Miami, the fourth largest urban area in the United States, has always been famous for its beaches, nightlife, and local cuisine. It wasn’t until recently that the city became more famous for its arts and architecture, highlighted most prominently in Miami’s Design District.
Previously known as Buena Vista, the neighborhood fell into urban decay in the 1980s. Craig Robins, owner of the premier real-estate company Dacra, is perhaps most famous for revitalizing the Design District beginning in the late 1990s. The beginning steps involved renovating existing showrooms to attract interior designers. In 2002, the area grew in popularity after hosting Art Basel Miami, one of the world’s premier art shows for modern and contemporary works. Robins recognized the area’s potential and felt that the next best step would be to attract luxury retailers.
As Miami’s market began to grow with the influx of Brazilian, Venezuelan, Mexican, and Russian immigrants, many companies sought to open new locations in the area. In 2011, when Louis Vuitton surprisingly announced it would move its Bal Harbor store location to create Miami headquarters in the Design District, the district cemented its status as a high-end, artsy area for locals, and tourists.
“I have heard that some Europeans in quest of the latest ‘must-own’ coat or other object are being told they have a better chance of finding it in Miami these days (because of less competition than in Paris, London, or New York—especially for a cold-weather garment, which Miami stores stock despite the fact that there is less demand from residents for them),” says Carole Sabas, New York-based correspondent for the French edition of Vogue.
Today, the district offers hundreds of art galleries, design boutiques, event venues, restaurants, and a high end collection of fashion houses including brands like Cartier, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Hermes, and Prada, among others. The district hosts an ‘Art & Design Night’ on the second Saturday of every month, where galleries and restaurants offer special exhibits and activities to bring the community together.
Since helping to revitalize the Buena Vista area, Robins has also head started a new project—Aqua, a community of 151 town homes and condominiums on Allison Island, designed to fuse new urbanism and modern techniques.