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Inside the Design District's Expansion Plans: More Luxe Brands, More Food, More Art

Miami’s Design District is already a destination for tourists and locals, but within the next year, it will undergo a multimillion-dollar expansion by real-estate development companies Dacra and L Real Estate. This past Monday during a hardhat tour led by Dacra CEO and president Craig Robins, the real-estate mogul who was responsible for the Design District’s first phase of development at the turn of the millennium, New Times previewed new art exhibitions and witnessed the construction of the expansion.

“The neighborhood is a pedestrian neighborhood. There’s all kinds of public art, architecture, and design. Being here is an amazing experience. You can eat and shop, but it’s also a place to just visit,” Robins said.
Construction workers halted their noisy equipment while the tour visited the site. On the corner of NE 41st Street and NE First avenue will be buildings that are designed by brands themselves, such as Gucci and Prada. Paradise trees will be planted in the plazas, and there will be many food and beverage options. A block over, on NE 42nd Street, a boutique hotel and chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ABC Kitchen will open. Robins also hinted that “a cool auto company, which is also a tech company, will be doing a flagship.”

Along the tour, Robins gave an exclusive sneak peek at the art exhibition “Desire,” which opened Wednesday in the Moore Building. Curated by the granddaughter of Pablo Picasso, Diana Widmaier-Picasso, the show is open to those 18 years of age or older. The exhibit consists of paintings, installations, performances, and video that explore lust, eroticism, sexuality, and fetishism. Artists featured include classics such as Picasso and Diego Riviera, as well as modern artists like Jeff Koons and underground cartoonist Robert Crumb. The one Andy Warhol painting in the show is that of a female torso from 1977. All works are for sale, and the show is on view until Sunday.
The tour ended at the main artery of the Design District, the Paseo Ponti, next to Hermès and Cartier. Each year, the Design District commissions an artist to create an installation for the holiday season. This year’s pick was Philippe Malouin, a London-based industrial and product designer. Malouin’s installation, The Speed of Light, is a black metal track that loops around what look like light poles. Moving “light spheres” travel along the hilly tracks. The installation will be up for six weeks, though there is talk about a longer stay.

“The concept doesn’t get lost in holiday iconography; I was not interested in that at all. It’s a simple installation based on light itself,” Malouin said. “It’s a play on outdoor lighting posts you see everywhere. It’s like having a dialogue between two light posts. I was interested in how light travels. Here, the light travels at different speeds; it moves up the hill and plummets down quickly.”

Robins said the expansion will be finished and open in time for Art Basel next year. “Hopefully, this will be one of the sources of pride that our community can look to and say that this is one of the places that makes Miami special."

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