Last week, Miami's planning, zoning, and appeals board gave preliminary approval to a new development project designed to turn a swath of the Design District into a micro version of Lincoln Road. Once completed, developer Craig Robins' Design District makeover
will transform a four-block section of the tony neighborhood into a
pedestrian promenade boasting high-end retail shops, chi-chi cafes, and
luxury brands -- essentially converting it into Miami's version of Fifth
Avenue or Rodeo Drive.
The board's endorsement was unanimous. But endorsement from the Design District's gallerists? Not so much.
While some in the Design District's arts community look forward to the new customers and jobs the project is expected to create, others worry about the effect of gentrification on the many galleries who call the Design District home.
"My take is that it is ultimately good for the community," said Sloan Schaffer, owner of the Design District's 101/Exhibit.
"I think it can redefine the City of Miami as far as association to
Miami Beach and notions of tourism. With a denser concentration of
sophisticated luxury brand names, the area can grow to rival Rodeo
Drive. But it has to be done right, and developers have to be cautious
not to price out the arts community," Schaffer added.
That fear -- that high-end businesses will bring higher rental and real estate costs -- is shared by Dot Fiftyone Gallery co-owner Isaac Perelman. He expressed
concern that the plan might lead to an increase in real estate
speculation and create a spike in property values and rental rates, forcing
smaller galleries to leave the district.
"What we fear is
another real estate bubble, with the relocation of big-name brands here
turning this into a version of New York's Fifth Avenue," said Perelman.
"The dichotomy is that just a few blocks away from the Design District,
you have some of Miami's most impoverished communities, so I don't know
how sustainable the project will be."
Perelman, who also serves as president
of the Miami Art Dealers Association, predicted, "This might bring
some new jobs to the area, but a rise in speculation will force some of
the smaller galleries and artist-run spaces to close or move away."
Oh of Primary Projects agrees. "The plan is a
catalyst for the gentrification that has been going on here the past 10 years," Oh observed. "One of the positives is that these new retail
shops will help create more jobs and bring more people to the area.
Unfortunately, it also reflects that age-old tale of artists raising a
neighborhood's profile, then having to leave when they can no longer
afford to be there."
Oh also noted that
gentrification in nearby Wynwood may
result in an exodus of creative types in the not-too-distant future.
the next five years, you may see a major shift of people moving closer
to downtown. What used to cost $1 per square foot to rent a
decade ago now can cost about $20 per square foot now," Oh said.
can sort of compare what's happening here to what happened in New
York's Williamsburg and people there leaving for Bushwick," he continued. "This
whole area is moving more towards nightlife venues and retail. There
are three new bars opening in Wynwood over the summer, and that just
tells you what time it is here."
101/Exhibit's Schaffer, however, believes that local galleries and artists might benefit from the development plan.
some strategic and sophisticated marketing, Craig Robins and other
developers can entice people who regularly visit Los Angeles or New York
City for a weekend shopping trip to come to Miami for a cultural
weekend. Unfortunately, gentrification is a necessary evil, but I still
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think this will not only lead to more jobs for the community but that
the arts community will also benefit in the long view by the presence of
these luxury brands," Schaffer concludes.