Words by Jon Warech
Barely a minute into the New Year, Miami is already growing to new heights and becoming a city with even more depth. Here’s everything you need to know about what’s going down in the 305 in 2015.
If a city had a New Year’s resolution, Miami’s would be: Do things bigger and better—again. Just as in 2014, another banner growth year, it’s a resolution we’ll have no trouble keeping. Miami is maturing culturally, structurally, and physically as neighborhoods are revamped, the art scene spreads, and new construction redefines the skyline. A city on the rise, Miami is headed for a big 2015, with change inevitable and growth seemingly guaranteed.
It starts with art. It wasn’t that long ago that art was an afterthought here, obscured by the frozen daiquiris and all-night partying that made this town tick. But now, everyone from club owners to real estate moguls has a collection, and developers are heavily recruiting galleries and studios (by dangling cheaper rents in front of them) in order to give up-and-coming neighborhoods a cool factor. In 2015, it’s art that gets the party started, and the scene is not just in Wynwood anymore. “In looking at the roster of permits that have been pulled for construction in the past year, it’s easy to see why so many galleries and artists in Wynwood can’t afford the rent or won’t be able to for much longer,” says Karla Ferguson, owner/director of Little Haiti’s Yeelen Gallery, a 10,000-square-foot gallery and residency space presenting contemporary artwork.
The entrenched will stay in Wynwood, but the rest are heading to surrounding neighborhoods neglected by real estate and cultural booms of the past. Like neighboring Little Haiti, Little River is a raw yet ripe area, and it’s seeing galleries such as Guccivuitton and Michael Jon Gallery move in, while Allapattah has become home to the Gesamtkunstwerk project, which houses Butter Gallery (formerly of Wynwood), as well as Spinello Projects, Wynwood Radio, Product 81, and Panther Coffee’s scientist lab, among others. Places that were once shadowy outliers vaguely evident in your peripheral vision on the way to the airport are now destinations. This year will be the one in which you have dinner in Little Haiti or buy art in Little River.
A leader in the arts frontier is downtown, where Primary Projects has thrived since moving from the Design District. A multidisciplinary project space, Primary Projects has been a home for both established and emerging artists, and according to founder Books IIII Bischof, they fit right in. “Downtown is one of the only places in Miami where there’s a real metropolitan vibe; nowhere else do you get to experience Miami as a city,” says Bischof. “There’s also an edginess to the area that allows you to feel a wave of change, whether in the arts, music, entertainment, or culture.” Cannonball, which also calls the area home, adds fuel to the fire with its residency program and adult education initiatives.
If 2014 was the year LeBron James left downtown, then 2015 will be the year the art scene made it vibrant again. One area of downtown to keep your eye on is being dubbed the Arts & Entertainment District by some, while others call it WestEdge or SoWy. This near-empty section of town is spread over prime real estate just south of buzzy Wynwood and west of the Pérez Art Museum Miami and booming Edgewater. The amount of open space means it’s packed with potential, and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the future Genting hotel/condo/ retail project (which may or may not include a David Beckham-run soccer stadium), just a stone’s throw away, have this neighborhood poised to bridge the gap between Miami’s hottest areas in 2015. It’s a place where one might scurry into a restaurant for a preshow prix-fixe, then walk across the street to catch a Broadway show or a concert. It’s why walkscore.com, which measures the walkability of major US cities, named Miami number five, just behind usuals like New York and San Francisco.
Leading the way in the Arts & Entertainment District is NR Investments, the real estate investment company that owns Filling Station Lofts, the 81-unit development already anchoring the area, and Canvas, the coming 37-story, 513-unit high-rise that should bring elevated foot traffic to the hood. The area is already home to the popular Fredric Snitzer Gallery (formerly of Wynwood), and, as in any budding Miami neighborhood, there’s coffee.
The very successful bike-sharing program, DecoBike, scored its own “corporate sponsorship” from Citibank. Now rebranded as CitiBike, the thousand or so two-wheelers have been outfitted with the company’s blue logo at hundreds of dock stations across the city, with more downtown on the way.
Over the past year or so, 3:05 pm has become cafecito time in Miami, when locals break over a cup of coffee, a time that honors Pitbull’s favorite area code. (#305cafecito even has its own following on Instagram, thanks to official cafecito publicist JennyLee Molina.)
It happens all over the city, but at the end of 2014, as a promotional tool at Filling Station, the 3:05 cafecito was regularly “on the house” in the lobby. It’s a new tradition that brings the community together, and for Ron Gottesmann and Nir Shoshani, principals of NR Investments, that’s how communities thrive. “The main idea is not to create a buzz,” says Shoshani, who estimates that in two to three years the A&E District will be the hot spot in Miami. “The main idea is to bring the people. Once they see what we see, they’ll buy into the idea.”
Standing on the balcony of a loft at Filling Station, even the least imaginative can look out at the expanse and see the potential. Even the Metromover, the last stop of which is just a block away from both of NRI’s buildings, is shedding its bad rap with new stops at PAMM and old favorites like AmericanAirlines Arena and Mary Brickell Village—super convenient for both Heat games and happy hour. It’s part of a transportation revolution in Miami, where car services like Uber, Lyft, and RedCap are taking over and our very own DecoBike recently got called up to the majors and became CitiBike, with new rent-a-bike locations from the Upper East Side to Coconut Grove. Driving yourself (not to mention taking a cab) is so 2014. People are moving around in all sorts of ways in 2015, and city life is giving public transportation a serious boost.
And like it or not, it’s possible we’re about to become one of “those” cities—you know, the ones with observation towers. Seattle has the Space Needle, New York has the Empire State Building, Vegas has the Stratosphere Tower, and now lawmakers in Miami are back-and-forthing on SkyRise. The city itself is also reaching new heights, and it’s helping Miami become a world-class locale in 2015. You can’t beat the views of the Atlantic Ocean or Biscayne Bay in Miami, but in a big city where life is vertical, there are usually architectural landmarks like the Empire State Building or the Space Needle that people rave about. At the end of last year, voters approved SkyRise, a $430 million 1,000-foot voter-approved (did you vote?) observation tower that could be our Eiffel Tower (should it actually break ground). It takes Miami into a new stratosphere—literally, as SkyRise will be behind only Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas as the tallest observation tower in the country, and figuratively because it features a ballroom, amusement-park-style rides, and a nightclub. Regardless of all that, you know you will be one of the first people up there taking a selfie from 1,000 feet.
Even though some artists are stepping away from Wynwood, the neighborhood is hardly losing out. A tech scene and an upstart business culture are moving in, with rumors that Facebook is exploring office space. With young entrepreneurship comes the young professional’s drink of choice: beer. Wynwood Brewing Company has led the charge, while companies such as J. Wakefield Brewing and Concrete Beach Brewery are opening their doors in 2015. Boxelder Craft Beer Market has honed in on the retail side, selling craft beer to thirsty consumers. “The people who brew beer are creative, fascinating people,” says Nicole Darnell, who owns Boxelder with her husband, Adam. “It’s the same as artists. Wynwood is the perfect place for that level of creativity.”
“It’s a liquid art form,” agrees Alex Gutierrez, manager of the Tap Room, inside Wynwood Brewing Company. “The culture here is amazing, and it’s a great environment for this business.”
It’s all clicking for Miami in 2015, which is why Miami Beach is ensuring it stays relevant amid a sea of competition. New hotels in Mid Beach, like The Edition and the Thompson Miami Beach, are providing fresh hangouts for the social elite, and old favorite Shore Club is going condo, converting its 309 hotel rooms into 85 condominiums and 100 hotel rooms, with construction starting early this year. On Collins Avenue, Bagatelle Miami will bring its popular high energy, Champagne-filled brunch scene from Los Angeles and New York to the Sunshine State; also coming to town are Manhattan elites like STK and Quality Meats. And finally, China Grill returns—crackling calamari salad, anyone?
It’s not just the food and the architecture that are attracting greater numbers to Miami—nature is also part of our beauty. Case in point: The new South Pointe Park Pier, a $4.8 million, 450-foot walkway that opened at the end of last year, allows you to step off the edge of South Beach and venture out over the ocean to soak in what is arguably Miami’s most beautiful view. It’s an escape from the hustle and bustle (although just across the water lies the $60 million revamp of Fisher Island, cranes and all) and a reminder that even without Champagne goggles, Miami will remain the most beautiful city in the country for years to come.
“Miami is at its prime, and our romance with the city only grows stronger,” says Primary Projects’ Bischof. “It’s exciting to contribute to her history and participate in this moment of exponential growth.”