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O Cinema theater in Wynwood. Photo from www.localwiki.org

O Cinema theater in Wynwood. Photo from http://www.localwiki.org

Miami is a surprising city, where a 45-floor modern building can rise next to an old church or an abandoned warehouse, where a luxury store can stand next to a small neglected house from the thirties and where big chain retailers are neighbors to independent movie theaters. I love art movie theaters. Besides mostly featuring independent American and foreign movies, which can be refreshing once you have seen three blockbusters in a month, they somehow find a way to draw people away from their home or device screens, enhance a sense of community or revitalize some areas. Also, their architecture and their selection of quality movies and events definitely bring character to a few areas such as Tower Theater in Little Havana, or Coral Gables Art Cinema in Coral Gables, sitting across the street from independent bookseller Books & Books. Miami gathers an incredible choice of  independent movie theaters which aim at showing quality movies for adults and families that are not easily accessible in regular theaters and appeal to the multi-faceted demographics of South Florida.

Miami Beach Cinematheque. Photo from www.clandestinenola.com

Miami Beach Cinematheque. Photo from http://www.clandestinenola.com

O Cinema was created thanks to a matching grant from the Knight Foundation and now offers three venues : Wynwood, Miami Shores and Miami Beach ( on 71st Street ). The Miami Beach Cinematheque sits in a beautiful Art Deco building which used to be where the City of Miami Beach was. Bill Cosford Cinema may actually be the exception in regards to its architecture as it is located in a quite insignificant building at the University of Miami, in the Coral Gables campus. Miami-based Ana and Hans Morgenstern have an inspiring blog, www. indieethos.wordpress.com that offers reviews about movies which are mostly screened in these small theaters. This is also where most of Miami film festivals take place, such as the Miami Jewish Film Festival ( January 15-29,2015 ), the Miami International Film Festival ( March 6-15, 2015 ) and the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival ( April 24-May 3, 2015 ). Purchase your tickets for the upcoming Miami Jewish Film Festival as tickets often sell out long before the end of the current year. Happy holidays to all !

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Photo from thegrio.com

Photo from thegrio.com

The 2014 Miami Art Week, which includes Art Basel Miami Beach and over 20 satellite fairs, is, as usual, taking place during the first week of December. It attracted approximately 75,000 visitors from around the world in December 2013. A combination of art fairs, museum, gallery exhibits, events, cultural programs and parties will make this week frenetic and somehow overwhelming considering that there is no possible way one can view or experience most of what Miami has to offer in a 7 day time period. For those wondering which art fair takes place where and when, click here. Some of this year’s highlights or changes are :

1 ) MOCA North Miami has a new director since last summer. Following a months-long litigation between the City of North Miami and the former MOCA board, the board has left the museum to open ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, which unveils its temporary space this week in The Moore Building in the Design District.

2 ) Chinese painter and choreographer Shen Wei, who choreographed the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing olympic games, is having his first US museum solo exhibition and performance; “In black, white and grey “ at the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami. His show will offer a combination of dance performance and an exhibition of the artist’s paintings.

3 ) After years of showcasing at the Ice Palace, Pulse art fair will be held this year under a tent in Indian Beach Park in Miami Beach ( 4601 Collins Avenue ).

4 ) Art Basel has partnered with Kickstarter in crowdfunding programs to help fund outstanding non-commercial arts projects from around the world.

5 ) As the gentrification of Wynwood is moving forward, rents have much increased. As a result, a few galleries and artist studios are leaving the area and moving further North to the Little River or Little Haiti neighborhoods or further South, near Downtown Miami.

6 ) The fairs are spreading out to various areas such as Miami Beach, Midtown and more recently to Downtown Miami ( Miami River Art Fair, Miami Street Photography Fair etc… ).

7 ) The traditional Art Basel Miami Beach MAM Ball has been replaced by a very sophisticated dinner and art experience that will take place at PAMM ( Perez Art Museum ), later in January 2015.

The future Faena Forum  ( Photo from Faena and OMA )

The future Faena Forum
( Photo from Faena and OMA )

Of course, many parties are taking place…after all, this is Miami ! Parties are organized by local museums, art collectors, gallery owners or by developers such the one that will be coordinated by Argentinian developer Alan Faena. Faena seeks to promote the Faena House and Residences, a six-block development in Miami Beach designed by Foster + Partners, which will include the former Saxony Hotel, the Versailles, the Claridge hotels, luxury residences, retail and garage spaces. It was also recently announced that the Faena Forum ( whis is apparently a temporary name ), an event and cultural program venue designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, will also be added to the mixed-used development. It will be the equivalent of the Faena Art Center located in Buenos Aires. Happy Art Basel Miami Beach week !

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images[6]A lot has been written these past few months over the search for the perfect location for David Beckham‘s new professional soccer stadium to be built in Miami. Various locations were mentioned and the South West corner of PortMiami was going to be the preferred option… until a few days ago, when County commissioners rejected for PortMiami to host the new stadium. This county-owned land is a valuable piece of property which is being under used at this point. Development plans are not confirmed yet but there is a chance that mixed-use commercial properties be developed there. A few days ago, the Beckham Group revealed the new plans for a soccer stadium that would be built in a new location; on the boat slip located between the American Airlines Arena and Museum Park in Downtown Miami. However, considering that this piece of land was supposed to become a park, the appointed Arquitectonica architects recently included expanded green spaces East of the Arena, to the new plans.  8.5 acres of new park land will be added there while 4.2 acres of park will be removed where the stadium will stand. City officials and supporters of the new stadium are working hard to find a solution that will please ( almost ) everyone, as there are major economic, cultural  and social impacts related to this endeavor. The Beckham Group would pay for the construction of the stadium ( estimated at $250 millions ) as well as the filling of the slip to be able to build it. The City, which owns Museum Park, would most probably lease it to the Beckham Group. As The Miami Herald reported, the long-planned Museum Park, which was supposed to be seen from Biscayne Boulevard and sit along the street would be disappearing. Most of what pedestrians and drivers would see as they pass by would be the 100-feet high stadium wall. No additional parking has been planed so far, which raises the concern for parking on a game night. I was assured via Twitter by the Miami Major League Soccer that Miami Heat games would not be scheduled on the same evening then the soccer games. But isn’t it already challenging to find parking in Downtown Miami when there is a Heat game ? Coming from Europe, I welcome the idea of having a soccer stadium built in Miami. I just wonder how the parking, traffic and lack of green space visible from the street will be handled by Miami residents and visitors once it is built. The county residents will still have to vote to approve this project in November.

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Exhibit - installation from Olafur Eliasson

Exhibit – installation from Olafur Eliasson

Here’s this exciting time of the year again, just 2-3 days before the Art Basel Miami Beach week begins ( this year : December 2-8th ), when Miami and Miami Beach are still fairly quiet but trucks bringing art and tent installation materials are already blocking the roads here and there causing massive traffic. Visitors are arriving. However, museum exhibits and educational programs, artist studio and art collection tours, over 20 art fairs and hundreds of parties start on Monday December 2nd. An average of 50,000 visitors are expected, from all over the world, trying to get a grasp of the multitude of exhibits and events taking place in less than a week . Too much to see in such a little time but getting a share of this year’s feast of the senses ( 12th edition already ) should be good enough. Most of the art fairs and exhibits will take place between Miami Beach and Midtown/Wynwood.

Perez Art Museum opening in Downtown Miami

Perez Art Museum opening in Downtown Miami

This year’s highlights include : the first edition of Brazil Art Fair, showcasing Brazilian galleries ( Just South of the Design District ), The opening of the new PAMM or Perez Art Museum Miami ( facing the bay, just left of the American Airlines Arena ), which access is free on the week of December 2 for Miami-Dade residents, offering an exhibition of work from Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei ( It is suggested to check the museum website to find out about access and parking ), artist talks at the Art Basel Miami Beach fair ( Miami Beach Convention Center ) with Berlin/Copenhagen-based artist Olafur Eliasson ( December 5th, 3 pm ) and with NY/LA-based artist Doug Aitken ( December 5th, 10 am ), the YoungArts organization exhibits and installations ( at the YoungArts campus, previously known as the Bacardi building, 2100 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami ) and an exhibition on “The art of looting” and “What happens to looted art after a regime is ousted ?”, held at The Jewish Museum ( 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach ). To find out about this week’s key events : here or there.

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Graffiti painted buildings in the Shoreditch area of London

Graffiti painted buildings in the Shoreditch area of London

I write about things happening in Wynwood from time to time and today I would like to write about what Wynwood should become. I came across a fascinating article recently published in the European version of The New York Times; now named The International New York Times and I realized what Wynwood could become : one of the tech hubs of the South East of the United States, a neighborhood fostering creative initiatives, just like Shoreditch in London. I am in London as I write this post. Therefore, I decided to visit the Shoreditch area, located on the East side of the British capital. How extraordinary to walk around the streets where old buildings from the beginning of the 20th century and the seventies are standing next to pop-up art galleries, fashion stores, wine bars. Building facades are covered with multicoloured graffitis and recently modernized office building host a variety of start-ups and communication companies. People walking around the streets are young professionals and bohemian-looking individuals and I could not help myself thinking that I was witnessing an accomplished and well thought of version of Wynwood, the art district of Miami. Well, I would actually love Wynwood to become like Shoreditch in London, a place that has the ambition to become one of the most artistically and technologically creative spots in North America. Shoreditch used to be filled with abandoned warehouses. It is now the place where startups like Lyst ( website allowing people to follow their favorite fashion brands ), Houstrip ( vacation rental website ) or Mind Candy ( publisher of the successful online game for children “Moshi Monsters ” ) have opened their office.

What’s really interesting is that the local British lawmakers have helped Shoreditch become what it is today by investing $80 millions in renovating

Outdoor gathering place and pop-up shops in Shoreditch

Outdoor gathering place and pop-up shops in Shoreditch

distressed buildings in order to attract tech companies as big as IBM and Microsoft as well as startups and event firms. I believe that this is what we need to create in Wynwood : not just another “cool” area of Miami, but a place that is supported by the city, the county, as well as not for profit organizations, local developers and venture capital companies to nurture its creative soul and attract the  tech companies and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. It already hosts wonderful companies like the Miami Light Project, The LAB Miami, just to name a few. We need to have a vision to help other start-ups and art organisations getting established in Miami in order for our community to thrive.

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South Pointe ParkFollowing a series of urban development construction projects, offering a mix of residential and commercial real estate all over Miami-Dade County, comes the proposed “Grove Bay” plan, which aims at revitalizing the Coconut Grove waterfront while enhancing public access to water. Voters will be able to decide if they wish the proposal to move along on November 5th. The project involves modernizing the cluttered Coconut Grove waterfront area, along South Bayshore Drive and Biscayne Bay. The leases of current Scotty’s Landing and Chart House eateries are up and it’s probably time to change the dining scene. The proposal includes replacing these restaurants by a steakhouse and a seafood spots, the old boat hangar by a new boat storage, tearing down the Coconut Grove convention center to replace it by a 14-acre park, adding approximately 60,000 sf of retail and a city parking garage. The developers who won the bid are those who built the successful Fresh Market and Grove Harbor Marina and are planning on spending $18 millions on this project. This beautiful section of Coconut Grove is in serious need for a facelift and creating a waterfront promenade would be more than welcome. This would benefit residents living in the nearby condos such as Grove Hill or Grovenor House as well as visitors. However, the Grove Bay plan is raising many passionate debates. The ones who are in favor of the project are underlying the fact that Coconut Grove and South Florida residents are dying to have more waterfront dining locations and saying that the area needs more green spaces. Those who are fighting it claim the project will transform this old vibe section of the Grove into an overbuilt mixed-use development where water will become less accessible than expected.

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Wynwood Block

Wynwood Block

Miami is changing everywhere and fast. It is quite a challenge to keep up with the pace of these continuous changes. Some neighborhoods change from one month to the other. This is the case for Wynwood. If you avoid the sometimes asphyxiating crowds walking all over the area during each Second Saturday evening of the month, during the Wynwood Art Walks, you can enjoy the area for its bohemian style while seeing just a few people walking around. Places like Panther Coffee, Joey’s, Morgan’s as well as reputable contemporary art galleries such as David Castillo, Pan American Arts Projects, Dot 51, Alejandra Von Hartz and Waltman Ortega do attract art lovers, students, artists, those who got tired of South Beach and people increasingly working in the area.

Painted warehouse in Wynwood

Painted warehouse in Wynwood

However, the area is opening to other players than art galleries : a Samuel Adams beer brewery will be under construction soon and Wywnood Block, a corner block located on NW 2 Avenue, between 26th and 27th Streets, will feature a mix of retail tenants from restaurants to jewelry stores and possibly a book store, to open around March 2014. Art Galleries may see their attendance grow as the area is becoming more diverse and less “underground”. I had a conversation with the person in charge of looking for tenants for Wynwood Block and told him I was hoping he was not going to sign leases with big retailers…to have this area become like any mainstream area in any city. He said they were trying to focus on independent retailers and trying to maintain the artistic soul of Wynwood when picking their tenants. As the area is growing, the prices are growing too. Wywnood Block is offering a $40 NNN price per square foot per year, which is higher than what used to be paid for until just a few months ago. It is time to buy or lease there before as prices are going up fast. It is also a good time to sell, while there is a frantic energy floating around the neighborhood and still space to create great urban developments.

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South Beach ACE project

South Beach ACE project

After a few years of non-construction in residential and mixed-used projects, retail and office inventory has been going down in many key areas of Miami-Miami Beach. There is now so much going on and so many urban and suburban developments taking place or in the pipeline that I have decided to break them down into a series of posts. Each part will be presenting a new project which will be transforming the area forever.

PART 1 presents the new Miami Beach Convention Center project, which I wrote about not too long ago. This is the one making the news right now as one of the final bidders, South Beach ACE, just won the competition . Also, the project has been raising some vivid reactions in a few layers of the community. South Beach ACE, who gathers architects Dan Tishman, who is behind the One World Trade Center in New York, Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect and professor in Architecture and Design at the graduate school of Harvard University and local developer Robert Wennett, who is behind the garage and retail stores at 1111 Lincoln Road. The ambitious 52 acre, over $1 billion development will redevelop the convention center as well a create a hotel, parks, parking garage and possibly new residential and retail spaces. The controversy surrounding the project partly lies on the fact that some Miami Beach residents, politicians and activists are questioning the fact that the City of Miami Beach would be leasing the land where the project will be built to South Beach ACE, leaving the new landlord with a lot of power to decide on the land use. A referendum will be taking place on November 5. If new retail spaces are created, they will add competition to the current Lincoln Road stores, which already hosts some big names such as Apple, BCBG Max Azria, Desigual, H&M, Forever 21 and should welcome a ZARA flagship store in the upcoming months. Also, the new residential units would add freshly built condos to a neighborhood where most of the homes are Art Deco apartments and houses built between the Thirties and the Fifties.

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Waterfront walkway in the Brickell area

Waterfront walkway in the Brickell area

After years of discussion and often conflicting views, The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County are finally moving forward with creating continuous waterfront walkways along the Miami River and from Biscayne Bay- Edgewater to the Rickenbacker Causeway. I wrote a post about new constructions and restaurants located along the Miami River a while ago, but some of these projects have changed and the waterfront walking areas have extended or are about to be created. Miami is an incredible city in many ways but despite the fact that it’s surrounded by water and has a river that runs through it, it’s not organized at all when it comes to walking along the water ( not the beach ). Furthermore, many portions of the city lack trees that bring shade. Unlike cities around the world like Tampa, Sydney or Paris, many of the Miami waterfront walking paths are not connected to each other and the main reason for it is due to the fact that these potentially pedestrian areas are a mix of privately and publicly owned pieces of land. Also, the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Act protects some portions of the bay from local development. As an example of the conflicting situations raised by the development of the 15-mile waterfront route is what is happening between Ugo Colombo, the developer of glamorous Epic condominium and hotel and the City of Miami. The developer was supposed to tear down its sales center a while ago, as it is obstructing the continuity of the waterfront walkways in the Downtown area.

What is currently happening in Downtown Miami, where Museum Park will be hosting a waterfront pedestrian promenade, will surely boost the development of continuous walkways. Area residents and tourists will find so pleasant to walk around instead of always jumping in a taxi or in their car that these new habits should motivate building owners, activists and public officials to move the idea further. However, these simple changes require a lot of legal settlements and funding sources. FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District gave a $5.8 million grant to help develop waterfront projects behind the American Airlines Arena, including seawall designing, permitting, construction, landscaping and lighting.

Future Flagler On The River rental condo and office space building

Future Flagler On The River rental condo and office space building

The development of waterfront walking, running, rollerblading and cycling will hopefully become an increasing attraction in Miami, for residents and visitors alike and the opening of more waterfront restaurants will surely enhance business and entertainment opportunities. Also, a few waterfront condominium and office buildings will see their occupancy rate  and value grow as these projects are coming along, such as buildings like Icon Brickell, Ivy, Mint etc… Also, Flagler On The River, a rental condominium building started construction a few months ago. It is located on the Miami Rover, at 356 W Flagler street and will offer 300 rental units located on 32 floors, as well as office space and a waterfront restaurant on the first floor.

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Welcome to Miami Beach signYears of discussion about renovating the outdated Miami Beach Convention Center have led to a fierce redevelopment plan competition. There are now two firms competing for the final of the mega project to renovate and redevelop 52 acres in the middle of Miami Beach, including the Miami Beach Convention Center, the ugly 17th street parking garage, the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the Fillmore-Jackie Gleason theater. This is the largest urban development, costing over $1 billion, to be designed in South Florida. The final two competing teams are led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels ( who is the designer behind BIG for Grove at Grand Bay new construction project which just broke ground in Coconut Grove ) for Tishman’s South Beach ACE Design.

Project designed by Rem Koolhaas

Project designed by Rem Koolhaas

Both projects are designed by European architects who probably understand somehow better how to design urban centers that connect to the rest of the city. Rem Koolhaas offers to link the new project to Lincoln Road while Bjarke Ingels incorporates a connection to the New World Symphony building on 17th street. Both developments feature a renovated convention center – build on and around the current one -, a hotel, a ballroom, a cultural center,  residential units and retail. We should find out which team will win the bid on July 17th.

Each mega development project attracts some controversy and this one is no exception. First, the City of Miami Beach owns the land, however, it is planning on leasing it for 99 years to the developer who wins the bid. Many are saying the city has enough funds and should not lease its land. Second, leasing the land for a century to a private developer would allow this company to take over control over the use of the land, which infuriates many residents, including organization Let Miami Beach Decide, which is asking for a referendum on the project.

Project designed by Bjarke Ingels

Project designed by Bjarke Ingels

What I personally wonder is why the current convention center will not be knocked down to create a totally new building. From what I read about the topic, the structure of the existing convention center will remain and the new developments will be built on top of it and around it. Where will the Miami Boat Show, Art Basel Miami Beach and other main local fairs will take place during renovation time ?

Although the additional retail and hotel spaces will certainly add competition to the retail spaces located on Lincoln Road and the hotels lined up along Collins Avenue, the current office, retail and residential markets ( for rent or sale ) of the area will keep increasing in value, especially around 17th street, James, Meridian avenue and its surroundings.

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