Miami can help Bakehouse Art Complex be part of the affordable-housing solution | Opinion

The Bakehouse Art Complex, in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once housed an industrial bakery.
The Bakehouse Art Complex, in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once housed an industrial bakery. Bakehouse Art Complex

In January, the Bakehouse Art Complex Board adopted a new five-year strategic plan, “Vision for a Future Arts Campus.” Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the plan engaged internal and external stakeholders and outlines three goals: rezone and redevelop Bakehouse’s 2.3-acre site to provide affordable living, live-work, and work spaces for artists and renovate the historic bakery building; attract, retain and support promising talent, while planning for expanded public programming once rezoning is secured; and increase capacity to support Bakehouse’s mission to be a cultural anchor institution that is embedded in and embraced by the community.

Bakehouse was set in motion in 1985 by two artists who, with support from the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County’s Community Development Block Grant programs, acquired a former Art Deco-era industrial bakery and more than two acres in then-blighted Wynwood. Their aim of ownership was to protect artists from future real-estate booms and gentrification. Their vision could not be more prescient. We are the largest artist-purposed, nonprofit-owned site of its kind and size in the urban core.

By providing studio and gallery space to approximately 100 artists from diverse backgrounds, generations and practices, we play a critical role in addressing a significant gap in the city’s cultural ecosystem — affordable spaces where promising talent can create, work and engage with each other and the greater community.

Rezoning our site ensures artists, art making, and creative production will have permanence in a city whose real estate costs render this increasingly challenging — a city that is globally recognized as an important center of cultural production and consumption.

With Akerman LLP’s pro bono land-use counsel, we have made tremendous progress working with the city of Miami Planning Department, our immediate neighborhood — Wynwood Norte — and other stakeholders.

Last month, we filed a future land-use change and the first of two successive zoning applications, approvals of which are required to allow and ensure 100 percent residential affordability; that is, to provide sufficient density for smaller, affordable units.

Our rezoning application has been endorsed by the Wynwood Community Enhancement Association, Wynwood Business Improvement District and Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council. We continue to build support from others.

This will create the opportunity for Bakehouse to integrate a significant number of attainable housing units for artists of all disciplines into our campus. The viability of our plan, however, depends on our obtaining several successive rezonings in a reasonable time frame. We are asking the city of Miami to waive its default 18-month freeze period between filings for rezonings, saving Bakehouse about two years of unnecessary waiting. Bakehouse is eager to appear before the City Commission in the spring on its first application.

The recent in-depth series in the Miami Herald, “Priced Out of Paradise,” and the Oct. 26 PBS NewsHour segment, “Miami residents priced out of a city built for the rich,” underscore the urgency of the affordable-housing crisis.

As reported, more than 50 percent of residents are rent-burdened, making Miami the least affordable city in the United States. Many artists fall within this vulnerable population. Miami Homes for All and the city of Miami issued Connect Capital Miami in May, which says that the city will deliver 12,000 units of affordable housing by 2024, though the real demand approaches 50,000. The document recommends preserving older multifamily housing units, better utilizing public land, and changing the zoning rules to allow greater building density. Our plans are consistent with these recommendations and those in the “Affordable Housing Master Plan,” put out by the city and FIU’s Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center.

Bakehouse is ready to add an affordable-housing project of more than 250 units to the city’s pipeline. Like our founders,’ we want to ensure affordability for artists in perpetuity. We are positioned become a more vibrant and intentional part of Miami’s arts and cultural ecosystem. We place to create a community hub for critical conversations and encounters that demonstrate the important role artists play in society and the transformative power of art.

While our goals seem ambitious, they are achievable. Bakehouse, and other property owners willing and ready to deliver 100 percent affordable-housing projects, would benefit enormously from a timeline for rezoning approvals that’s been accelerated by the city of Miami. We do not have any time to waste.

Cathy Leff is Bakehouse acting director. She wrote this on behalf of Jason Korman, Bakehouse board president, and board members Edouard Duval Carrie, Jose Felix Diaz, Brenda Freeman, Christine King, Lawrence Kline, Adam Koffler, Marsh Kriplen, McKenzie Livingston, Claudio Riedi and Lia Yaffar.