Even though it’s blanketed with auto repair shops, printing presses and little taquerias, Miami’s busy, grungy Allapattah area has been dubbed as the “next hot neighborhood,” words that excite real estate speculators and give residents anxiety.
At a panel discussion Tuesday (which was sponsored by the Allapattah YMCA and supported by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Real Estate and Workforce Housing committees), developers, politicians and community members talked about their hopes for the area. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he was sensitive to residents and church groups who are worried about gentrification. “One of the biggest fears they have is that it becomes a WOW District … for ‘West of Wynwood,’” Suarez said. Allapattah is next to Wynwood, Miami’s quickly gentrifying art district, but separated from it by Interstate 95. Allapattah stretches from I-95 to the east to Northwest 27th Avenue to the west, and north-south between I-195 (also known as the 112) and south to I-395 and the Miami River. The WOW nickname has been used since at least 2008, when an art gallery that could no longer afford Wynwood’s exploding rents opened a studio on NW 31st Street and Seventh Avenue and called it OHWOW, for “Our House West of Wynwood.” Some real estate professionals started using the phrase to market the area. “Allapattah isn’t west of anything,” Suarez said, adding that some officials had helped fight off that attempt at branding. “Allapattah is Allapattah.” OHWOW moved to Los Angeles, but other artists crept west to Allapattah. The owner of the Butter Gallery in 2012 bought a building at Northwest 29th Street and Seventh Avenue and promised tenants, like Panther Coffee and Wynwood Radio, that he would never raise rents. Miami’s art-collecting Rubell family had for 20-plus years kept an art collection in Wynwood, but in 2016, announced it would migrate to Allapattah instead. Also that year, Robert Wennett, who famously hired Herzog & DeMeuron to design an open-air parking garage with a penthouse on top on Lincoln Road (then sold it for $283M), paid $16M for the Allapattah Produce Market, where he eventually plans to build a mixed-use complex (on stilts) designed by celebrated Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Around the same time, another well-known Miami speculator, Michael Simkins, invested $3.58M to buy a warehouse in 2016. One luxury real estate broker started an art magazine and a “mural festival” to bring in street artists and add flair to buildings.