Wynwood businesses on path to recovery after Zika scare

Wynwood Walls (Credit: Phillip Pessar)
Wynwood Walls (Credit: Phillip Pessar)

When the news first broke in August that Wynwood was an active transmission zone for Zika, the fallout was drastic. The normally packed neighborhood was left practically empty even on the weekends, cutting into local businesses’s pocketbooks.

But now, two months after Gov. Rick Scott announced Wynwood was Zika-free, the situation appears to be improving.

Albert Garcia, vice chairman of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, said Wynwood stores and restaurants are recovering from the Zika scare that saw their profits slashed in an otherwise booming neighborhood.

In August the U.S. Center for Disease Control imposed a “no-travel” advisory for pregnant women journeying to Wynwood after 18 cases of Zika, which is linked to birth defects, were reported there. The result was a huge drop in foot traffic, despite the county’s huge mosquito control campaign.

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“Wynwood was the first neighborhood in the continental United States that got infected with Zika,” Garcia said during Wednesday’s BID meeting. “We were the test case.” During that test, business plummeted by more than 50 percent, Garcia said.

The travel ban was lifted in September when state health officials declared Wynwood Zika-free. However, new Zika zones have since been declared along the Miami River corridor and over the entirety of South Beach and Mid-Beach.

To combat Wynwood’s stigma, property and business owners hosted a series of social events to bring the crowds back to the neighborhood. Garcia said the most recent event, Wynwood Fashion Night Out on November 3rd, attracted a big turnout — a sign that the local business community may be in for a change of fortune. During that event, 36 bars and restaurants pooled their resources while East End Capital and Goldman Properties offered their vacant lots as free parking. “Business was up 125 percent year to date that day,” Garcia told The Real Deal.

Overall, Wynwood merchants are now reporting a 10 percent decline from last year or less, Garcia said. “We really came out stronger than ever,” he said.