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Allapattah’s ‘Authentic Bario’ Feel Makes Way For Increased Development

When she came from Boston in the late 90s to study at the University of Miami, Mileyka Burgos-Flores quickly got homesick. She missed the food and flavor of her Dominican family and she was desperate for a Dominican hair salon. The cafeteria workers she’d befriended at school had the answer: we’ll take you to el barrio, they told her.

That’s how Burgos-Flores, executive director of the Allapattah Collaborative, got to know the neighborhood built up by Black Miamians and immigrants from the Caribbean and Central America. She soon picked up on Allapattah’s distinctive features. The breezy porches where neighbors actually talked to each other across the fence. The cosmopolitan bodegas and the street vendors residents knew by name. And of course, local watering holes like Club Típico Domínicano, the 1980s restaurant that shimmies into a nightclub with live music on the weekends.

“It’s a very warm and welcoming neighborhood,” said Burgos-Flores, whose work entails preserving the neighborhood and helping its small businesses thrive. “People don’t just go into local businesses to get their hair done, or to eat or to do their taxes. They go to hang out; they know each other and they keep an eye out for each other.”

That kind of pride among local residents is what drew art collector Mera Rubell to the area in 2019. Along with her husband Don and son Jason, the family converted a warehouse complex that previously housed a wholesaler of rice, beans and other food items into the Rubell Museum, previously located in Wynwood. The site sits cradled by the metroline and railroad tracks.

“This was a new frontier,” Rubell said. “Our dream was to create a kind of concentrated destination for culture. What’s nice is we’re not displacing anybody. These were old buildings that can no longer accommodate the heavy warehouse use it needs.”

The museum is just one of a collection of art spaces in the area, which runs from State Road 112 south to the Miami River and west from Interstate 95 to Northwest 27th Avenue. Jorge Pérez’s El Espacio 23 has also called industrial Allapattah home for the last two years. The newest addition to the art scene, Superblue, across the street from the Rubell, turned a warehouse into an immersive art space in May. The private museums are neighbors with a massive wholesale grocer; across the street, an open-air fruit market sells tropical fruit juices, coconut water and varieties of mangoes and bananas that swing from an awning.

Other recent additions have drawn people to the neighborhood through their bellies. Even on a weekday at lunch it can be hard to snag a parking spot at Hometown Barbecue, a New York transplant whose Brooklyn location is considered one of the country’s best barbecue spots.

It’s all quickly snowballing to turn Allapattah into Miami’s newest “it” spot. Burgos-Flores’ friends in the neighborhood share sightings of limousines ferrying partygoers to underground nightlife in the area. The charm that caught her eye two decades ago is still present; Allapattah remains a place where the word “authentic” still rings true. But there’s no denying things are changing.

New rentals are popping up and just as quickly evaporating due to demand from those who want to be close to the Miami Health District.

The latest is 14-story No. 17 Residences, on Northwest 17th Avenue. Renters — primarily medical and graduate students and health district employees quickly snapped up apartments, according to Lisette Calderon, CEO of developer Neology Life Development Group. Apartments start at $1,300 per month for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom layout.

“What I see that is exciting is the neighborhood being reimagined,” Calderon said.

Housing-wise, four other projects are in the pipeline.

The highest profile project on the books is a collection of eight buildings — many rising on stilts — designed by Danish star architect Bjarke Ingles for developer Robert Wennett. The project, at Northwest 12th Avenue, called Miami Produce Centerwill include residential units, hotel, office, retail space and a trade school on nine acres formerly home to a produce market. Permits have not yet been drawn, and the timetable is not yet set, said Javier Aviñó, Wennett’s representative for the project and Bilzin Sumberg partner.

Already underway is a senior affordable housing community at 1396 NW 36th St. The 13-story Mosaico should open by January 2022, said Jake Morrow, a principal at developer Interurban.

Along with No. 17 Residences, Neology is planning another 14-story rental nearby at 1625 NW 20th St., dubbed Allapattah 16.

Also in permitting is a third 14-story rental building, Allapattah 14, at 1470 NW 36th St.

For Burgos-Flores, whose work entails helping local mom and pops thrive, taking the foot off the accelerator just a bit seems wise.

“We love all this development that could potentially happen in the area, but we want it to be inclusive and equitable,” she said.

Small businesses she helps in the neighborhood are frequently priced out by rising rents, she said. The average resident is unlikely to be able to afford the luxury units coming up in the area. The median household income in the 33127 zip code is $34,510, according to the county demographic data from this year. Around 31% of the residents live below the poverty line. Displacing a community of people – many of whom first arrived via displacement after refugee crises in their home countries – would shred the neighborhood’s identity, Burgos-Flores said.

“People who live here want to stay,” she said. “And if they go, they want to go because they want to, not because they’re pushed out. They want to have the opportunity to stay and the opportunity to own here.”

 

Source:  Miami Herald

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Developers Push The Art Basel Crowd Toward A New Miami Neighborhood

Miami Art Week’s center of gravity moves every couple of years—pulled at one moment by the gritty muraled walls of Wynwood, at another by the gleaming shops of the Design District.

But during this year festivities, a new neighborhood that’s been overlooked by the artistic glitterati is seeing a flurry of activity.

Allapattah, nestled just west of Wynwood and north of Little Havana along the Miami River, is known for its Dominican community and grain warehouses. It’s now the home of two major art complexes—the 100,000-square-foot Rubell Museum that opened on Dec. 4 and the new El Espacio 23 experimental art center developed by billionaire real estate magnate Jorge Pérez to exhibit his private collection and to develop artists in residency.

The Rubell Museum, set along abandoned rail tracks, houses 40 galleries in six former industrial buildings less than a mile from the original Wynwood home outgrown by what was previously known as the Rubell Family Collection. An empty parking lot was transformed into a garden filled with rare and threatened plants native to the Everglades and Florida Keys. Inside, the vast rooms are connected with a long artery of a hallway that culminates with Keith Haring’s painting of a heart.

Works acquired by the Rubells very early in artists’ careers, including Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still (#21) (1978) and Jeff Koons’s New Hoover Convertible (1980), feature prominently in the inaugural exposition, as does an immersive work by Yayoi Kusama called INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM — LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER (2017).

The warehouse was purchased for $4 million in April 2015, according to property records.

“Art transforms neighborhoods” says Mera Rubell, a former teacher and the matriarch of the family clan that collects art and invests in real estate. “There are always frontiers. You just have to go there.”

Just several blocks west in Allapattah, El Espacio 23 is a 28,000-square-foot arts center designed to serve artists, curators, and the general public with regular exhibitions. Its inaugural exhibit—“Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Pérez Collection”—features more than 100 works curated by Bogota-based Jose Roca and explores themes that include identity, public unrest, and marginalized peoples.

“I could not do this in Wynwood; it would be twice the cost, at least,“ he says, noting that Allapattah was located centrally in terms of employment opportunities and industry. “Wynwood is already changed. You couldn’t be showing this,’’ he adds, sitting just a few steps from Estudiante, a David-sized statue by Spanish artist Fernando Sanchez Castillo. It depicts a student being searched and humiliated by police. “There’s just too much traffic of another type. I needed to find a place that was affordable and central.”

A Changing Neighborhood

As Allapattah emerges to attract galleries and artists, Pérez says he is aware of many of the issues that can emerge as neighborhoods change and says the area could be important for the development of affordable housing. He’ll be bidding on 18 acres the city will put up for sale; although he doesn’t say what he eventually wants to do with the area, affordable housing is on his mind.

The Rubells bought the warehouse that makes up their museum for roughly $53 per square foot five years ago. Today, asking prices for industrial warehouses in the area range from $200 to $350 per square foot, according to Diego V. Tejera, a commercial real estate consultant specializing in Allapattah.

“Now you have prices that are really high and there are no buyers willing to pay them,” he said. “All this past year very little transacted. People were waiting to see how all this pans out. With the grand openings of both of these venues, you are going to see more interest in the area.”

“The affordable rental market is extremely strong,” he explains. “If I could build any amount of rental building at rents that people can afford, they would be 100% occupied all the time. The problem is that we’re building a lot of rentals that people can’t afford because of land prices.”

Plus, Pérez acknowledges, profit plays a factor. “Developers make more money the more expensive the product they build, so there’s been a tendency to build towards the more expensive product, and I think the needs are in the lower-price product,” he explains. “We have to rebalance, and we’re doing that.”

Experts in affordable housing are wary of the addition of glamorous arts spaces to the area. “There is absolutely a cost, and the cost is people being forced out of their neighborhoods, and the sort of ethnic and cultural vibe of a neighborhood gets completely transformed,” says Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement at the University of Miami. “Even just looking at Allapattah, there’s been a tremendous increase in the average home value in the last five years.”

Most residents of Allapattah don’t own their homes or businesses, Bachin says, and the number of LLCs that own parcels in the area dramatically rose in the past two years.

The Effect of Higher Property Values

“It’s actually beneficial for an absentee landlord to not invest in the property, because if they think that they can actually sell the property, then the gain will be that much greater. It’s really detrimental to the residents who live there, who don’t own their property, as well as to the business owners, the mom-and-pop stores who most likely don’t own their building.

“There’s a great deal of concern of the impacts that that kind of massive development has on these working class communities of color—in the case of Little Haiti, obviously, a large Haitian-American community, and in the of Allapattah, a large Central American community,” she explains. “We know, for example, historically in cities across the country, that when art spaces, studios, and galleries move into a neighborhood because it has cheaper rent, that is a harbinger of gentrification.”

Pérez’s Related Group is involved with the redevelopment of Miami’s Liberty Square, which is the largest redevelopment of public housing in the southern United States. While his art spaces will undoubtedly make real estate in the Allapattah neighborhood pricier, Pérez says he wants to use them to confront the issue of home prices head-on.

“Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues that we have, in order for there not to be a complete displacement as neighborhoods change,” he says. “There are many things that the private sector and the public sector can do, and exhibitions like this, I hope, will make everybody think about it.”

 

Source:  Bloomberg

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