallery owner, David Castillo, will leave at the end of the summer.

Having been active in the early stages of the game, with 40 properties (including Wynwood Lofts and the art storage center Museo Vault), developer David Lombardi says that for the time being, he might sit out this growth cycle, although he’ll continue to work through WADA and the BID to keep development moving while also keeping the neighborhood intact. One project he’s behind, to facilitate the greening of the once- development cycle. industrial streets, is “a beautiful
little garden on 29th Street.”

After the death of Tony Goldman in 2012, some feared his vision of a funky, mixed neighborhood would be eclipsed by an unbridled commercialism with no sense of place. But Dina Mitrani, for one, will be happy to see an end to the lingering perception of Wynwood as a crime-infested neighborhood. “I never feel unsafe,” she says, “but I grew up here.” Still, just recently a collector visiting a gallery had his car broken into and his laptop stolen — and he made a huge hubbub about it, she says.“You know what?” she says in response. “No matter what area of this city or any city you’re in, don’t leave your laptop sitting on the seat! That’s not Wynwood, that’s just common sense.”



Now coming to Miami’s Wynwood district: condos

Jun 16, 2014



In the evolution that has taken Wynwood from industrial wasteland to hipster mecca in the seeming blink of an eye, the artists who came looking for cheap studio space were just the first step out of the muck.

After them, in an accelerating process of adaptation, came the art galleries, the eye-grabbing graffiti murals, the artisanal coffee, the art-walk party mobs, and the conversion of dingy warehouses into stylish spaces for bars, restaurants and loft-like offices for the creative set.

Now there’s something else rising in Wynwood.

Apartments and — gasp! — condos.

For the first time since Wynwood became Miami's hippest ’hood, developers have plans to erect a half-dozen new buildings in the district. Proponents say the building plans, which mix residential units with work spaces and ground-floor shops, would add the last critical missing link in the rapidly diversifying neighborhood ecosystem: People who actually live there.

“I think it will change the perception of Wynwood,” said David Polinsky, whose 250 Wynwood, an 11-unit condo with ground-floor retail and terrace overhangs that will be decorated with curated graffiti, is set to break ground in the next few weeks.

“There is so much good will and enthusiasm about the neighborhood, but there are basically zero options for housing,” he said. “It can be a great place for young creative people to live and work. You can’t really think of another neighborhood where that’s going on in Miami.’’

Across the street from Polinsky’s property, several small warehouses have come down to make way for the eight-story Wynwood Central, which will combine 69 live-work rental apartments, a 420-space parking garage and three floors of retail and commercial space.

A few blocks away, on North Miami Avenue, New York developer Sonny Bazbaz is seeking zoning approval for a 12-story apartment and extended-stay hotel complex. On a vacant lot north of the famed Wynwood Walls, Goldman Properties, which helped launch the Wynwood renaissance, has won rezoning for a mixed-use building that could include 55 dwellings, a 100-room hotel and an event space described as “industrial chic.”

The Wynwood story seems to be following a well-worn script: artists and urban pioneers reclaim a neglected neighborhood, only to be displaced by rising prices and monied gentrifiers, erasing the very character that made it cool in the first place.

So there goes the neighborhood, right?

Actually, not so fast.

In what might be a radical departure for Miami, Wynwood developers say they are eschewing the usual hot-neighborhood development model of maximum exploitation with minimum care.

They have formally banded together with local entrepreneurs and new and longtime Wynwood property owners to devise a strategy that would foster affordable residential development while preserving Wynwood's unique flavor and the pedestrian-friendly scale of its streets.

“We’re trying to create for the first time in Miami a very comprehensive approach to how zoning will guide development of a neighborhood,’’ said Joe Furst, managing director for Wynwood at Goldman Properties and chairman of the new Wynwood Business Improvement District, which is overseeing the planning effort. “We all love what we’ve created in the neighborhood, and we’re trying to do it right.’’


The effort aims to remedy big drawbacks boosters say have held back Wynwood’s emergence as a full-fledged neighborhood: It contains little housing and few residents. Its warehouses are unsuited for residential conversion. And the district’s predominantly light-industrial zoning sharply limits housing density.

The Wynwood industrial district, between I-95 and the FEC tracks to the east and from 20th to 29th streets, has only about eight blocks of modest duplexes and small apartment buildings, plus a smattering of detached homes and a large homeless shelter, the Miami Rescue Mission. Two newer residential buildings, the rental Cynergi lofts and Wynwood pioneer David Lombardi’s Wynwood Lofts 36-unit condo, predate the current boom.

Within that defined zone, developers and property owners say, there’s plenty of space for new residential development; 60 percent of the district consists of vacant land, a BID survey found. But there are legal hurdles. The light-industrial zoning restricts housing to a live/work arrangement that requires residential floorspace to be clearly divided between either use.

Developers say zoning restrictions in effect require relatively large residential units, not the smaller, more affordable housing that would appeal to the young creative types who would make up the likely Wynwood residential market.

With the exception of Wynwood Central, which has large units up to 2,500 square feet, all the other projects have won or are seeking rezonings.

The BID, which represents the area’s 200 property owners, wants to see zoning restrictions loosened. But its leaders worry that a big wave of development could encourage warehouse demolition and overwhelm the neighborhood’s funky street ambiance.

The last thing they want, BID leaders and property owners like Lombardi and others insist, is to bring in intense high-rise development of the kind that has overtaken hot redevelopment zones like Brickell Village or Edgewater.

The BID, a city-approved group funded through a special property assessment, has commissioned planner Juan Mullerat of Miami firm PlusUrbia to draw up a master plan and zoning to guide Wynwood’s redevelopment.

The plan would continue to restrict new construction to eight stories in most of the district while promulgating a design aesthetic to mesh with the warehouses and the low-scale street grid. It calls for apartments upstairs and active storefronts on the sidewalk to promote pedestrian activity and capture the artists, designers, chefs and tech entrepreneurs already flocking to Wynwood.

To keep things affordable, BID leaders want to rezone most of the district, expanding housing density to 150 units per acre, from the current 36, to allow smaller units in modestly scaled buildings without obliterating the neighborhood. They also would like to see a parking minimum of 1.5 spaces per unit eased.

“This is what’s needed if we’re going to see Wynwood reach its potential as a living, working community with real creatives here eating, sleeping and collaborating 24 hours a day,” Lombardi said.


The city says it’s on board with the idea, but is awaiting a final BID draft. City planners warn that the fixes must strike a careful balance if its proponents wish to preserve Wynwood’s character.

“I’ve been hearing a lot about preserving the soul of Wynwood — it’s easy to latch on to that,’’ said Cesar Garcia-Pons, the city’s deputy planning director. “But the outcome could be the entirety of Wynwood being 12-story residential towers. Then it’s not Wynwood anymore.”

BID leaders seem acutely aware of the pitfalls. At a recent meeting, members debated how to encourage preservation of the warehouses and graffiti that have come to define Wynwood.

“If you don’t have a mechanism to protect the warehouses, before you know it, you have just another neighborhood,” said Oren Cohen, vice president of Mana Wynwood, which refurbished the old free-trade zone complex for use as video and sound and video stages. “There has to be a way of keeping the feel.’’

But rules requiring preservation of warehouses may not be feasible and could stifle Wynwood’s serendipitous evolution, Mullerat replied.

“To maintain the industrial feel is important, but these warehouses don’t necessarily need to remain,” he said. “One of the beauties of Wynwood is that it was accidental. That soul has sort of created itself. ’’

In the absence of clear rules or established templates, the developers of 250 Wynwood and Wynwood Central say they have gone to great pains to make sure their designs are in sync with Wynwood.

Polinsky, who is on the BID’s board, says his small building serves as a demonstration project for the neighborhood — edgy enough to break the mold of Miami condos, but sympathetic to its artsy surroundings. His New York architects, D-form-A, set glass-fronted units behind a pattern of rectilinear interlocking terraces overlooking the street. Blank walls on the sides echo the basic concrete construction of its warehouse neighbors.

To incorporate street art, Polinsky hired hot gallerist Anthony Spinello to select artists who will apply geometric, graffiti-style murals to the undersides of the terrace overhangs. The art will be visible from the sidewalk and frame residents’ views, but not blanket the building, Polinsky said.

Wynwood Central developers Marc Kovens and Shawn Chemtov are forgoing graffiti. But they hired Bloom Miami, a branding and design firm, to work with architects DNB Design Group and ensure their new building is “accepted” by its hip Wynwood neighbors, Bloom partner Darin Held said. That meant interviewing Wynwood entrepreneurs and creative lights and incorporating simple industrial design elements like factory-like neon signage into the building.

“We’re not looking to just come in and make a lot of money,” said Wynwood Central leasing agent Lyle Chariff. “I think what we’re doing will be a catalyst and the footprint for what’s going to happen.’’

Still, as developers snap up land and warehouses, prices in Wynwood are rising fast. Lots are selling for up to $300 a square foot. Owners have sunk considerable money into converting warehouses into shops and offices — in high demand as Wynwood becomes a serious place to do business.

That’s a boon to some longtime property owners who suffered through lean years and can now sell for millions. But rising rents means some art galleries and studios have been forced out, and more likely will follow, Mullerat said.

“The gentrification has already happened,” Mullerat said. “The market has pushed land values to levels that are not sustainable for some of the existing businesses.’’

But BID leaders and some longtime Wynwood business and property owners say the changes are, on balance, all to the good.

“This was the kind of place that, at sundown, you would tell your employees, ‘Get in your car and go home,’” said BID board member Albert Garcia, whose family business, Mega Shoes, an international maker of women’s fashion footwear, has been based in Wynwood since his parents founded the company 40 years ago. “Fast forward to today, and people are walking the sidewalks all hours of the day and night.’’

But Garcia, chairman of the BID board, said it’s also important that the history and DNA of the neighborhood be preserved even as it changes.

“We’re not a high-end mall. We are not a row of bars and restaurants catering only to nightlife. And we’re not an assortment of galleries, either. It’s not going to become Doral. We’re not trying to become Design District Junior. Our path is a little different, and I think it’s the most authentic,’’ he said.

“It’s going to evolve, and that’s OK.”



Wynwood Art District

Jun 16, 2014

In just over 12 years David Lombardi has transformed a once crime-riddled, neglected neighbourhood in Miami into the city’s art district. Wynwood is now a bona fide, burgeoning arts hub with over 70 galleries, museums, and art collections, a ten-block stretch of restaurants and cafés, and a state-of-the-art fine art storage facility – the first of its kind in the USA. It also serves as an important venue for Art Basel, the nation’s pre-eminent art festival.

"The street was derelict; it was full of junked cars, mean dogs behind fences, and there was this gallery with absolutely no signage. Inside there were 70–80 young people all looking at art,” recalls Lombardi of the first time he visited the former fashion warehouse district across the way from South Beach.

He was in search of well-priced buildings to transform into lofts for some artist tenants he had on the Beach. In 2001 he created eight live/ work spaces for these artists in a former warehouse. Word got out, and soon young creatives were lining up for a piece of the limited inventory. “I had dozens of calls from kids who wanted to spend less for a live/work space. Prices were going up every year, and I didn’t want to see these young artists get forced out of their spaces, so I wanted to create a building where they could take an ownership stake,” Lombardi explains of the thought process behind the now- iconic Wynwood Lofts.

Now that he had the captive attention of Miami’s artists, the next step was attracting the ever- important art patrons and collectors to invest in the talent. Lombardi had the perfect solution – who doesn’t love a party in Miami? “I created these art parties for these kids, called ‘Roving Fridays’. In whatever space I had vacant at the time, we would invite 20 or so artists who didn’t have representation in galleries. I’d let them hang their work, and charge US$5–$10 at the door, all of which would go to these artists. I would pay for the DJs and a band, and there would be live painting demonstrations. These events would attract five to eight hundred people per week,” he recalls. At around the same time, Art Basel, the world’s most important art festival, was looking to develop a Miami Beach outpost. “We had a lot of our own hard work and a little bit of luck come together in December of ’04. It was the third edition of Art Basel, and Wynwood got discovered as this dirty little secret across the bay that housed two incredible art collections [the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection]. Art patrons from all over the world would all come over to see those collections, started to discover our neighbourhood, and that’s when I started to feel like we were onto something big,” Lombardi recalls.

Another key source of encouragement came through Tony Goldman, who was famously responsible for the development
of New York’s SoHo art district. “When I was in 10th or 11th grade, I would read about a guy named Tony Goldman, who started SoHo, and I always thought, ‘I’d love to do something like that.’The complete and utter validation for me was when Tony Goldman started buying buildings in Wynwood. We became allies and friends, and started the Wynwood Art District Association together,” says Lombardi of his ultimate art hero. As his legacy to the neighbourhood, Goldman curated the famed Wynwood Walls – a veritable life-sized art gallery of graffiti walls that is now one of the biggest draws to Wynwood.

As for his own legacy, Lombardi is quick to sing the praises of his beloved Museo Vault – the first and still one of the only state-of-the-art storage facilities for priceless art collections in the country. Museo Vault’s launch in the height of the recession was a sizable gamble for its developers. “Here we were with this 86,000-square-foot building n unproven entity in an art world that is known to be very pernickety.” But the famous expression ‘build it and they will come’ proved infinitely true for the warehouse, which happened to be built on the highest point in flood-prone Miami.

“We are at 90% occupancy and I have been called ‘a keeper of culture’. That’s a real compliment, because that is exactly what we’re doing
– we are preserving our culture for future generations.”


I have been collecting young Miami artists since the very beginning and have over 400 pieces. Two of my favourite artists areTypoe (represented by the Spinello Projects) and BooksIIII Bischof, who was one of my original artists from Roving Fridays. They’re the ones who started doing the murals that would later become the Wynwood Walls. They also have their own gallery called Primary Project. Also at Spinello there’s Aramis Gutierrez, an amazing painter. I have some great pieces from an artist called TMNK – the man nobody knows. He’s a very cool street artist. Naomi Fisher is also one of the earliest artists to come to Wynwood. Qatar Airways commences four-times a week flights from Doha to Miami on June 10.