Brad Knoefler: Urban Revivalist

Brad Knoefler: Urban Revivalist
Giulio Sciorio
Brad Knoefler

Will Miami ever become a metropolis on par with New York, Chicago, Paris, or London? Brad Knoefler hopes so.

But he isn't a condo developer planning to take the city sky-high or a politician hoping to score points. Instead, he's an activist who firmly believes that a great city has more than just tall buildings — namely, stunning green spaces and functional public transit.

"I specialize in adaptive reuse," says the 45-year-old, who owns the Grand Central building downtown. "I've always loved what they do in the Northeast and these older cities where they restore old buildings. They take an old warehouse and make it into a funky club, and that's what I've been doing since I've moved to Miami."

In 2000, Knoefler was working for a telecommunications company in London that was bought out by LVMH, so he moved to Miami. What he found was a city in the midst of a real estate boom and obvious growing pains.

"One of the first projects I had was the building where the Coppertone Girl is now at [7300 Biscayne Blvd.]," he says. "It was a burned-out crackhouse. It was a two-year renovation to restore it."

But he was disappointed to see the city obsessed with shiny new high-rises when there are so many great existing structures around the urban core.

"When I moved to Miami, everyone was [saying], 'Tear down all these buildings, put a high-rise, and let's make a lot of money.' I was like, 'What's wrong with you guys? Do you want the whole city to look like Biscayne Boulevard, with ten-story parking garages and 50-story condo towers?'"

So Knoefler poured his activism into his work: To preserve downtown's history, he built a nightclub and offices in the Grand Central building. To promote green space, he turned the abandoned lot where the Miami Arena once stood into Grand Central Park. And to aid the neighborhood, he helped found the Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association.

Today, a new hub of downtown activity and green space centers around Grand Central. Knoefler's focus: spreading the revolution throughout Miami.

"I used to get angry and complain, but now I do something about it. I'm telling the city this is something that is done in every other city in America. You do it block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood."

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6 comments
Turkey
Turkey

Brad Knoefler has been an urban pioneer.  Brad was one of the first people in Miami to not only promote adaptive reuse but he actually invested and restored many "older" buildings.   Adaptive reuse has been practiced for centuries worldwide.  Property owners in Miami have been slow to see the benefits.

305-123
305-123

Isn't this the same guy that tattled on the food trucks causing a major disruption to the Wynwood Arts District's vendors?  I guess he looks like a really cool douche bag smoking a cigarette on the tracks     

miamiATR
miamiATR

fantastic work being done by this guy, great to know people care about these issues

Wishtheparkwasntdead
Wishtheparkwasntdead

@Turkey Oh, and it's pathetic to see a middle aged man pretending to be James Dean.

Wishtheparkwasntdead
Wishtheparkwasntdead

@Turkey People have been renovating older buildings on Miami Beach for decades to take advantage of architectural history. This guys isn't inventing anything new. It's great that Knoefler has done a couple of projects, sure. Still, his flippant attitude towards the community and the senseless destruction of a once thriving contingent of gourmet food culture outweighs any good he may be doing.

Look at what he did to the Grand Central park project with his buffoonish management of the situation. I went past it during aart Basel and it was dead, completely dead. He said that it would be a "platform" for others to develop business, then screwed those people over without a second thought. Let him go to Detroit or somewhere they need another jerk who can fix old buildings for a buck.

305-123
305-123

 @miamiATR unless you're a food truck, then he thinks you're crap and should be run out of the city.

 
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