The metamorphosis that’s already taken Wynwood’s industrial district from urban blight to urban paragon in record time seems poised for a dose of development Muscle Milk that could pump up the scale of construction along a broad, mostly vacant swath of the neighborhood to new, and somewhat controversial, heights.

The two biggest players in Wynwood’s snowballing transformation, at odds for months over a massive redevelopment proposal that some fear could overwhelm the human scale and funky vibe that define the district, have reached an agreement that softens its impact on the neighborhood fabric of spiffed-up warehouses, and likely clears the way for its preliminary approval by the Miami City Commission.


That would mean that Wynwood’s largest landowner — moving-company and arts entrepreneur Moishe Mana — can move ahead with an ambitious 30-year blueprint for what amounts to a miniature city containing nine million square feet of space on some 24 acres of mostly vacant land stretching from the neighborhood’s main street, Northwest Second Avenue, to its western edge at Interstate 95. The contemplated Mana district, centered around a green public central square, or “commons,” that would cut diagonally through the development, is aimed at luring tech companies, commercial trade and arts and cultural institutions to Wynwood.

The board of Wynwood’s Business Improvement District, a city-chartered agency that represents most property owners in the rest of the former industrial zone, voted Wednesday to support the Mana Special Area Plan after winning a series of concessions aimed at making sure the developer’s new buildings mesh with the surrounding fabric of simple industrial buildings, many of which have been transformed into art galleries, offices, shops and dining and drinking spots.

“There was a lot of reasonable anxiety that you would have this district-within-the district that would be out of scale and out of character with the area,” said Albert Garcia, a member of the BID’s board and its planning committee, which negotiated the deal with Mana. “Over the last six months we’ve made a lot of progress in dialing that back so that it doesn’t suck the life out of Wynwood, which is the nightmare scenario. It’s a much better plan. I believe Mr. Mana understands our vision and it’s now a shared vision. We like to do things on a community basis and seek consensus. That’s the DNA of Wynwood. Wynwood is a special place. It’s not a race to the sky.”

Mana’s architect and planner, Bernard Zyscovich, said the developer and his team are happy with the revised plan. Though it’s now scheduled for the first of two commission votes on Thursday, Zyscovich said Mana will likely ask for a two-week postponement to address issues brought up by residents of neighboring Overtown and Commissioner Keon Hardemon, whose district includes both neighborhoods. Those concerns include how the new development would affect adjacent residential areas in Overtown as well as the availability of jobs for residents.

“It’s all positive,” Zyscovich said. “I think we have a great plan, a plan that’s going to create a whole neighborhood that’s exciting and beneficial to our neighbors.”

The BID also had to relent on some issues. Mana would not budge on plan provisions that would allow him to build residential towers of up to 24 stories. But Mana’s team agreed to push those off Second Avenue to the western portions of his property along Northwest Fifth Avenue and I-95, and to conform to current, lower zoning where new buildings would face the existing neighborhood.

Mana’s proposal, unveiled at the end of 2015, riled BID leaders and neighboring property owners. After more than a year of planning, they had just won city approval for special zoning rules designed to control development by increasing allowed heights in most of the old Wynwood industrial district but capping them at eight or 12 stories, depending on location. The goal of the Neighborhood Revitalization District, as the new zoning plan was dubbed, is to foster development of relatively inexpensive housing and new office and retail space while preserving the neighborhood’s modest scale and pedestrian-friendly ambiance.

To take advantage of the increase, developers must pay into a special fund to help finance parking garages, affordable housing, creation of public green space and landscaping and improvement of streets and sidewalks, but Mana wanted to be exempted from the fees. He has now also agreed to participate in funding the programs.

Other changes to Mana’s initial plan aim to ensure his district is closely connected with the surrounding neighborhood. The rules would now require “active uses” like shops and restaurants at sidewalk level along principal facades and pedestrian passageways to break up large structures and encourage walking.

“If you’re a pedestrian crossing the street or you are driving down the street, it’s going to feel continuous and harmonious,” Garcia said. “We didn’t want those jarring transitions where you might have eight-story buildings on one side of the street and 24 stories on the other.”

New rules also allow Mana to begin building his taller residential structures only after he has completed defined percentages of the promised commercial and cultural buildings and public amenities, including meeting space and the central commons. That’s to ensure that those elements, which BID leaders and other neighborhood supporters say are critical to Wynwood’s evolution and comprise the most significant pieces of the Mana plan, don’t get lost or left for last, they said.

“What will make Wynwood an interesting place in 10 years from now and 20 years from now is if that art school and the cultural institutions and tech set up permanent camp here,” said David Polinsky, a developer who is a BID board member and chair of the planning committee. “Not everybody’s happy with the scale [of the Mana plans]. But the board feels reasonable compromises were made. There are still lots of good things that can come out of the [project] if it’s executed well.”

Those good things, Zyscovich said, will include buildings with large, flexible floorplates that can accommodate everything from showrooms and meeting rooms to offices, art exhibition galleries and “maker spaces.” Mana is now working on a plan to create an international trade center on site to link buyers and suppliers of products in Asia and Latin America, he said. Mana also plans to replicate elements of his Mana Contemporary art center, a converted tobacco warehouse in Jersey City, New Jersey, that combines artist studios and exhibition galleries with services such as fine-art storage, transportation and conservation, Zyscovich said. The plan also includes hotels, but the potential residential buildings, Zyscovich stressed, are secondary.

“Our main idea is not to create more residential, which everyone is doing,” Zyscovich said. “We’re looking for a job creation strategy. Showrooms, office infrastructure, entrepreneurial spaces — all that is very much the idea.”

There are some unsettled matters. Mana, whose holdings are centered around the former Wynwood Free Trade Zone complex, which he purchased in 2010, has been using the facility and adjacent vacant land for large special events under a temporary permit, including a reggae performance that recently drew a reported 60,000 people.

BID leaders want those events curbed because they say they’re disruptive and detract from Wynwood’s particular ethos. Mana has in principle agreed to abide by normal city rules for such events. They also want Mana to support a proposed expansion of the boundaries of the BID — a special taxing district that levies a fee on property owners to support special services like security and trash cleanup.

Some Mana properties now sit outside the BID boundary, but the expansion would mean all of Mana’s holdings would be subject to the levy. Mana — whose failure to vote on any of his properties contributed to a defeat last year of a previous effort to expand the BID — has agreed to support the expansion. But he has not committed to paying the additional levy. If the city commission approves Mana’s development plan on first reading, the BID agreed it would negotiate the terms of his participation before the second reading.

The BID board made it clear last week that they would rescind support for Mana’s plan if he doesn’t follow through on his promise to support the expansion. Because the plan is conceptual and doesn’t bind Mana to building as promised, there is still substantial concern in Wynwood over the proposal and its potential impact on the neighborhood renaissance, Garcia said. But if Mana does follow through on his promises, he added, Wynwood stands to benefit significantly.

“On the plus side, if it’s developed as planned and does bring the economic stimulation it promises, it’s a win for Wynwood and for Miami,” Garcia said.


Source: Miami Herald

For two years the major players in Wynwood, Miami’s hippest, hottest emerging neighborhood, have been working on plans to jack the old industrial district up to the next level — only to now find themselves sharply at odds over exactly what that means, with the district’s future hanging in the balance.

Even as one group of property owners and developers publicly worked up a plan to control development to maintain Wynwood’s creative vibe and human scale while drawing in more housing, shops and businesses, the area’s biggest landowner, New York moving-company mogul, developer and arts patron Moishe Mana, privately sketched out a blueprint that embraces the same broad ideas — but on a dramatically different scale.

No sooner was the ink dry on the Miami City Commission’s approval of the Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District — special zoning rules that limit heights to eight to 12 stories and extract payments from developers to improve streets and create parking garages and public open space — than Mana applied for his own plan.

Mana’s proposed Special Area Plan, which would supersede the new zoning rules on 24 acres of his property, calls for a massive nine million square feet of new development, including towers up to 24 stories, while exempting the developer from the public-benefit programs in the NRD plan, as well as payments to the local business improvement district. In lieu of that, Mana has proposed to build an expansive public plaza and a city fire station and bury obtrusive FPL electrical lines that run through his properties at his own expense.


The Mana plan has provoked some serious balking from a good portion of his fellow Wynwood property owners, including Goldman Properties, the firm credited with launching the neighborhood’s transformation from derelict warehouse district to hipster mecca and a key backer of the NRD plan.

Those Wynwood owners and entrepreneurs say they’re concerned Mana’s mammoth project could overwhelm its modestly scaled neighbors while providing insufficient public benefits and little help in mitigating its impact on traffic, parking, policing and other public services — in effect, they contend, passing on the public burden of his upzoning to other local property owners who agreed to cap development.

“Everything we’ve done is to try to develop a comprehensive strategy to create a great place,” said Goldman Properties managing director Joe Furst, complaining the Mana blueprint is so vague in places there’s no gauging its precise effects on the rest of Wynwood. “There’s too many question marks.”

Mana’s representatives have noted it was no secret that he was working on a big plan for his Wynwood properties, centered around the former Wynwood Free Trade Zone complex, which he purchased in 2010, and that he never objected to the NRD plan. But Furst and others note Mana held details close to the vest and did not brief anyone else in the neighborhood until he filed his application with the city in November.

Everything we’ve done is to try to develop a comprehensive strategy to create a great place.

Mana’s planner and architect, Bernard Zyscovich, called his client’s promised public benefits “very, very significant,” saying their cost will run into the tens of millions of dollars. And he said Mana has also agreed to mesh the zoning along the edge of his property on Northwest Second Avenue, Wynwood’s main drag, with the NRD zoning, creating a consistent urban street front.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount to collaborate and make sure we’re integrated with the rest of Wynwood,” Zyscovich said. “We also have our own objectives, of course.”

How Mana’s proposal fares will play out over the next several weeks, and is likely to have defining implications for Wynwood’s redevelopment. The debate over his plan is the first sign of a serious split in the neighborhood since it began drawing outside developers, investors and speculators who’ve driven up rents and land prices and driven out many of the artists and galleries that characterized its early revival.

The NRD plan, supported by a majority of local property owners, was an effort to guide development before it happened, upzoning just enough to foster construction of reasonably priced housing and new commercial spaces while maintaining a consistent scale, and encouraging a building-design aesthetic that blends with Wynwood’s funky industrial look.

But some are clearly concerned that Mana’s plan, because it covers a substantial percentage of the neighborhood, could upend that carefully calibrated strategy before it has a chance to work.

Earlier this month, the board of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, an autonomous public agency chartered by the city that commissioned the controlled-development NRD plan, declined Mana’s request for an endorsement of his own plan after twice meeting to consider it. Instead, the BID board, which Furst chairs, asked the city’s planning and zoning board to defer a scheduled vote on the Mana plan while agency leaders could study his proposals further.

The planning board put its vote off until Jan. 20 after Mana’s representatives agreed to a postponement. The Mana plan and a companion development agreement with the city will ultimately need to be approved by the Miami commission.

Mana’s attorney, Iris Escarra of Greenberg Traurig, was out of the country through January and could not be reached for comment. At the BID’s Dec. 14 meeting, though, she hinted Mana might be willing to compromise. “It’s possible this is going to evolve,” she said. “Stay tuned.”

Escarra did say that the development agreement will legally require Mana to keep his promises, including building the fire station and every acre of the promised open space. She also noted that city planners have already insisted that Mana meet other elements of the Neighborhood Revitalization plan. Among those: That his new buildings be reviewed by a new Wynwood design review board created under the NRD, and that Mana’s development provide cut-through “paseos” to foster pedestrian flow and connectivity to the rest of the neighborhood.

BID board members, who represent the district’s property owners, say they would like to reach an understanding with Mana. But what they’ve seen so far, they say, doesn’t seem to justify the large increases in scale and density he’s seeking.

And neither his zoning plan nor the development agreement appear to sufficiently hold Mana to building the promised public space in a timely fashion, nor guarantee a high design quality, they contend. Because the project would be built out over 30 years, some Wynwood stakeholders worry Mana might leave the public space for last.

“The vision for the Mana project is a good one,” said Jonathon Yormak, an investor and BID board member who’s planning a mixed-use building on a large vacant lot his firm owns off Wynwood’s main drag . “Everyone believes the underlying premise is a good one. We are all inclined to support it.  To Mana’s credit, he has engaged us. But for what he is really providing, versus what he’s asking for, does that seem like a fair outcome? The initial answer is no. What he’s presented is more to his benefit and to the detriment of the neighborhood,” Yormak added. “If they care to get our support, I believe they can get it. It will require a little bit of consideration and cooperation from them.”

Zyscovich said he and Mana’s team plan to meet with BID members in early January.


Source: Miami Herald