Roughly six years ago, the Miami City Commission granted its—unanimous—first approval for the rezoning of 205 acres in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Fast forward to 2021 and the former industrial district is now undergoing a spectacular transformation, reshaping its identity into a 24/7 live-work-play location.
But the district’s revitalization seems to have been set off in 2005 by the groundbreaking of a large-scale mixed-use development dubbed Midtown Miami. Situated across the Edgewater and Wynwood neighborhoods, the project enabled the creation of eight high-rise residential buildings, a hotel, two parks and a retail center. The area and its abandoned warehouses also piqued the interest of the arts community, with Wynwood ultimately evolving into an epicenter for murals and graffiti art.
The neighborhood became a magnet for events, as well. In early June, Wynwood hosted the largest Bitcoin conference in the world, which relocated to Miami from Los Angeles. The two-day, sold-out conference was one of the city’s biggest in-person events since the onset of the pandemic, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from all over the globe and consolidating the metro’s status as an emerging tech and finance hub.
The game-changing plan
The Wynwood Business Improvement District—an autonomous government agency representing more than 400 property and business owners in the district—had a major impact on the area’s revival. WBID created a Neighborhood Revitalization District Plan that allowed for industrial sites to be redeveloped as denser mixed-use and residential parcels.
“The rezoning was necessary because it allowed for new housing options for thousands of new residents that are now moving into the Wynwood Arts District,” Garcia told Commercial Property Executive. The first major housing development in the area—dubbed Wynwood 25—opened in September 2019, reaching full lease-up within months.
The revitalization plan also introduced the concept of shared streets or woonerfs. These Dutch-inspired “living streets” are pedestrian and bicycle-focused, allowing for their occasional closing for community events.
The city of Miami approved the implementation of a new Wynwood Streetscape Master Plan last October, focusing on the mobility, safety and social connectivity of the arts district. Plans call for the transformation of three streets into woonerfs.
Attracting outside capital
The shift in land use has unlocked the district’s full potential, which boasts a strategic location just outside Miami’s urban core. “Our revitalization efforts have resulted in over 10,000 new jobs and $2 billion in local investment and spending that supports the South Florida economy,” Garcia said.
Despite the pandemic, Wynwood continues to welcome new residents, companies and visitors. The neighborhood has seen a dramatic increase of interest from the financial, tech, engineering and creative industries, with new office tenants including Spotify, Founders Fund, Atomic and Live Nation. According to Garcia, in the past two years, more than 382,000 square feet of office space was built across the neighborhood and 400,000 square feet is currently under construction.
“Although COVID-19 posed its challenges, the office demand in the South Florida market is at an all-time high. Corporate relocations from the Northeast and West Coast, plus a budding technology scene in the Wynwood area, are driving leasing velocity and interest,” Joe Furst, founder & managing principal at Place Projects, told CPE. The local real estate firm was involved in creating the district’s first Class A office space, 545wyn.
Behind Wynwood’s largest office building
545wyn is the biggest office property to come online since the neighborhood’s rezoning. Place Projects was Sterling Bay’s local development partner on the 10-story project. Spanning nearly 325,000 square feet, with 28,000 square feet of retail, the building was completed late last year. Famed architecture studio Gensler was behind the design of the creative office project, which recently achieved a WELL Health-Safety rating.
For Chicago-based Sterling Bay, 545wyn represented the company’s debut within the Miami market. The neighborhood’s unique history, strong sense of place and walkability posed similarities to Chicago’s West Loop/Fulton Market area, where the firm originally earned its reputation for engaging in transformative projects, according to Furst.
Sterling Bay partnered with Goldman Global Arts to create site-specific murals on the building’s facade, envisioned by local artist Mojo, along with international artist 1010. Goldman Global Arts is the curating arm of Goldman Properties, a company that has been the driving force in the revitalization of Wynwood for the past 15 years. The firm’s founder, the late Tony Goldman, was behind the renowned Wynwood Walls, the world’s first outdoor street art museum.
Gensler found 545wyn so appealing that the studio decided to move its offices within the structure. “As a design firm, we are compelled by the creative energy and vibrancy of the neighborhood and decided to relocate our office here,” Steven Burgos, senior associate & design director with Gensler Miami, told CPE.
Spec suites: a rediscovered trend
Gensler has been established in Miami for more than a decade. The firm designed millions of square feet of office space within South Florida, developing a deep understanding of the market.
The past year brought an influx of new-to-market tenants to the area, interested in occupying spaces as quickly as possible. Built-in offices proved to be the best solution to accommodate these tenants’ needs.
“We are seeing this trend with multiple landlords and developers in Florida and across the country in both major and secondary markets,” Burgos stated.
Spec suites or fully furnished, move-in-ready offices are traditionally used to market smaller, vacant spaces within a building, but the current market points toward flexibility and agility within the workplace, as spaces need to meet the rapidly changing needs of tenants. Gensler is seeking ways in which to best meet contemporary demand by creating universal-size offices that can be converted into meeting spaces and vice versa, with open floorplans that can be reconfigured through furniture solutions.
The studio is currently collaborating with R&B Realty Group to develop spec suites at The Gateway at Wynwood, a 195,000-square-foot creative office project nearing completion. “In the Miami market, we see the sweet spot for office tenants around 8,000 to 12,000 square feet, which makes spec suites a smart choice for landlords,” said Burgos.
The Gateway at Wynwood
Situated on the border of Wynwood and Midtown, The Gateway at Wynwood broke ground in early 2020 and represents R&B Realty’s crossover to South Florida.
“In the planning process, we hand-selected a lot of the features that we would have been looking for as New Yorkers, while still incorporating the Miami elements,” Shelby Rosenberg, head of development and acquisitions & asset and property manager for R&B Realty Group, told CPE.
The family-owned business has been eyeing South Florida for some time. As a portion of the company’s investments is situated within New York City’s Garment District, Wynwood’s makeover appears somewhat familiar to R&B Realty: “The Garment area’s transformation is very similar to what we’re seeing in Wynwood, with a shift from manufacturers and wholesalers to creative spaces and offices through adaptive reuse,” Rosenberg added.
The building’s location outside of downtown Wynwood and close to Biscayne Bay is one of its most appealing features. The Gensler-designed spec suites have slightly smaller floorplans than traditional offices within the property—starting from 2,000 square feet—and can be combined to form bigger units.
The developer has recently seen an increased interest in the building, especially for its spec suites. “We are currently in negotiations with a number of exciting tenants and are looking forward to making announcements soon,” Rosenberg concluded.