Along Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive, November is a month for remodeling facades, giving buildings a new coat of paint, and erecting huge tents on the beach. This year the cranes and construction trucks are moving at a breakneck pace along one of America’s most scenic boulevards past the tourists in search of restaurants and souvenirs. No one protests; on the contrary. It means that the “Magic City” is back to normal after two years of paralysis due to the pandemic. Big events are starting up again, and when we talk about big events, in Miami we mean mostly art.
From Tuesday, November 29 through Sunday, December 4, Miami reclaims its title as the capital of contemporary art. Some 20 years ago Swiss fair Art Basel decide to open an offshoot in the United States. Miami Art Basel, which has now become Miami Art Week, has spread from South Beach to involve the entire Downtown, the new neighborhoods of Brickell with its one hundred luxury skyscrapers, the long skyline going to Sunny Isle and Aventura, and even pushing into the poorer and more interesting neighborhoods of Little Havana and Wynwood. The latter hosts the greatest concentration of events, with entire warehouses turned into art galleries and streets transformed into a stage for Street Artists.
A maxi urban redevelopment project
In September, Miami-Dade County initiated a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of a large area of county-owned property, renamed MetroCenter, between Wynwood and Brickell includes several blocks west of the Government Center Metro station and east of the I-95 Expressway.
The ambitious $10 billion (€10 billion) program aims to create a seamless, active and self-sustaining urban neighborhood of offices, services and housing with 6-8,500 residential units. To bring it to fruition, the county is looking for a single master developer to work in a public-private partnership (P3) to develop the site over the next 12 to 15 years.
The new urban site will span 11 properties, including the Hickman office building at 275 Northwest Second Street; a portion of the Cultural Plaza, which includes HistoryMiami, at 20 Northwest First Avenue; the parking lot at the Children’s Courthouse at 155 Northwest Third Street; and the county’s fleet parking locations at 120 and 150 Northwest Second Avenue.
The development model, included in the RFP submission, references the Hudson Yards in New York City, the Salesforce Transit Terminal in San Francisco, and the Umeda Kita in Osaka, Japan.
The expansion of the art scene, which increasingly links downtown to the island of Miami Beach, probably also inspired the county’s decision to extend the Metromover, the elevated rail system that already connects Brickell, Park West and the Arts & Entertainment District, and bring it from Miami to Miami Beach.
“My administration is committed to providing our residents with innovative transit solutions that better connect residents to jobs and opportunity, while delivering maximum value to taxpayers,” said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava when she announced the project to extend Metromover in early November.
The call for bids is expected to be launched in the next few weeks with a view to awarding the contract in 2023 and starting construction in 2025. It should be completed by 2029.
Infrastructure and industries grow with the Miami Art Basel
Interest in art is high throughout the city. Every self-respecting hotel, bar or restaurant displays paintings, sculptures, graffiti, or murals. Along with figurative art, Miami is being invaded by new fashion designers, presenting their creations outside the official catwalks. Cyber-artists with their NFTs and multimedia product creators arrive by the thousands, along with video-makers, Tiktokers, YouTubers, and influencers. Everything is welcome, as long as it is “emerging.”
The county government, Miami-Dade County, goes along with the flow of art and the success of this or that neighborhood in attracting tourists, art lovers, collectors, and gallery owners. Creativity becomes a measuring tool for deciding where to invest in improving traffic or funding the construction of new homes and infrastructure to serve people.
“Today, the Wynwood Arts District is one of the largest and most prominent creative communities in the US, with a new generation of technology and creative entrepreneurs who want to live, work, eat, play, and learn there,” said Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID) director Manny Gonzalez to Miami Today News.
“The BID is a key player in guiding the neighborhood’s evolution from an industrial district into a bustling, arts-focused urban community that is now attracting high-end investment and both commercial and residential development,” he added.