Designing Wynwood

Real estate development has different meanings in the minds of different people. Buy land cheap, increase rents, displace residents, demolish, then build big, dreary structures to multiply the investment. This is the typical scenario for greedy, irresponsible developers who only care for a quick return, even at the expense of social upheaval.

Another approach is to turn around a neighborhood with a vision. Making a profit is still vital, but the development process is informed by social awareness and an appreciation for high quality urban planning and beauty.

Tony Goldman is a romantic developer. In the Seventies he recycled a number of properties in New York's SoHo, helping to transform the neighborhood from a bleak manufacturing area into a haven for artists. During the Eighties he was among the first to buy and rehabilitate real estate in Miami Beach's Art Deco District, and became instrumental in that city's renaissance. He is also known for ventures like SoHo's Greene Street Café (the famous, but now defunct, jazz club); SoHo Kitchen and Bar; the Park Central Hotel on Ocean Drive; the Todd Oldham-designed Tiffany Hotel (now called The Hotel) on Collins Avenue; and the award-winning, mixed-use parking garage at Collins and Seventh Street, a private-public partnership.

In 1993 Goldman was named citizen of the year by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. Three years later he became chairman of the Historic Hotels of America, a program directed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2002 Goldman was again honored by the Miami Beach chamber as its first inductee into the Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame.

In word and deed Goldman is a model for developers who value high quality as much as revenue. New Times had the opportunity to interview Goldman and son Joey, his partner in an ambitious development venture, this one involving nineteen properties the Goldmans have purchased in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

Also an art lover, Goldman has followed the lead of other Miami collectors -- the Rubell family and Martin Margulies, for example -- by putting his collection on public display. Last month the Goldman Warehouse (404 NW 26th St., Miami) opened with "Jules Olitski: Six Decades," an exhibit of the famed colorist and Abstract Expressionist. The show runs through April 15. For more information call 305-531-4411.

New Times: In a recent article referring to Wynwood, you wrote that the place has "an energy that's about to explode." What are the signs?

Tony Goldman: I'm talking of my own energy and the energy on the street, in the neighborhood, in the destination. You hear the talk on the ground, generated by the tastemakers and scene-stirrers. It's the whispers through the underground scene that follow the young and established artists' worlds, eagerly looking for centralization. People are in many different places, but no critical mass.

Why Wynwood?

Joey Goldman: Several reasons. One, Wynwood is in the center of town. Two, it's less than three miles from Miami Beach. Three, with 35,000 residential condos to be built in the city, I believe Miami is in need of a pedestrian hub, a place where you can find a number of exciting possibilities by walking.

Sort of emulating the Miami Beach model.

JG: Miami has more people than Miami Beach. And obviously, as the city grows, we need more options. South Beach is the only viable destination right now. Yet traveling from Miami, it means being stuck on the causeway every weekend. Miami can have a center for the arts, with restaurants and cafés and retail stores and artists' studios and buildings built to the street line. We could even reverse the one-way trend -- people from the Beach could find the land across the bay really attractive.

What are the problems?

TG: Miami doesn't have a pedestrian walkabout, no place that you can walk and have a Chelsea scene or a SoHo scene. Art Basel brought the major wind into Miami to prove that the city is valuable, the next generation of urban centers. The arts community proves it. The people who are visiting Miami bring this New York energy, an international influence. Still something is missing.

And what's that?

TG: I'm talking about a vital grid system, centralized, with streets and ample sidewalks, where the scale is ready for pedestrians and the buildings are ready for the art. This is what Wynwood could provide.

Where is Wynwood now?

TG: Wynwood is still a community that is architecturally introverted. Few of these buildings have windows.

Is that good or bad?

TG: It's what it is. Let's say that in its present stage, Wynwood doesn't publicize its good. Street life occurs when there is window-shopping, where the energy flows from the outside in, and vice versa. If we look at the big picture, in the future we could have a developed grid with interesting shops and restaurants and cafés together with people and artists living there. Sort of what happened in Chelsea or Williamsburg [in Brooklyn].

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Alfredo Triff