Robins lured furniture-makers and art galleries such as Holly Hunt, Knoll, Diaspora Vibe, and Solange Rabello Art Gallery and attracted local stars such as Alison Spear, Chad Oppenheim, and Matthew MacDonald. In 2009, Robins enticed the first luxury retailers, Christian Louboutin and Yohji Yamamoto's Y-3.

Two years later, Robins presented his full, radical vision to the Miami City Commission: a boutique hotel, a midrise apartment tower, and a pedestrian mall lined with luxury fashion shops and trendy cafés. The 30-foot-wide mall — mainland Miami's answer to Lincoln Road — will run north to south from 38th to 42nd streets, anchored at both ends by department stores. The commission approved the plans last summer, and construction is underway.

"It's about having a mixture of creative business in a neighborhood with great architecture and design," Robins says.

Since 2011, Robins has been closing deals with the biggest names in high-end fashion. He partnered with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, which plans to house its signature brands in the mall. Several shops have already opened temporary locations, including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Cartier, and Hermès. "By 2014, we'll have 60-plus brands," Robins says. "By the end of 2015, we'll have 120-plus brands."

The development has garnered accolades from politicians and retail real estate experts. "I definitely support it," says Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, who represents the area. "I just want to make sure people from the surrounding neighborhoods benefit from the redevelopment too."

Christopher Barney, a senior leasing associate at Continental Real Estate Companies, says the Design District will reel in South American and European clients. "The Design District has one of the only Céline stores in America," Barney says. "These brands will attract a larger radius of customers."

But where there's an influx of cash, criminals are sure to follow. Last November 21, just a month after its opening, three shoplifters hit the Louis Vuitton store. According to a Miami Police report, the trio snatched a $36,500 alligator-skin purse, a $630 wool-and-silk scarf, and a $365 wallet. One suspect distracted a salesperson by asking to try on shoes while his accomplices placed the merchandise in a brown shopping bag and walked out.

New Times research reveals a string of crimes since the Louis Vuitton heist. On December 11 at 8:54 p.m., a delivery driver named Elton Rumbaut was approached by two men near 270 NE 39th St. One pulled a gun and the other punched him in the face and took his phone. Morales says the suspects were apprehended later that evening. (The alleged robbers still have charges pending against them.)

On January 4, 58-year-old Mildred Roca was also mugged at gunpoint as she was walking south on NW Second Avenue near 39th Street. The robber took her $300 Android tablet. On January 14, a man tackled 18-year-old Carly Tomka and ripped off the Canon EOS Rebel XS camera slung around her shoulder. The Harry's Pizzeria robbery happened January 21. Eight other thefts and break-ins have been reported within a 0.5-mile radius in the Design District.

Robins disputes the crime figures, though, insisting the only capers that took place on his properties were at Louis Vuitton and Harry's. "When I heard about the Louis Vuitton incident, I was very surprised and concerned," he says. "But then I found out it was carried out by professional thieves from Atlanta who had hit other important luxury malls."

An incident report from the Coral Gables Police Department confirms the shoplifters hit three luxury destinations, including Bal Harbour Shops, before they were busted at the Village of Merrick Park. Robins points out that criminals often target high-end retailers, noting a 2011 shooting at Bal Harbour Shops and two smash-and-grabs at Merrick Park's Gucci store and a jeweler in 2009. (Overall, Bal Harbour Shops had zero assaults and robberies, two burglaries, and 11 thefts between November and February, according to police reports.)

"I don't believe these crimes at Harry's and Louis Vuitton were something specific to the neighborhood," he says. "Despite being a walking retail neighborhood, we are especially committed to having better-than-shopping-mall security."

Dacra has hired Miami-based All-American Security to provide round-the-clock patrols and assign guards to man the entrances of restaurants and shops. Miami PD has also assigned two beat officers to the district during business hours in addition to its regular patrol units. "Dacra is fully engaged," Morales says. "They bought into the concept of building a partnership with the police department."

Charles Bell, operations manager for the Genuine Hospitality Group, which owns Harry's, says Dacra responded immediately and is taking the robbery very seriously. "The safety of our staff and customers is our top priority," Bell says. "We feel more secure than ever in the neighborhood."

Across the street from Harry's Pizzeria, inside the glass-walled showroom of furniture-maker Baltus USA, operations manager Marylin de la Hoz compliments Dacra for its security plans. But she says incidents like the Harry's robbery make her worry that crime could continue to pose a problem as new shops arrive.

"It is definitely a concern," she says. "Not just for me but also for our clients and our employees."

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7 comments
mikemoskos
mikemoskos

The Design District has the feel of being unsafe, even though it really isn't. BUT, what's unsettling is that there is occasional, random violence and burglaries. I had an office in the Design District from 1998-2003. When I first got there, our office door was locked, with a buzzer and people advised me to keep it locked.  Within a month, I kept the door unlocked and eventually would even keep the door propped open until 'til the wee hours (1 or 2 am). No trouble. Of course, by then, I adopted a street dog who would warn me of any noises outside. Nor did I have any trouble when I took her out walking late at night.  

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

the design district is still in the transformation phase, it was unavoidable that this would happen due to the surrounding area which still is a ghetto but with time since alot of high end shops move in, so will more security and police in the process

johnctripp
johnctripp

I wish it hadn't changed, just like South Beach. Craig Robbins and his jew buddies ruined it for money. Are they happy with the results? Kicking out the old timers, bringing in tacky ass Euro trash brands. All for what? Thanks Craig.

305Native
305Native

It's no surprise crime continues to be a problem in the design district. There is still a lot of poverty in the surrounding neighborhood. It's ridiculous to think that luxury stores and eateries adjacent to such areas would not an easy target for crooks. Also, there is a large transient homeless population due to several shelters near by. 

orientaldecorusa
orientaldecorusa

It is nice to stay positive,  however, the reality is the Miami Design District is surrounded by rough neighborhood.  There are plenty of desperate people who would resort to robbery.  It is more profitable to rob high end fashion brand names than sticking up a gas station or 7/11. 

windmichael21
windmichael21 topcommenter

@305Native true,first the area needs to be made decent,but this is miami and this is just another real estate scam by the people in local real estate looking for victims.

 
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