Writing on the wall: Graffiti helps Miami's Wynwood
In the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, graffiti covers some 80,000 square feet of walls. It’s been that way since 2009, and neighborhood businesses are quite happy about it. Once little more than Miami’s down-in the-dumps warehouse district, Wynwood has used street art to create a new identity, drawing some 70 art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, a bakery, hip bars, an art cinema and small stores.
An 18-wall graffiti mural park called Wynwood Walls has anchored the neighborhood since 2009, with the curator inviting artists from all over the world to contribute each year. Many other businesses invite street artists to cover their building exteriors. The monthly Wynwood Art Walk brings in locals and tourists, and several families house their private collections in warehouses that open to the public from time to time.
“Businesses are attracted here because of this artistic vibe,” says Marte Siebenhar, executive director of Bakehouse Art Complex, a 30-year-old non-profit that houses the main workspaces of about 60 professional artists in a former commercial bakery. “There is no place you go in Wynwood that has not been touched by art. I’ve lived in New York and I’ve lived in D.C. and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
At Bakehouse, artists secure space via juried panels and receive subsidized rent. The public can tour the workspaces, speak with artists at work and attend a variety of events. Attendance rose from 8,500 in 2013 to 19,000 last year — about half locals and half tourists, especially international tourists, Siebenhar says.
“My whole life, Wynwood was a really desolate place — it was warehouses and emptiness,” says chef Brian Nasajon, who plans to open Beaker & Grey restaurant by summer’s end in Wynwood. “Now, the growth here has been unreal.”
Nasajon says the catalyst for Wynwood redevelopment was Goldman Properties, which bought more than 25 Wynwood properties in 2004 and 2005 and opened the first new restaurant there — Joey’s — in 2008. Goldman also created and owns Wynwood Walls and is among the neighborhood’s largest landowners.
“We’ve been invested there for eight or nine years; through most of that time, we were trying to facilitate and catalyze revitalization work,” says Joe Furst, managing partner for Wynwood at Goldman Properties and chair of the Wynwood Business Improvement District.
Air-conditioning, heating and refrigerator equipment and parts distributor Watsco has created a division called Watsco Ventures, an investment fund and accelerator program. The division aims to foster new technology and business model innovations for the distribution industry, as well as new hardware and software in what it calls the “home comfort” sector. Watsco’s goal is mainly to invest in its future through innovations that the division produces. “It’s about building the Watsco of the future,” says Ivan Rapin-Smith, Watsco Ventures’ director. Watsco Ventures’ investment fund will make early-seed and laterstage investments in startups.
Perry Ellis CEO George Feldenkreis is stepping down in January to become executive chairman. His son Oscar Feldenkreis, president and COO, will replace him.
International Finance Bank hired Jose E. Cueto as president and CEO, replacing Carlos Blanco. Cueto was head of Florida corporate banking for FirstBank, Puerto Rico.
Commercial real estate broker NAI Miami hired Stephen Nostrand as CEO and COO. He was CEO of Colliers International South Florida. He replaces Jeremy S. Larkin and Edward L. Schmidt, who became co-chairmen.
DORAL — Carnival launched a new cruise brand, Fathom, that offers passengers an opportunity to cruise for a cause. The ships will travel to the Dominican Republic, where passengers can work with local residents on improving their communities. U. K.-based International shipping service ParcelMonkey. Com, which picks up packages directly from customers, opened its U. S. subsidiary’s headquarters in the city and launched operations.
HOMESTEAD — A new National Park Service plan slated to go into effect next year will turn 10,500 acres of Biscayne National Park into a “no-fishing” marine reserve and expand no-motor and idle speed zones.
KEY LARGO — Developer Raul Medina is building an upscale, 30-pad, recreational vehicle park on 2.7 acres along Florida Bay. It will include a swimming pool, clubhouse and spa.
MONROE COUNTY — During the first six months of the fiscal year, county tourist-development taxes were up 12% from the previous fiscal year.
MIAMI — The family of Lennar Chairman and CEO Stuart Miller donated $55 million to the University of Miami; it will fund a building at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and support the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. > Opko Health plans to buy New Jersey-based genesequencing diagnostics firm Bio-Reference Laboratories for about $1.47 billion in stock.
Flagstone Property Group began construction of Island Gardens, a long-awaited project on city-leased land on Watson Island, between downtown and Miami Beach. The deep-water marina now under construction is scheduled to open in early December.
Deutsche Bank’s real estate investment arm paid $111.6 million to purchase the landmark 15-story 800 Brickell office tower from Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles and Guggenheim Real Estate. > Miami Jewish Health Systems plans to build a 66-bed, three-building facility for patients suffering from memory loss. The nonprofit must seek zoning approval for the expansion and raise funds from donors.
MIAMI BEACH — The city commission authorized lease negotiations for Atlanta-based Portman Holdings to build an 800-room, $405-million convention hotel at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The company was the only bidder left for the project. The city also had only one bidder to manage the convention center’s renovation — Clark Construction Group — which it selected to do so. > A real estate investment firm based in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, purchased the SLS South Beach hotel for $125 million.
MIAMI-DADE — CVS launched a new brand in 12 stores in the county, CVS/pharmacy y más, which has bilingual staff and more products aimed at Hispanics.
SWEETWATER — Florida International University and Florida Power & Light will build a solar power facility in the parking lot of FIU’s engineering center, installing more than 5,700 solar panels. The solar array will generate electricity for FPL customers and serve as a lab for FIU students.
Startup Hot Spot
According to the 2015 Kauffman Index startup activity report:
- No. 2 -- Miami-Dade/ Broward County ranking for startup activity in 2015 among the country’s largest metros
- 520 -- Average number of residents who become new entrepreneurs each month
- 73.9% -- New entrepreneurs not coming out of unemployment, compared with 79. 6% nationally
- 247.6 -- Startups per 100,000 people