New business district to accelerate improvements in Miami’s Wynwood

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Knight Foundation supports the Wynwood Arts District Association to facilitate the immediate startup of the Wynwood Business Improvement District and to promote the development of a vibrant urban center that stimulates ideas and opportunity. Below, Jose Nava Lujambio, executive director of the Wynwood Arts District Association, writes about the effort. Photo credit: Flickr user Wally Gobetz.

Wynwood is not just some nondescript neighborhood; its street art and industrial nature demand attention in the rawest sense, while refusing to conform to any specific set of standards. Shortly after beginning my work in Wynwood, I realized the immeasurable importance of being a part of the continued growth and transformation of this special place. Wynwood has the ability to positively affect the broader Miami community without ever having to compromise. 

People in Wynwood are committed to shifting the global perception of Miami. The recent decision by a majority of property owners—65 percent—to create a business improvement district proves this. They understand the need to invest in the community while collaborating to establish a joint vision for the neighborhood. The district, known as the Wynwood BID, will collect the first round of assessments from property owners in early 2014, but Knight funding will help fast-track these efforts so work can begin immediately.

With the business improvement district in place, we will be able to expand our public art initiatives. We can improve security and sanitation, create a more comfortable experience for visitors to Wynwood and strengthen the area as a hub for artists and entrepreneurs. It will help other people appreciate Wynwood like I do.

This is the second time I’ve lived in South Florida and discovering this neighborhood has changed everything for me. When I first moved here a little more than seven years ago, I was captivated by the beach life. It was exciting and fun in the beginning, like it always is when you discover a new place. However, opportunities for professional development seemed limited, and I decided to set off for Paris and New York, thinking they would have more to offer.

I returned to Miami about 18 months ago for what I thought would be a temporary stay until I heard about an opportunity to work with the Wynwood Arts District Association. Seeing the possibilities here has convinced me that this is more than a temporary stay. This is a significant change for someone who was raised in numerous cities, from remote places like Manizales, Colombia, and Nelson, B.C., in Canada, to Mexico City, one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world. In Wynwood, I have realized that there is huge potential to create a significant impact in a growing, cultural community, which at its core is about its awesome people.

The “creative class,” which Richard Florida often refers to as the engine behind the transformation and reinvention of our American cities, is very much present in Wynwood. Whereas a few years ago, South Florida was suffering from a brain drain; now the young and the talented are flocking to Wynwood to put their skills to good use. Places like The LAB Miami are fostering the entrepreneurial spirit, while Miami Light Projectand O Cinema are cultivating the performing arts and film culture in Miami. I’ve already worked on some exciting initiatives to support our neighborhood—from producing the new Wynwood website to developing pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure through a public art initiative. Now, I’m looking forward to even more.

The Wynwood BID is helping set a clear direction for our community and our city. Come see what we’re doing in Wynwood.

This post was first published in the Knight Foundation blog.

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