The North Beach Yard started as a thought experiment: Could the founders of the Wynwood Yard recreate the popular outdoor community garden, dining and hangout space to reinvigorate northern Miami Beach?
The answer: Not without money.
The Wynwood Yard’s founder, Della Heiman, announced in an Instagram video and online statement Friday that she and her team are “pivoting away” from the North Beach Yard. In nearly two years, Heiman couldn’t find partners to help her raise the money it would take to build the Yard, she wrote online.
“Despite hundreds of hours spent pitching to over 45 entities, including banks, non-profit foundations, individual investors, and corporate sponsors, we were unable to engage the financial partnerships needed to bring the project to life,” she wrote.
Heiman signed a lease with the city in November 2017 to try to bring her Wynwood Yard concept to unused city-owned lots on 81st Street and Collins Avenue.
The city wanted to use the Yard to prove to investors and residents that vacant city-owned lots in the northern part of the beach could be redeveloped into entertainment and businesses.
Heiman showed it could be done in Wynwood. She turned an overgrown, unused parcel of land into the heart of a hipster hangout with an outdoor bar, food trucks and event space that featured unannounced pop-up acts such as Coldplay and Shakira. And it was all in makeshift shipping containers.
It worked — too well. Lennar Corp. bought the land the Wynwood Yard sat on in September to build apartments and mixed commercial-retail space.
Miami Beach hoped she could replicate her success across from the mainland.
Her group had a year to meet several requirements, including showing a construction budget, a deal with a general contractor, a $1,750,000 bond for the work and a deposit of more than $17,000. City manager Jimmy Morales’ June 2019 update to the commission showed none of those goals were met.
The city, which had paid an architect more than $33,000 to draw initial plans, told him to quit work in December of last year while Heiman asked for more time to find investors.
“We’re sorry we couldn’t successfully partner with Della to see this project through to completion, but the door is always open for future projects,” Miami Beach commissioner Ricky Arriola said. “In the meantime, a number of groups have expressed interest in picking up where the North Beach Yard Project left off. Hopefully soon we will be able to bring something exciting to the North Beach community — which has been very supportive of a project of this nature.”
Delays stalled the North Beach Yard from the beginning.
First there was a controversy over moving a 1930s log cabin on the lot. Then it became clear the city would have to grant a series of waivers, variances and approvals to allow for the shipping containers that were the hallmark of the temporary Yard.
Those delays ate into the lifespan of the proposed Yard, which was envisioned as a five-year pop-up.
Meanwhile, Heiman split with her former business partner, Ken Lyon, whose restaurant, Charcoal, anchored the original Wynwood Yard. He has subsequently purchased the Anderson bar across the causeway from where the North Beach Yard would have been.
Heiman said she is focused on bringing her Yard concept to Doral, which has already announced vendors. She said she expects it to open this fall or early winter. She would not comment on the defunct North Beach Yard beyond her statement.
“We have a lot of local vendors and chefs involved in Doral,” she said, “ and we think it’s going to be really special.”