Will Wynwood become a commercial hub?

Tenants priced out of Design District look to neighborhood famous for galleries

Jun.June 21, 2012 12:00 PM

Panther Coffee on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood (TRD Photo)

Until recently, Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood was known mostly for its art galleries. Now the former enclave, made up largely of vacated industrial space, is developing into a full-fledged center of commercial real estate activity. It was the signing of Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati for a new showroom last month that made the most noise, but the area west of downtown and south of Midtown and the Design District has quietly been attracting a variety of retail, restaurant and office tenants, from Panther Coffee to the Lester’s café. 

“I think we’re getting increased interest from more recognizable tenants,” said Tony Cho, president of Metro 1 Commercial, which has been representing a growing number of properties in the neighborhood. “I think they want to be part of a new emerging neighborhood that’s exciting, that’s creative, that’s artistic.”

Most businesses seeking to move into the district have been looking at smaller spaces, between 500 and 2,500 square feet, he said, but others have been eyeing properties as large as 10,000 square feet. “It’s everything from furniture to hospitality to food and beverage,” he said, describing prospective tenants as “mostly creative, and very unique.”

Cho surmises that the area might soon attract interest from developers of hotels, which would follow the trend of planned nearby hotels in the Design District and Midtown.

Real estate developer Tony Goldman — whose son, Joey first opened his eponymous restaurant on NW 2nd Avenue in Wynwood in 2008 — is in the process of redeveloping the currently-vacant “Wynwood Building,” which will include 45,000 square feet of small and mid-sized office space.

The question remains: What will Wynwood’s rise mean for many of the retail tenants first drawn there by the promise of low prices and an urban “hip” factor?

“I think most of the owners in Wynwood are of the mindset that they want to preserve the integrity of the independent retailers that are there,” Cho said. “But rents have gone up, especially along NW 2nd Avenue and in the Café District along 29th street in the North Miami corridor.”

New projects in the Design District — and plans to transform the area into a luxury retail center rivaling the Bal Harbour Shops — have reportedly priced out some gallery owners and small retailers. Cho said that has benefited Wynwood, for now.

Lyle Chariff, president of Chariff Realty, cautioned that Wynwood’s commercial market was still largely undeveloped, with tenants right now choosing to take space based more on the location rather than the quality of the space itself. Many of the spaces are converted former industrial warehouses and storage spaces. 

But that could soon change.

“What happened is, we have so many people being pushed out of the Design District and that are looking to relocate, and they’re having to make decisions very quickly without time to digest them,” Chariff said. “But we treat Wynwood as an amazing place based on what we know is going to happen.”

He said his firm, which has worked largely in the Design District and the Biscayne Corridor, was ready to bring in a “large” mixed-use development in the core of Wynwood that he would not yet announce. 

”Wynwood’s got a cool factor,” Cho said. “I don’t know how you can quantify a cool factor, but the demand is certainly there.”

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