Last month, the 13th edition of Art Basel descended on Miami Beach, bringing with it a forward-thinking global audience that ventured beyond the show’s traditional South Beach confines in search of art and adventure on the other side of Biscayne Bay.
Miami’s evolving Wynwood neighborhood — a mix of urban grit, galleries, street art, unique retail and new start-up ventures — is leading the way as SoBe’s mainland foil: authentic, accessible and relentlessly creative. In fact, Wynwood’s unique makeup was recently acknowledged by the American Planning Association, which named the neighborhood to its annual “15 Great Places in America” list.
Wynwood’s renaissance from a dreary asphalt landscape to Miami’s flourishing creative heart has been well-documented, with the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle magic that SoHo and Willamsburg in New York City have seen. The neighborhood’s revitalization began in the early 2000s, led by visionary place-maker Tony Goldman, who collaborated with a group of imaginative developers and street artists to transform the area into an internationally known center for art.
The fruits of their labor were on full display during Miami Art Week in December, when Wynwood hosted several fairs, including X Contemporary and Pinta Miami. These events piggybacked on the neighborhood’s well-established art scene, which attracts visitors to Wynwood year-round. The 50-square-block area includes the largest collection of street art and murals in the world and more than 80 art galleries, studios, and collections, which give it a concentration of art that is among the highest of any district across the globe.
As the neighborhood evolves, the presence of art in Wynwood continues to grow. In fact, over the past three months, five new art galleries have opened their doors in the neighborhood — hailing from as far away as Argentina and as nearby as the Brickell area. Wynwood’s reemergence has also brought more retail to the neighborhood, including more than 60 unique shops, eateries, and locally owned and operated craft beer breweries.
From established eateries and cafes like Joey’s, Panther Coffee and Zak the Baker, to newer restaurants like the Wynwood Diner and Alter, there’s no shortage of options. In 2015, the area has also welcomed new retailers including Warby Parker, Kit and Ace, Marine Layer and Shinola. Together, these establishments have made the neighborhood a prime destination for locals and visitors.
While Wynwood continues to experience organic, arts-driven growth, the neighborhood has also established a clear plan for its future through the Wynwood Business Improvement District’s (BID) successful effort to create a new zoning plan in collaboration with the city of Miami. A first-of-its-kind plan in the city, the Neighborhood Revitalization District Plan, sets forth new zoning regulations for Wynwood that will encourage mixed-use residential and office developments, create dedicated funding for area improvements and promote pedestrian-focused streets. Perhaps most important, the plan will work to preserve the area’s unique artistic and industrial character, with measures such as financial incentives for preserving warehouse buildings, and the creation of the Wynwood Design Review Committee to review the design of proposed neighborhood developments and ensure that they reflect the surrounding urban landscape.
The evolution of Wynwood will continue. But in the case of Miami’s gritty, creative heart, that change will be guided by a thoughtful plan that ensures the neighborhood’s unique DNA – art, creativity, accessibility, authenticity, and culture – remains central to the evolving story that is Wynwood.
Joseph Furst and Albert Garcia are chair and co-chair of the Wynwood Business Improvement District.