Once a month, the Wynwood art district in downtown Miami holds a Saturday night art walk that has become so popular that some gallery owners and residents complain it has turned into little more than an excuse for a drunken street party.
They may have a point. But how about a little perspective, Miami?
An area that just a few years ago was a dying warehouse district in the heart of the city now boasts such vibrant nightlife that the second Saturday of every month, people flood the streets, sampling local restaurants, coffeehouses and bars.
True, most of them probably aren’t serious art buyers, supporting the many galleries that now call Wynwood home. That’s something to consider as Wynwood’s leaders plan its future.
But having too many hipsters mobbing the streets of a once-moribund neighborhood? That’s not a problem; it’s a growing pain.
And it’s one Miami should welcome as another sign of a city on the rise, a place where Wynwood and the nearby Design District and Midtown all can thrive.
Wynwood’s transformation into a street-art mecca and walkable urban neighborhood is catching hold, building a little more each year on the foundation laid by the late Tony Goldman and others who made some of the earliest and most significant investments in the area.
Mr. Goldman, an investor in New York’s SoHo who died last year, cautioned that it would take time, patience and solid investors to preserve Wynwood’s artistic character and lowscale feel while continuing to revitalize it. He was right.
The district has made great strides — during the four days surrounding Art Basel last month, some 300,000 people walked its streets and wandered its galleries — but much remains to be done to ensure the district continues to build on its successes.
Housing is one key element still mostly missing from Wynwood, in part because its warehouses have been largely unsuitable for housing conversion.
David Lombardi, another business leader in the area, built his Wynwood Lofts in 2005 from the ground up.
There is some progress there, too: Mr. Goldman’s company, now led by his daughter and son, is planning the conversions of two warehouses, one that will include rental apartments plus retail and offices.
Miami needs to step up
There are other steps to be taken to ensure Wynwood thrives. Mr. Lombardi notes that Wynwood’s businesses have banded together in an association that supplies security, employs locals to help clean the streets and promotes the galleries and businesses. That’s a win-win for neighborhood residents in the urban core.
But he and others believe Wynwood needs more support from the city, and they’re right. Wynwood needs more police officers, trash receptacles to corral the garbage left behind after the art walks and additional street lighting to cut down on the sketchy feel of some side streets. Parking is an issue, too. A central parking lot or garage, perhaps run by the city’s parking authority, would be ideal.
But none of that should overshadow the larger point: The streets of Wynwood are coming alive. The museum-quality graffiti art, the galleries, the taverns and restaurants all are creating a unique Miami destination. So rein in the partiers a little and re-emphasize the art. That’s what makes Wynwood special, after all.