By: The New Tropic Creative Studio
Wynwood didn’t become the beating heart of Miami’s art scene overnight. Its evolution into an open-air celebration of creativity was spurred largely by the Wynwood Business Improvement District (otherwise known as Wynwood BID, or more simply, the BID).
Wynwood was a very different place in both looks and reputation before the BID channeled its efforts into elevating the area. Until relatively recently, the 50-block neighborhood was not a place for nightlife or commerce, defined more by its warehouses, concrete, and dilapidated structures than it was opportunities to engage with local culture.
Ten years later, the once-desolate neighborhood has blossomed into one of the hottest places to visit in Miami, in a large part thanks to the BID. The world at large has taken notice: TripAdvisor named Wynwood a Top Hipster Destination, and, in fact, it won the 2021 Traveler’s Choice award; likewise, Culture Trip wrote that “Tourists come in droves for the technicolor murals and bustling businesses that comprise Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood”; and Time Out stated that “…Wynwood dethroned South Beach as Miami’s top tourist destination.”
All of the above might be old news for locals who’ve watched Wynwood level up over the last decade-plus. So why does it bear repeating? Because the BID is coming up for a second contract to oversee Wynwood’s development for another decade, and the public ought to know how it works.
Structurally, the BID is a collaborative effort. It is represented by a municipal board of directors who work alongside executive director Manny Gonzalez to ensure that the 400+ businesses and commercial properties in the Wynwood Arts District thrive and grow within the BID’s ambitious vision for the neighborhood. Thus far, this foresight and conceptualization of what Wynwood could be has paid off: what was once a drab industrial district is now the largest concentration of street art in the United States. Walking around Wynwood feels akin to touring a coloring book — in nearly a decade, the mural count has risen from 63 to 230, and it’s still growing. Given the art’s ever-rising popularity, the prospect of visiting Miami as a tourist without passing through Wynwood seems as egregious an oversight as traveling to New York City without checking out Time Square.
With that said, the kaleidoscope of outdoor murals and graffiti is far from the only reason to visit Wynwood. There’s no shortage of art studios, galleries, microbreweries, artisanal bakeries, coffee shops, bustling bars, renowned restaurants, and venues, all of which cohabitate to produce a neighborhood that’s as vibrant in the daytime as it is at night.
Besides bolstering Wynwood’s infrastructure, the BID has also proven adept at dealing with natural disasters. Miami being Miami, this has of course meant managing hurricanes and proactively addressing climate change. However, the organization has also faced extraordinary circumstances more than once in recent years: When the Centers for Disease Control declared Wynwood was “ground zero” for local Zika transmissions back in 2016, the BID immediately sprung into action with the successful Zika Management and Outreach program. The group secured CDC-approved mosquito traps and distributed them throughout the neighborhood in addition to partnering with the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County to demolish 15+ abandoned homes and other potential mosquito breeding sites within the district.
More recently, the BID rolled out a Pandemic Recovery Plan that’s proven successful so far. While municipal governments have had to deftly navigate and weave around fluctuating rules and regulations, the BID stepped up to the plate and assumed the lead in disseminating info directly to its members on policy changes focused on providing certainty and stopping the spread of the virus.The BID ramped up its social media efforts to keep the community engaged and uplift local shops — one such initiative included a campaign featuring 12 challenges with 12 prizes provided by 12 different businesses. Whether it was art, food, or more traditional shopping fare, there was a prize for everyone to be excited about. Even more impressive, the BID set Wynwood up for success by making it South Florida’s first neighborhood to implement the Restaurant Recovery Program that expanded outdoor dining at the beginning of the outbreak. The program has been so successful that even more area restaurants plan to open up outdoor dining in 2022.
Amid its ambitious renewal initiatives and pandemic-related undertakings, the BID has somehow still found the time to focus on fine-tuning Wynwood’s smaller details. This has included more immediate concerns like promoting the annual HalloWynwood event at Roberto Clemente Park as well as Miami Art Week festivities and 2020’s Super Bowl events, all of which proved to be enormous undertakings.
There’s much more: the BID also partnered with the City of Miami and the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce to help sponsor the Wynwood Latin Arts & Music Festival. The group located a venue and promoted the Contemporary & Digital Art Fair’s (CADAF), the first art fair in Miami dedicated to digital works of art including emerging technologies such as augmented reality. Additionally, the BID hosted the first Democratic Presidential Primary Debate in 2019, as well as supported and sponsored the creation of Wynwood Pride, the latter of which is a June celebration that’s cemented Wynwood as a premier LGBTQ+ destination for locals and visitors alike.
Manny Gonzalez, the BID’s aforementioned executive director, has a succinct way of summarizing the group’s expansive role within the neighborhood. “I try to explain it simply as this — think of it as a homeowner’s association, but for businesses,” he says.
Even with everything the BID has accomplished, the organization doesn’t plan to rest on its laurels anytime soon. Assuming all goes as planned, the group hopes to kickstart beautification projects that’ll enshrine Wynwood as a scenic, inviting destination for a long time to come.
“We need to add trees for birds to chirp; we need to expand the sidewalks. I would say our streetscapes will be the next important thing,” Gonzalez says. If the past is any indication, there’s no doubt the future of the neighborhood will be as colorful and eye-catching as they come.