Downtown Miami

Wynwood’s Bakehouse art center wants to rezone to build affordable housing for artists.

The Bakehouse Art Complex, housed in a former industrial bakery, in Wynwood.
The Bakehouse Art Complex, housed in a former industrial bakery, in Wynwood. Bakehouse Art Complex

For 33 years, the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood has provided artists with inexpensive studio space, workshops and exhibition galleries. Now it plans to go one big step further — by adding affordable housing to the mix.

The center, housed in a former industrial bakery building from the 1920s, has filed an application for zoning and land-use changes with the City of Miami that would allow development of up to 250 units of “attainable” housing for artists. As part of a broad new five-year strategic vision intended to secure the nonprofit’s future, the Bakehouse also hopes to renovate its sprawling Art Deco-era building, which is distinguished by a pair of unused silos.

The center expects to recruit investors or a developer to undertake the housing project, said interim Bakehouse director Cathy Leff.

Under a covenant signed in 1986, when the city purchased the property and turned it over to the nonprofit, the old bakery building must be preserved for artists’ use, Leff said. But the 2.3-acre site, which includes a large parking lot and some underused ancillary structures, has plenty of room to accommodate housing construction, Leff said.

Separately, the Miami-based Knight Foundation announced a $150,000 grant to the Bakehouse to set up a “cohort” of curators who will work with artists at the complex on site-specific projects in and around the property. The foundation also underwrote the development of the center’s strategic plan.

That plan identified housing as a significant need for Miami’s expanding artistic community as gentrification in Wynwood and other urban-core neighborhoods pushes housing costs up and displaces low-income residents, including artists.

“The redevelopment of Bakehouse ensures artists and art making will have permanence in a city whose real estate costs render this increasingly challenging,” the strategic plan reads.

The Bakehouse complex houses 60 artists’ studios, two galleries, a woodworking shop and a photo lab, among other facilities. It was founded in 1985 by a group of artists who were pushed out of Coconut Grove by rising real estate prices.

Under an application filed last week, the Bakehouse’s attorney, Wesley Hevia of Akerman, said the housing plan requires rezoning and a land-use amendment. The use would change from the current civic and institutional to commercial.

Because the city’s Miami 21 zoning codes doesn’t allow an increase in zoning to vault more than a single category at a time, the Bakehouse will seek two separate zoning changes. Ultimately, that would result in T-6-8-O zoning, meaning generally it could build up to eight stories.

An increase in allowable density would also allow Bakehouse to build more but smaller and thus less-expensive units that would be financially affordable for artists, Leff said. She said she expects public hearings on the application early next year.

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