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Wynwood's Demolition Wave: Homes Razed to Make Way for Development

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If you frequent Wynwood, you've noticed the changing landscape: new murals, new construction, new businesses, and fresh demolitions in the small pockets of residential areas amid the warehouses. I've witnessed six houses on 27th Street between North Miami and NW Second avenues come down in the past couple of months. The teardowns are quick. From the time the excavators roll in to the time the land is leveled is anywhere from two to seven days, depending upon the size of the property.

So why the recent rapid developments in the "Café District"?

I sat down with Wynwood property developers Tony Cho of Metro 1 Properties and David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties to learn about what's really happening in the hood.

Cho said he prides himself on contributing to the green living movement; his office is covered wall-to-wall with eco-friendly tips. He wants to inspire more people to live and/or work in Wynwood, reducing the ecological costs of commuting. His goal is to increase the population so prime independent retailers and restaurants will invest in the future of this community.

Cho and Lombardi said they have been battling the City of Miami, the Zoning Department, and the Parking Department to create a viable community where locals and tourists are guaranteed a safe experience. Lombardi pointed out that the majority of Wynwood is classified as D-1, meaning only 36 units per acre and three parking spaces are required for every 1,000 square feet of commercial space such as retail or office. It's an ideal classification for warehouse and industrial districts, but not so much for rapidly developing retail and restaurant centers.

However, the areas where most of these razed houses are located are zoned as T5-L, where 65 units are allowed per acre. That regulation lends the area to midrise buildings with retail, restaurant, and live/work options -- exactly the direction in which Cho and Lombardi hope to take the neighborhood.

The T5-L classification was created in May 2010, when Miami city officials created the "Miami 21 Code," a form-based code guided by tenets of New Urbanism and Smart Growth principles. It's designed, in part, to encourage pedestrian activity. According to their vision:

Miami 21 represents the "Miami of the 21st Century" and entails a holistic approach to land use and urban planning. It ... takes into account all of the integral factors that make each area within the City a unique, vibrant place to live, learn, work and play. Six elements served as the lynchpins in the development of the blueprint of Miami: Zoning (Miami 21 Zoning Code), Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Parks and Open Spaces, Arts and Culture, and Transportation.

Thanks to the T5-L classification, developers are acquiring lots in Wynwood with the intent to build five-story live/work buildings, ideally some with separate parking structures like you'd see on South Beach. New apartment buildings, in keeping with Miami 21, are expected to have limited parking spaces, encouraging locals to walk, bike, or use public transit to move around town.

Obviously, Wynwood still needs better transportation. Increased Metrobus routes and stops, a Metrorail extension, Deco bike stands, and more free trolley stops would be an excellent start.

Still, living without a car in Wynwood right now is doable. Darren Kart, who migrated from South Beach to Wynwood two years ago because of the live/work opportunities, said, "It's a growing, edgy community that I wanted to be a part of. I'm able to walk around every day and am motivated to use my bicycle more often." Kart admitted he rarely uses his car anymore and said the neighborhood reminds him of the SoHo district in New York City. (Tony Goldman would be proud.)

So what's to come of these empty lots? Let's hope secured parking structures and many more multilevel mixed-use facilities.

--Kerry McLaney, founder of Wynwood-based 305 Creative Group (@305creative)

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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