But that's likely to change soon. Last month, the city approved a proposal to change the zoning codes, which among a lot of other things would make it easier for people to live in Wynwood. It will also welcome other developers to build more small, sustainable buildings.
“I like a challenge, but I didn’t know what I was getting into and how serious an impediment the old zoning code was,” developer David Polinsky recalls. Polinsky, along with partners Bradley Carlson and Andrew Lenahan, worked to get 250 Wynwood approved under the old codes. “We wanted to make it easier for the next guy.” Originally from Vancouver, Polinsky moved to Miami three years ago after, he says, it rained for a record-breaking 29 days there. He remembers the towering skyscrapers along Brickell and Edgewater and thought, as a developer, he couldn’t compete. When Fortis Development Group bought the plot of land down the street from Panther Coffee for $775,000, Wynwood was still a somewhat-sleepy neighborhood, coming alive only on Second Saturdays.
“Wood Tavern had just opened, there was Lester’s and Joey’s and Wynwood Kitchen, but that was it,” Polinsky recalls. “It was a gamble, and I didn’t know if [this property] was dirt and if it was going to stay dirt, but we were committed from the beginning. We recognized there was an asset here.”
The plan for 250 Wynwood was to incorporate art into the building so it would blend in with the street art. Local art dealer and gallerist Anthony Spinello helped select five artists' designs for murals on each balcony ceiling so that when passersby look up, they can see the mural all at once while not overwhelming the building's residents with kaleidoscopic colors. Polinsky smiles when he sees pedestrians stop and kneel to take photos of the building.
He invited New Times inside this week for a look at the space.
The building, it must be noted, is not exactly affordable housing for starving Wynwood street artists. There are three studio apartments, seven two-bedroom apartments, and one three-bedroom penthouse. All the units have already sold, and Polinsky says they started at almost $400 a square foot. The penthouse apartment sold for more than $1 million to a "gazillionaire," Polinsky says, though he declines to name the buyer.
The floor-to-ceiling balcony windows are reminiscent of Miami Beach. But instead of looking out at water and yachts, the balconies face north, overlooking Wynwood and its iconic street art. “We’re redefining what a view is in Miami,” Polinsky says.
Instead of housing a parking garage, 250 Wynwood provides residents with a German-style two-story parking lift that stores one car atop the other. To get to the car on top, the car on the bottom must be pulled out so the car on top can be lowered. Polinsky points out that because Wynwood is a walkable neighborhood (and with the new zoning codes will become even more walkable), the two-story lifts are to act more like car storage than transient parking that most Miamians are used to.
“You might need to share keys with your roommate, but most people are walking around Wynwood, not driving,” he says.
The Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID) — which helped pass the new zoning codes last month — looks at 250 Wynwood as a guinea pig that prompted business owners to ask for better city rules. There are still incentives for existing warehouses to stay and not sell to condo developers. But the idea is that the empty lots behind chain link fences sprinkled across the neighborhood will be soon transformed into other small-scale apartment buildings — let's hope on the lower end of the pricing scale — for the people who work and play in Wynwood.
Fortis Development Group owns the lot next door to 250 Wynwood. Polinsky says he can't divulge too much without getting in trouble, but that property might be the site of an affordable apartment building with more units than 250 Wynwood. He does hint at the rooftop and says it’ll act as a green space open to the public.
“We’re doing the design now, and it’s super cool,” Polinsky says. “We’re integrating art into the building in even more interesting ways.”