Now that it has grown from a neighborhood of vacant warehouses to one of artists’ studios, galleries, and hipster shops, Wynwood is marking its next major milestone: The arrival of its first international luxury retailer.
On Wednesday morning, local developer Metro 1 and city of Miami officials hosted a ribbon cutting for the Wynwood Gateway Complex, a new retail development on the corner of Northwest 29th Street and Second Avenue in the arts district.
The complex’s first tenant: a dealership of Ducati, an Italian motorcycle company owned by the German automotive conglomerate Volkwagen.
Up until now, Wynwood has lacked a major corporate presence but as the neighborhood has become a household name, there has been increased interest from big brands who want to capitalize on the neighborhood’s growing popularity and artsy feel.
Ducati Miami principal David Seguias moved his dealership from Miami Gardens to be closer to their target market in Miami’s urban core and because of the artistic appeal of the neighborhood. But officials at Ducati’s corporate officials had apprehensions at first.
“At the beginning, they came here two years ago and they thought it might not be a good market opportunity for the brand … but ultimately I think it was a great choice,” Seguias said.
There’s no question of Ducati’s status of a luxury brand. From the new dealership, Seguias and his staff will sell their signature motorcycles, which run from roughly $10,000 to $25,000. The store also sells branded motorcycle apparel.
Ducati is the first of three spaces to be leased out in the new Gateway Complex in what the developer is calling Phase 1 of the project, with the other two spaces being a 2,600-square-foot retail space and an 1,150-square-foot cafe space.
The second phase will include what the developer calls “micro-retail,” or small boutiques each just over 300 square feet in size. This second phase will also include the development of a 14,000-square-foot privately owned park built on a site currently used as a parking lot; the developer is hosting a design competition for the park, which will be open to the public.
While Ducati may be the first major international brand to enter the neighborhood, it may not be the only brand name company for long. Metro 1 President Tony Cho says that there’s been heightened interest in food and beverage space from regional, national and international restaurant chains. In addition, he says companies like Facebook have eyed the neighborhood to set up their offices.
The increased interest has also caused some migration because of some tenants being priced out. Some tenants have cited a rise in rents as reason for closing up shop. Art galleries, which have been a staple of Wynwood for years, are also looking for alternatives to Wynwood, choosing instead to move to places like downtown Miami or Little Haiti.
While Cho says that the market dictates prices, developers have some ways to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood such as creating smaller, more affordable spaces or providing incentives to small tenants.
“There’s a lot of different practices that have worked when you’re trying to create a neighborhood that help encourage these smaller businesses [interested in] coming into the area," Cho said.
City officials present for Wynwood Gateway’s opening event seemed to embrace a laissez faire attitude toward Wynwood’s redevelopment.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said that he has been impressed by Wynwood’s growth since he entered office in 2009 and said initiatives by local businesses, such as forming a Business Improvement District, have helped spur development.
“The role of the government should be one of help and get out of the way, because we don’t create jobs,” he told people at the opening event. “We don’t create economic development. … You do that.”
City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said that unlike many neighborhoods, Wynwood isn’t as attached to its past, making it more willing and able to rethink its identity and change what defines the area.
“It’s not a place that looks back at its history,” he said. “It looks forward that looks forward to its possibilities. It has no anchor on what it was. It only has the possibility of what it can be.“
While some locals may worry that the neighborhood has sold out, others aren’t surprised. Nathaniel Sandler, a local writer and founder of Bookleggers mobile library, says the nostalgia may be misplaced as the neighborhood was branded in “the hopes of selling over-inflated land lots and sexed-up warehouses near the highway.”
For Sandler, the arts in Miami will thrive whether they’re in Wynwood or elsewhere in the city.
“The artists will always find a new place,” Sandler said. “They are a resilient breed. I fully expect more and more mega brands to move in. That doesn’t really stress me out. It’s Miami growing and that’s good for all of us.”