Wynwood's Identity Crisis: As Soaring Rents Shutter Galleries, Parking Garages and Luxury Stores Take Their Place

Categories: Unreal Estate

Wynwood_Paradise_mural.jpg
Morgan Coleman
Are Wynwood's days as a street art paradise now numbered?
In Wynwood, even the sky often seems spray-painted. On a recent evening, two young women were suspended in midair on metal scaffolding, masks over their mouths, aerosol cans in their hands. As the setting sun shifted heaven's hues above them, the women unleashed waves of color onto a white warehouse wall. When the two disappeared after dark, they left glittering letters behind them: "I REMEMBER PARADISE."

The message is no idle metaphor. Soaring rents have forced several Wynwood art galleries to shut or move miles away. Lester's, a beloved local bar, just closed. Buildings blanketed with years of graffiti are being torn down for new stores, including a Ducati dealership. Wynwood -- a street artist's paradise for the past ten years -- is rapidly changing.

"I don't want to see Wynwood die," says Danilo Gonzalez, an artist and owner of the Art Place, a gallery and café at Northwest Second Avenue and 28th Street. "If all the galleries and artists leave, then this will become just another mall like Lincoln Road or Bal Harbour. You can go shopping anywhere. There's nothing unique about that."

See also: Wynwood Bar Owners Claim That Cops and Downtown Clubs Are Conspiring Against Them

Gonzalez was born in the Dominican Republic, where he won national awards for his strange, twisted sculptures and vibrant drawings. With his prize money, he traveled the world for more than a decade, including stints in New York in the '80s and '90s. He watched SoHo slowly transform from a derelict drug den into a dynamic art scene.

He identified the same potential in Wynwood. When Gonzalez arrived in 2008, it was the height of the financial crisis. The Tony Goldman revolution was simmering but had yet to boil. A handful of galleries were already up and running, but the future of the hood was far from certain.

"I saw those big, beautiful 14-foot walls, and I just knew I was going to die here in Miami," Gonzalez says. He opened the Art Place to exhibit others' artwork as well as his own. In 2010, he signed a five-year lease at his current location. A few months ago he added an absurdly cheap cafe ($3 sandwiches) catering to broke artists.

Now, however, he says his landlord is pushing him out to quintuple the rent. He's resigned to follow other galleries west.

But Gonzalez's gripe goes beyond the personal. He's worried that Wynwood is losing its soul, just like SoHo eventually did. "I'm not angry," he says. "If anything, I'm sad because we're not thinking about the future, about making the area better in the long run."

He isn't alone.

Wynwood_Cafe_Danilo.jpg
Morgan Coleman
Danilo Gonzalez has a plan for saving the neighborhood's soul
"I'm not going to lie. I am concerned," says José Navas, director of the Wynwood Arts District Association (WADA). He says that in the next few years, Wynwood will see an influx of boutiques and apartment buildings, as well at least one parking garage.

"We are genuinely concerned about keeping Wynwood's identity alive," Navas says. "But I think we have the right people, not only in terms of tenants but also property owners, to keep the neighborhood edgy. It's going to change -- that's undeniable. But will we keep the soul? I'm certain that we will."

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43 comments
ad83
ad83

Not another SoBe! Fuuuuhhhh.....

Phil Santos
Phil Santos

I'm very active in the Orlando music scene. I've read lots about Wynwood and have been enormously inspired by its last 10 years. I will be sure to learn from your city's mistakes as I continue I progress Orlando's scene.

Lex Dillinger
Lex Dillinger

Waaaa waaaaa waaaaaa quit your crying! It's called progress motherfuckers. This ain't ferngully, the industrial machine is moving. Get on board or get run over.... So long as they don't open a blue martini.... Then ... There's a problem

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

Anything that makes the hipsters cry makes me happy.  This makes me happy.

Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony

Wynwood has been turned into a three ring circus, with the food trucks, underage alcoholics, and ones just looking for a good time, the focus is no longer on the art... from many of the artists and gallery owners I know the issue is sales, and you can not get sales from the "flea market" environment that has now been created... some have started moving north to regain their gallery image!!!

cmial
cmial

Uh, how about the Wynwood Warehouse Project also includes warehouse space for FILM and MUSIC production studios? That makes it WAY more appealing to our politicians...a mini-hollywood so to speak. There is so much space in the area to really grow the entertainment business down here. 

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

ive been to wynwood lately and its not ready yet? why would the landlords be raising the rent so early? sounds weird, the area is still in the changing phase, there are some parts that are still run down...

gwagen55
gwagen55

some, not all, of the wealthy of miami need to put aside their "bottom line" for the sake of preservation. unfortunately, most wealthy people do this when it's too late and theyre dying or dead..

EVRYTHNGisTEMPORARY
EVRYTHNGisTEMPORARY

We are really overdue for a large apocalyptic size hurricane to hit us. THEN everything will go to shit and we'll have to start from scratch....this is actually my hope believe it or not. its the real artists that thrive on the destitution and destruction in order to create new meaning.

DaniellaVeras
DaniellaVeras

Line of the day: "Are we the prostitutes of society?" [Danilo Gonzalez] asks. "Do we have to keep moving from one place to the next, cleaning it and cleaning it and cleaning it?"

Leafar Robles
Leafar Robles

Miami-greed & hustle at it's finest...To think, our city's artists have greatly contributed to improving the image of our city and opened the door for other opportunities of enhancement to flourish & expand. Such a pity artistic expression is being stunted by such unproductive & restrictive tactics.

Angel Acevedo
Angel Acevedo

Yea this was innevitable. But we allow this to happen.

WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

Btw, where is there a parking garage being planned?

Matthew Pace
Matthew Pace

Of course it is,just like the Grove and then Lincoln Rd...the beat goes on for artists who pave a way for the greedy. They should move to North Miami next.

drsasha123
drsasha123

There should be a grassroots commission run by local citizens and tenants to get a handle on Landlords greed syndrome. Stop killing our unique communities.

Dave Berns
Dave Berns

You can't really boohoo this. Artists, don't give your work away to a real estate developer using your enthusiasm and free labor to turn shitty warehouses into trendy neighborhoods. It's not like it was a hidden goal. Get yours, too!

Jimena Zeballos
Jimena Zeballos

As soon as they open a parking garage everything is going to go to shit! Every free parking we enjoy will become metered parking! I fucking hate this shit, nothing can be free eventually the capitalist swoop in and start charging for everything. buying up property and renting it out to artists? isn't there a place like that in Lincoln Road already? The artwalk should be transient like a caravan of gypsies. Hold it at.secret locations each month so noone can pin it down and try to make money off the artists.

Ace Greene
Ace Greene

Somebody said that on MSNBC. The artist make the neighborhoods trendy and cool and then when everybody wants to come to the neighborhood they come in and make it something that even the artists can't afford to be in.

Sheri A Friedman
Sheri A Friedman

This happens time and time again... artists move in to a derelict neighborhood because they can afford the rent... it becomes popular... landlords raise the rent, hello Ducati... hopefully with some foresight and planning Wynwood can create a new model

WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

Wynwood was over 3 years ago. (Britto relocated there) People are just waking up and getting the message. However, it may see a second life as an artist area as there are far too many warehouses being converted to retail spaces at the moment. We see glass storefronts being converted daily. The landlords see $ signs everywhere, with rents in the design district hitting $100 a sq ft and n. Miami ave going for $35-55 a sq ft. And they think they are going to get something equal. Who would blame them? But they are putting way too much product on the market. So we will see a retrenchment. Many people lost money in sobe before 1992. The market there waxed and waned before finally gaining traction to become the retailers paradise it is today. Me? I've already moved on to overtown. Peace.

foaswag
foaswag

Not sure that Wynwood ever had an identity. At least not one that wasn't invented it the past few years. I just turned 43. I've lived here my entire life. That neighborhood was nothing but  a shithole slum until it was given a facelift. Even now, I would still rather avoid the area at all costs.

 

Tu Madre
Tu Madre

Thank you corporate America. ::sarcasm::

Kenia West
Kenia West

This is why we cant have nice things

Suzann Mann
Suzann Mann

American greed at its finest. Must make more money!

hillbillyshackpear
hillbillyshackpear

Did not read this article, but wasn't that the "point" of inventing Wynwood in the first place?  

Alexis Morgenstern
Alexis Morgenstern

Yes it is - keep it real and prices low before it becomes another SoBe. May be bound to happen...

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