Italia Spring 2020 Ineffable Miami: Design District by Gaby Gabino

Biography

Photo by Cristine Arguelles/ CC by 4.o

Gaby Gabino is a sophomore at Florida International University’s Honors College. She is studying Public Relations, Advertising, and Applied Communications and is minoring in Marketing. Some day, Gaby hopes to work as the Marketing Director for a big magazine in New York City, but her main goal is to travel and learn as much as she can. She is interested in learning about different cultures and loves to stay on top of the latest trends. Gaby is currently enrolled in the Honors College Italy Grand Tour Redux course and will be graduating in the spring of 2022.

GEOGRAPHY

Miami’s Design District is seen by most as the core of everything modern and luxurious, despite being an upcoming area. The district expands from NW 2 Ave. to the Federal highway when looking at its latitude and from NW 51 St. to NE 6 St. when looking at its longitude. The exact coordinates are 25°48′46″N 80°11′32″W (Wikipedia). 

Although it is relatively small compared to other neighborhoods, it is the perfect size for walking, which can be hard to come by in Miami. Artists have kept the streets vibrant and interactive, making a stroll through the Design District anything but dull. The area is loaded with restaurants, museums and luxury stores that can keep everyone busy during a day trip. Fun pop ups that are always changing also keep the area trendy and versatile which keeps visitors coming back constantly. You will always find something new in this district. 

CC by 4.0

HISTORY

The area that is Miami’s Design District today was once a pineapple farm in the early 1900’s. Through the years it became a prominent focus point for wholesale furniture, but as other design centers began to gain more popularity, the area became rundown (RSM Design). About 20 years ago, Craig Robins, born and raised in Miami, began to buy buildings in the neighborhood in an attempt to revive this forgotten part of Miami. His vision was to turn the run down area into the luxurious community it is today. 

In 2010, a deal with Micheal Burke of Louis Vuitton Worldwide, Bernard Arnault of LVMH, and L Real Estate was signed (RSM Design). This exclusive partnership drew the attention of other high-end designers and made it possible for Robins’ vision to come to life. Today, the Design District is what some consider the epicenter of fashion and design in Miami, housing over 120 flagship stores such as Dior and Celine, to name a few (Miami Design District).

DEMOGRAPHICS

Miami’s Design District does not have many residents compared to other neighborhoods because it is primarily a business district. According to statistics, there are a total of 2,062 residents with the median age of 36. Out of these 2,062 residents, 999 are males and 1,063 are females. When it comes to what residents do for a living, 81% work white collar jobs and the median income per household is $45,245. According to public records, the average rental price of a property in the district is $2,800 (Miami Design District Demographics). More than half of the residents of the area are Hispanic or Latino and the second largest cultural group in this neighborhood are African-American. Although the Design District has grown in popularity as a major tourist spot, the population growth is down 22% since 2000 (Weichert). 

When it comes to visitors, you can find people from all different walks of life at the Design District. Thousands of people visit the Design District daily; from artists looking for inspiration, to families on vacation taking in the culture, to an ordinary couple looking for the best dinner spot. The neighborhood is filled with diversity. 

I was able to talk to Daniel Clapp, the Preparator for the De La Cruz Collection, and ask him his thoughts and opinions about the neighborhood. 

Daniel Clapp’s thoughts on the Design District:

Gaby: What is your favorite aspect about the neighborhood?

Daniel: My favorite aspect of the neighborhood would be the two contemporary art museums. I also really appreciate the area’s walkability and rich history.

Gaby: What is your least favorite aspect about the neighborhood?

Daniel: My least favorite aspect would be the  overbearing amount of “high end” consumerism. The vast majority of the businesses cater to a wealthy class that frankly, I don’t believe is sustainable.

Gaby: If you could change anything about the Design District, what would it be?

Daniel: I’d like to see more of the smaller/independent businesses, restaurants, art spaces, and music venues return to the area. 

LANDMARKS

Mural by Keith Harring. Photo by Gaby Gabino/ CC by 4.0

The streets of the Design District are anything but boring and are filled with art and history. The Design District is the center of contemporary art in Miami. Along with the Institute of Contemporary Art being located in the district, there is also a monthly art walk that is held on the second Saturday of every month. Another artistic landmark is the De La Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space, which is considered to be one of Miami’s finest art spaces. The district’s most historic venue remains the Moore Building which was formerly the showroom space for Moore and Sons. 

The Institute of Contemporary Art is determined to expand knowledge and appreciation for contemporary art. They offer free admission year round in order to ensure the people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can enjoy the artwork displayed at the museum (ICA Miami). They display many interesting exhibitions created by artists from all over the world and are constantly adding new pieces and swapping out old ones. There is always something new to see. 

Given that the district is so focused on art, there are a few galleries in the area, one being the De La Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space. The collection of Rosa and Carlos De La Cruz was originally held in their personal home but it grew so large that they opened up this exhibit to hold it. It houses work from a bunch of different artists and they host summer workshops to spread the love and appreciation for art amongst young adults (DLC collection). 

A more historical landmark is the Moore Building. It was built in 1921 and  can hold up to 2,000 guests for a reception and 1,000 guests for seated events (Miami Design District). There is also a permanent installation on display that was created by architect Zaha Hadid. This building was once the showroom for the furniture company Moore and Sons, but it is now used as an event space for brands to use for pop-ups and it is occasionally used for wedding receptions.

GREEN

Since the Design District is primarily a business district and is very small, there is not a lot of space for parks and greenery. This is one of the downsides of living in this neighborhood and a primary reason why most people do not raise children in the area. The closest thing to a park is the Jungle Plaza which still is 90% concrete and the only green is the trees used as decoration. Companies can rent out this space to host events, and when it is not being rented out you will usually find kids playing and riding their scooters and bikes. The neighborhood makes up for its lack of natural greenery by creating very cool installations where you can sit down and relax. Whether it be trendy pink hammocks or the cool chair swings outside of St. Roch Market, there is definitely not a lack of space to sit and take in all of the beauty the neighborhood has to offer.

Swinging chairs outside of St. Roch Market. Photo by Gaby Gabino/ CC by 4.0

TRANSPORTATION

Given the size of the Design District, an official form of transportation is not very essential within the neighborhood. The main way people move around is on foot, simply because everything is within walking distance. This is pretty unique in Miami because for the most part you need to take a bus or drive to get from place to place. The fact that walking is the primary form of transportation is a big reason why the sidewalks and pedestrian areas are lined with cool art and structures. Taking a stroll through the district is the best way to take in all the art and installations that can otherwise be missed if you are in the car. 

In order to get to the Design District from another neighborhood, the main and easiest form of transportation is by car. There are plenty of trendy parking garages in the area that blend in perfectly with the modern and artistic areas surrounding them. Another form of transportation to the Design District is to take the Metrorail. You can get on the metro at Dadeland Station and take it northbound to the Allapattah Metrorail Station. From the Allapattah station you have a few options to get to the Design District. The most economical way, other than walking 1.4 miles, is to take the $3 bus to NW 36 St. and NW 1 Ave. You can also take a cab or an Uber to a specific spot within the district, but that will cost you more.

FOOD

Dior Cafe in Miami’s Design District. Photo by Gaby Gabino/ CC by 4.0

Given the fancy and luxurious lifestyle surrounding the Design District, restaurants and bars in the area are on the more expensive side. One of the most pricey cafes in Miami is the Cafe Dior, located on the rooftop of the Dior boutique. They have a limited menu of beverages, different coffees and light snacks. The decor is breathtaking, and I expected nothing less from such a chic brand. There are a variety of wild animal statues decorating the area and the fabric they are made of has an iconic print that was also the same print used in the original Dior boutique in Paris. In my opinion the prices are a bit steep for what you are getting, however, the space is stunning and great for pictures. 

Another amazing find of the Design District is the St. Roch Market. It is essentially an elevated and modernized version of a food court. The market is great for going on a dinner date or with a group of friends because everyone has a wide variety of styles to choose from. Whether it be Italian, Mexican, or Asian food, there is something for everyone to enjoy. There is also a beautiful installation of swinging chairs right outside that are great for hanging out after eating. Although the prices are on the higher side, I personally believe the quality of the food is definitely worth it.

If you stray away from the main area of the district lined with designer stores you will find a few hidden gems when it comes to authentic food. One of my favorites is Lemoni Cafe, home to the best french toast, in my opinion. It is a tiny hole in the wall and if you are walking too fast you will definitely miss it. This is the perfect place to come for a delicious brunch before spending the day browsing luxury stores and exploring the district.

BUSINESSES

The Design District’s claim to fame is definitely all of the luxury stores and designer boutiques that line the streets. From designer clothing stores such as Dior and Gucci to luxury jewelry like Rolex and Cartier, you can find a good variety of high-end goods here. What the Design District is lacking are more locally owned businesses that are not chains. Although there are smaller boutiques and salons, they all have multiple locations in Miami or in the United States. 

From these smaller businesses, my absolute favorite is Flight Club. Their first store opened in New York and they were the first sneaker store dedicated to consignment for rare shoes. If you love sneakers you will be able to spend hours in this store gawking at the vast variety of styles. From the trendiest sneaker collaborations to vintage sneakers that have become classics, you will find what you are looking for here for sure. Unlike most stores in this neighborhood, Flight Club carries both economic and expensive options. 

Flight Club store in Miami’s Design District. Photo by Gaby Gabino/ CC by 4.0

When it comes to jewelry, Cartier is one of the most well known brands in the world. The company was founded in France in 1847 and the Design District location opened in August 2012. They have a vast collection of fine jewelry but they have a very unique style that makes their pieces instantly recognizable. Their most classic collections are centered around screws and their most popular bracelet, the Love Bracelet, has to be screwed closed. 

Cartier flagship store in Miami’s Design District. Photo by Gaby Gabino/ CC by 4.0

Maintaining its history, there are a few luxury furniture stores and showrooms in the Design District. One of my favorite showrooms is the Ceramic Matrix one because they have some beautiful modern pieces that I would love to have in my own home someday. Just like most of the other businesses in the neighborhood, the prices of these furniture stores are on the higher end.  

SUMMARY

If I had to choose one word to describe the Design District it would be “instagramable”. It is full of beautiful picture spots and intriguing architecture that begs to be shared. This creative neighborhood has a lot of different activities that can easily keep all audiences entertained. From doing some luxury shopping to exploring contemporary art, the district entices people from all different backgrounds to spend their time exploring. 

An aspect of the Design District that needs improvement is definitely a larger variety of locally owned businesses and economical food options. This is such a nice neighborhood to be able to spend the day taking in the art and culture, but the lack of smaller restaurants can make that difficult for some people. It would definitely draw a larger crowd and more frequent visitors if they established more businesses that the average consumer could afford to shop at. 

Ultimately I believe that the Design District is a beautiful neighborhood that everyone should visit at least once. 

Sources

“About the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.” Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, icamiami.org/about/.

“About.” Ceramic Matrix, http://www.ceramicmatrix.com/about/.

“Design District Miami, FL Overview.” Weichert, http://www.weichert.com/search/community/neighborhood.aspx?hood=6576.

“Design District Neighborhood in Miami, Florida (FL), 33127, 33137 Detailed Profile.” Design District Neighborhood in Miami, Florida (FL), 33127, 33137 Subdivision Profile – Real Estate, Apartments, Condos, Homes, Community, Population, Jobs, Income, Streets, http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Design-District-Miami-FL.html.

“Dior’s Rooftop Café Is Your Chic New Dining Spot.” Miami Design District, http://www.miamidesigndistrict.net/blog/entries/784/diors-rooftop-cafe-is-your-chic-new-dining-spot/.

“History.” Miami Design District, http://www.miamidesigndistrict.net/history/.

“Miami Design District Case Study – Case Studies.” RSM Design, rsmdesign.com/portfolio/miami-design-district-case-study/.

“Miami Design District Demographics.” Miami Design District Population & Demographics, Median Income – Point2 Homes, http://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/FL/Miami-Design-District-Demographics.html.

“Moore Building.” Miami Design District, http://www.miamidesigndistrict.net/event-venue/743/moore-building/.

Official Cartier Websites & Online Stores – The Renowned French Jeweler and Fine Watchmaker. Bridal, Luxury Accessories, Fragrances & Exceptional Gifts, http://www.cartier.com/?adlgid=c%7Cg%7Ccartier%7C423728053085%7Ce&gclid=EAIaIQobChMItIye9tDz6AIVHP3jBx31EAnnEAAYASAAEgLmfvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds.

“Summer Workshops.” De La Cruz Collection, http://www.delacruzcollection.org/summer-workshops.

Leave a Reply