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Posts Tagged ‘The Lab Miami’

It’s no surprise to most of us to hear or read that South Florida and the Miami area rank behind many other cities and states when it comes to high-tech talents, payrolls or jobs. The image of Miami as being an attractive place for party goers and tourists looking for year-long sun is a sticky one, however many high-tech graduates, start-up entrepreneurs and capital venture companies are becoming aware that South Florida is working hard to change this. A few innovation centers, educational programs and real estate projects are aiming to help Miami become one of the high-tech communities of the United States, forging a bridge between North and South America. The Emerge Americas Miami trade show launched its first successful edition in May 2014 and just ended its second edition in Miami Beach. The five day Emerge Americas conference is an exchange forum about innovation and technology and shows that high-tech drastically changes every single industry such as healthcare, banking, travel, entertainment, community and civic engagement etc…

The Lab Miami, which received grants from the honorable Knight Foundation, is a 10,000 sf warehouse in Wynwood which was turned into a meeting and working place for creative entrepreneurs and start-up leaders. It offers subscription-based working space as well as a vast series of educational programs on topics such crowdfunding for real estate, how to build a successful app and workshops on design or coding.

Downtown Miami Venture Hive incubator an location of the Miami Microsoft Innovation Center

Downtown Miami Venture Hive incubator an location of the Miami Microsoft Innovation Center

The first US-based Microsoft Innovation Center opened last year in Miami and is hosted at Venture Hive, a start-up incubator located in Downtown Miami.

The Downtown Miami and Wynwood areas are actually gathering a few places and initiatives focusing on building-up Miami’s high-tech community. The Miami-based Simkins family, which made most of its financial success in the paper manufacturing business, has recently presented plans to the City of Miami to design the Miami Innovation District, an ambitious mixed-use real estate project that would be located near Downtown Miami and would offer thousands of square feet of retail, restaurants, small residential units for start-up creators and software engineers and approximately 4 million sf of office space targeting entrepreneur incubators and large technology multinationals such as Google or Yahoo. The project for the Miami Innovation District has not been approved yet, however, Miami is more economically vibrant then ever and will, at some point, become one of the US technology hubs we will be counting on.

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Wynwood Paradise

I first started going to Wynwood back in 2006, when I was involved in participating in a couple of committees at MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, which had a second exhibition space , “Moca at the Goldman Warehouse ”  (  now the space for The Miami Light Project ) for a few years. No one around me would dare driving West of Biscayne Boulevard, North of Downtown Miami.

Then, some of the storage and distribution warehouses turned into art galleries and the Second Saturdays Wynwood Artwalks promoted the area, first to the local artists and their friends as well as to art lovers, then to the food trucks and to families looking for something cool to do one evening a month. After seven years, the area has become much more popular, a sort of Shoreditch ( London ) or MeatPacking District ( New York ) in the making, welcoming working spaces for start-ups, thick beard tech guys walking around, cafes, restaurants and shops such as Ducati and soon to open Nespresso Cafe. Bringing more life and shops to Wynwood is great except that as new brands are coming in and rents/sales prices are soaring, a new type of animal wants a piece of the cake and be part of this area:condominiums. It is undeniable that besides Cynergi Lofts, there is a total lack of residential options in the neighborhood. This is about to change with a few mixed-used buildings ( residential buildings featuring office or retail spaces on the first floor ) in the pipeline and the ongoing  rezoning of most of the area to allow for more retail spaces, parking and a higher housing density.

Is Wynwood going to lose its soul while buildings are arriving and some art galleries are not renewing their leases, being somehow pushed out by landlords asking for much higher rents  ?

Warehouse are teared down to build residential buildings

Warehouses are teared down to build mixed-use buildings

250 Wynwood and Wynwood Central are two of the residential buildings which are going to break down in the upcoming weeks. Bradley Carlson and David Polinsky, the developers behind 250 Wynwood, which first renderings for the architecture of the proposed building were recently published in The Miami Herald , will be building a boutique building at 250 NW 24 street. They claim to be concerned about keeping the character of Wynwood  alive by incorporating graffiti style artwork inside and outside the building via a partnership with gallerist Anthony Spinello and by offering an edgy architectural style. Central Wynwood will combine 69 rental residences, as well as retail and commercial spaces. However, New York developer David Edelstein is looking to get approval for the construction of a 264 unit condominium… In the meantime, quite a few investors and buyers in need of large warehouse and showroom spaces as well as artist studios and art galleries are moving out of Wynwood, where prices per square foot to lease or purchase are now more accessible.

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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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To those who say that Miami is mainly about the beach, the year-long sun, the hip restaurants and hotels with the parties and socialites that come along with them, I respond that Miami has become more than this and is changing fast to become a global metropolis, where entrepreneurial talents are growing. The example of The Knight Foundation is the perfect way to illustrate this. The Knight Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Miami, created in 1950 by the Knight brothers, two newspapers publishers who funded cultural, educational and journalism-related projects in the cities where they had newspaper ventures, has been funding hundreds of wonderful initiatives in Miami. The foundation focuses on supporting projects related to media innovation, quality journalism, enhancement of the community and expansion of the arts.

Lately, the foundation has offered a $2 million grant to Endeavor, a New York-based organization to open its first other US office in Miami.  The purpose of this non-profit entity is to identify “high-impact entrepreneurs” around the world, mentor them and help them flourish to create economic growth. Endeavor currently has offices in 17 cities, mainly located in Middle East and Latin America. The video above shows that the organization believes that Miami is currently becoming one of the entrepreneurial hubs of the world.

The Lab Miami ( photo from TheLabMiami.com )

The Lab Miami ( photo from TheLabMiami.com )

Almost a year ago, The Knight Foundation awarded $250,000 to The Lab Miami to create a 10,000 sf learn and work campus in Wynwood to help artists, tech entrepreneurs, mentors and investors gather and inspire each other by working collaboratively.

Fostering creative talents and entrepreneurs in Miami helps to grow a sense for a stronger  community while mentoring and retaining talents in South Florida. This is one of the reasons why a growing number of people are choosing to either stay in Miami, move to Miami and/or get involved in educational, social, cultural or business opportunities around here.

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