The craft beer industry is so popular in Miami that many of the surrounding cities want a slice of the action. Among them is North Miami Beach, which announced January 18 that it created the state's "first" brewery district.
The city changed the zoning code for its redevelopment area by reducing the standard Florida law of a 500-foot separation between schools and breweries, distilleries, and wineries.
The district runs along NE 163rd Street from the west side of the plaza where Kmart used to be on NE Eighth Avenue and continues nearly two miles east toward Biscayne Boulevard, extending north and south along 163rd. The redevelopment area was established in 2005 as a partnership between the city and county.
North Miami Beach doesn't have any breweries, but that's why the district was created, according to Patrick Brett, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) administrator.
After Brett was hired by the city in 2015, he met with leaders to brainstorm ideas that would help build the community, specifically concepts that would create jobs and increase property values. Breweries were the answer.
"They rejuvenate areas," Brett says. "Just look at Wynwood."
He conducted an informal market study and shared his findings with the CRA board. A firm was hired to conduct a formal study, which backed up Brett's research, he says.
The study, by Redevelopment Management Associates, shows North Miami Beach is essentially located in what Brett calls a "craft beer desert." The closest breweries are Bousa to the south and Hollywood Beer Company to the north.
A brewery in North Miami Beach would draw visitors from neighboring communities such as Aventura, Sunny Isles Beach, Golden Beach, Bal Harbour, Hallandale Beach, and Surfside, the study concludes.
Researchers examined other U.S. cities — such as Visalia, California; and Tumwater, Washington — that have relaxed zoning laws in order to create microbrewery districts. This information was coupled with national data on the craft brewing industry, the report states, which has experienced eight consecutive years of double-digit growth.
"The purpose of a brewery district is to ease the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs looking to open a brewery and to establish a successful entertainment and dining cluster," the report says. "Experts believe there is still room for new craft breweries to enter the market despite the tremendous growth in recent years."
The genesis of the brewery district came in May 2017, when the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved $500,000 in grant funding for North Miami Beach's CRA. The money would be given to qualified breweries, Brett says, and is intended to create jobs and redevelopment opportunities.
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Approving $500,000 is only the first step of the funding the package, he says, and the city still needs to develop guidelines on how to use the money. He adds that the city has appropriated another $250,000 for microdistilleries. The money can be used only in the CRA area.
However, a brewer doesn't need to wait for the money, Brett says, and can most likely obtain a permitted use for a brewery in the CRA since the zoning standards were changed. Having a brewery — or distillery or winery — almost anywhere in the CRA is a permitted use, Brett says.
There are no such places where alcohol is manufactured in North Miami Beach, Brett says, although he has already talked to several people who are interested. "We want anyone who wants to open a microbrewery to feel welcome," he says. "We're not being selective."