ArtPlace August Question

The Wynwood Arts District Association is the non-profit organization that works for the well-being and improvement of the Wynwood Arts District – one of the largest and most prominent Art communities in the United States. Taking over what used to be the warehouse and manufacturing district of Miami, developers have rehabilitated neglected warehouses, shuttered factories, and other unused buildings transforming them into the numerous galleries, restaurants, artists studios, cafes, bars, and residences that are seen here today.

With the introduction of the Second Saturday Art Walk in the District and the arrival of the Art Basel fair in 2002, Wynwood has seen some unexpected growth in a relatively short period of time as it gets more and more attention by the locals as the go-to place for an alternative and more cultural nightlife in the City of Miami. The endorsement and vision of some prominent figures in the art world deciding to explore the potential of the district and setting up shop in Wynwood has also influenced the success and recognition of the District among the international art elite. More and more, we see international and acclaimed art collectors, curators, and artists, express their serious interest in our still young, but very driven community.

In December, Wynwood receives a tremendous amount of traffic and exposure as it becomes a destination of its own with both, local and international art connoisseurs. Though the influence and relevance of the arts community in Wynwood is undeniable, new businesses of all types are opening their doors in the District and encountering success here. With this in mind, Wynwood has to provide the pedestrian and infrastructural improvements needed to attract and host the traffic on its streets and sidewalks – whether it is pedestrian, bicycle, or vehicular traffic – in order to enhance the experience of the visitor.

But what exactly is the BID? How do local businesses benefit from this?

The BID (Business Improvement District) is a designated area in which the commercial property owners decide to collectively raise their own taxes by a small percentage in order to fund improvements within the district’s boundaries. In the state of Florida, communities who are seeking to become a Business Improvement District have to do so by holding a ballot election. In order to become a BID, 50% + 1 person of the property owners must vote in favor of the establishment. Upon a successful BID vote, 100% of the money which the commercial property owners assess themselves goes directly into improvements in the District.

The BID is an excellent initiative to ensure the continued growth and enhancement of our community, while at the same time helping its individual businesses thrive. As the District is better able to accommodate its visitors, it is only natural that Wynwood will continue to become a magnet of its own within the urban core of the city. As more pedestrians visit our growing district and walk our streets, more opportunities to engage in business by the local commerce arise.

ArtPlace spoke with Jose Nava-Lujambio, Representative and Executive Administrator from the Wynwood Arts District Association, about the BID Formation Process.

ARTPLACE: What do you have to do really (really) well to achieve success with your initiative?

JOSE: In order to achieve success with our initiative, I believe that the first and most critical step is education. We have to educate all the local business-owners and developers about the benefits of becoming a Business Improvement District. This sounds a lot easier in theory than in practice, since, once people realize that this means that they have to raise their own taxes, they begin questioning whether it is something that they really want or not. Whether it is something that they need and will improve their business or not. So we really have to start with some small-scale prototypes to depict what will be changing and how the infrastructure and pedestrian experience in the district will be improved and enhanced as we successfully become a BID. We have to get people excited and to start talking about this! But for this, we really need to show them the potential of what can happen and how this will benefit the entire community.

The second most important goal is for stakeholders to identify and subsequently prioritize the needs of the District that will become our road map for place making. This step is critical as it is very easy to get distracted and carried away with specific projects and details that arise from the BID initiative, and we need to keep focused in order to really fulfill our goals – always considering the bigger picture of our efforts.

ARTPLACE: How do you expect the community to change as a result of your initiative?

JOSE: Well, as I explained before, the most important element of the BID is that it will allocate a small percentage of the property taxes collected within the District’s boundaries towards all the initiatives and projects that we have in the District. This will provide us with the necessary funds to be able to execute some of the infrastructural projects that are much needed for the community to keep on growing and thriving. We need crosswalks, more lighting at night, waste receptacles, among many other things, some of which the City can help provide, but others which are completely up to us. We need more signage, we need location maps throughout the District, we need more and better security, a stronger cleaning service, and many other services and things that a successful BID formation will help us attain.

People that work and live in the District are very proud about our community, new businesses are setting up shop in the District and one of the first things that they always ask me is, ‘how can we become more involved with the community?’ This always strikes me as the biggest change that has happened as of yet, since this is something that is so rare in such a metropolitan area like the City of Miami. Wynwood really has a small-town feeling where everyone knows each other and wants to help each other out. I only hope that this sense of community and pride continues to develop as the District continues to evolve.

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