7/29/19 - 7 minute read
By: Alicia Rinaldi
Toto, we're not in New York City anymore...
As a Northeast native, I remember my first time driving through Downtown Miami back in 2013, when I asked, “but where’s that part of Downtown with all the people walking around and shopping?”
At that point, I didn’t quite get that not every city was like New York City, with its own version of Times Square bustling 24/7. The historic buildings in Downtown Miami reminded me of NYC’s charm, but the lack of people and abundance of gated storefronts made Downtown Miami feel more like a post-apocalyptic NYC than the lively, thriving city I expected. I took a right onto I-395 and went straight to South Beach.
Photo credit: Crespogram News
Fast forward 6 years. Even nowadays as a Brickell resident, I barely make it to the north side of the river for the same reasons as most people—I’ve always perceived Downtown as unsafe and dirty with nothing to do.
The Witness the New Downtown initiative is not only changing people’s perspectives of the city, but it’s transforming Downtown Miami as a whole, into a destination and not just a place connecting Brickell to South Beach.
I interviewed Nidal, the owner of Gluttonomy, to learn more about their vision for the New Downtown.
Q: First of all, what is Gluttonomy?
A: We are a marketing agency for the food industry, so we work with chefs, restaurants, and food & beverage brands doing marketing and consulting projects. We are also the agency that is behind Witness the New Downtown
Q: Tell me more about WTND.
A: Downtown Miami is transforming and becoming this vibrant and lively neighborhood. WTND is a movement created by entrepreneurs, artists, and locals to showcase what’s going on Downtown and create opportunities for these residents. Residents are becoming a part of the movement by opening their stores—they want the New Downtown to be a channel where they can showcase their projects and portray their initiatives. It’s a channel to tell their stories.
Q: In your opinion, how is downtown different from Brickell? What’s special about Downtown?
A: Brickell is very recent and modern. Downtown has more history. It was the first area developed in Miami, so it has buildings from the early ‘20s. All the history Downtown has in terms of buildings, even in streets like Flagler, make Downtown special. No other neighborhood in Miami has that heritage.
Downtown is also more walkable than Brickell. Everything is more concentrated like coffee shops, coworking spaces, and even bars & restaurants opening. It feels like a neighborhood
One of Downtown Miami's many historic buildings, the Olympia Theatre. Photo from @avenue3miami
Q: If this is the “New” Downtown, what is the “Old” Downtown like?
A: Not that it’s better or worse, but the perception of Downtown Miami was dangerous, homeless, dead at night, and nothing to do besides maybe a few shops. But now with new younger people moving in and the fact that Miami Dade College is there, people feel safer and now there are more things to do. The neighborhood as a whole is becoming safer & cleaner with the new tenants who are coming in, and that brings more people to the area.
Q: Are there concerns about gentrification?
A: People are concerned; every city experiences it. But I look at it this way: we need to create opportunities for the people who are in those neighborhoods. While there is some gentrification, there are other people who are upgrading their businesses and creating jobs for others. Downtown isn’t the only neighborhood experiencing this type of growth. There are other neighborhoods like Little River & Allapattah that are experiencing it on a smaller scale, and some people may move to those neighborhoods from Downtown to help fuel the growth of these areas.
HERE'S THE SCOOP:
According to Nidal, a new restaurant complex is opening in Downtown Miami next year featuring spots by Downtown Miami residents. Stay tuned!
Q: What is the scope of the WTND project? Do you have a goal for the number of businesses you want to see open?
A: Not really, we are just looking for organic growth. We want to invite people to participate and make Miami what they want it to be. This project is meant to empower the residents and professionals Downtown.
Q: How can people contribute – ideas, time, money?
A: Absolutely, all of those things. Last year on the 200 E. Flagler building, we did a 3-month activation where people took stickers and wrote what they wanted Downtown to be. That was our source of motivation & inspiration to see what people wanted. That activation is still online, so you can create a digital sticker and share it on social media to spread the word. Now we’re doing an activation with mirrors where people can take selfies share on social media with phrases like foodie of the year, Downtown looks good on you, etc.
But the best way to contribute is to participate in the movement. If you live Downtown, come down and have a coffee or dinner. Give business to all the places around, or bring a part of your business to Downtown. That’s what this movement is about.
Photos from @witnessthenewdowntown
Create your digital WTND sticker here!
Q: Are you working with other Downtown organizations such as Avenue 3?
A: Yes, we have met a few times to figure out ways we can work together.
Q: Ok since everyone is talking about it, I have to ask.. How do you feel about the decision to bring Ultra back to Downtown Miami?
A: I have mixed feelings about it, but it’s a big crowd and it’s good for business. As long as they are responsible and enforce that people take care of the public spaces. So done properly I think it’s positive
Q: Finally, what are the best _____ in Downtown Miami?
A: Sit down restaurant: Niu Kitchen, Jaguar Sun – bar with great food
Fast casual food/quick lunch: A sandwich shop called Vinaigrette just opened at the Dupont building.
Coffee shops: “Ventanitas” (little window in Spanish) - little places that sell empinadas and you can get a good coffee there
Q: Closing thoughts?
A: As a Miami resident, I want Downtown Miami to feel like the Downtowns in other cities where people live & work there, and I think we’re going in that direction. In terms of recent buildings, Brickell is the New Downtown—but Downtown is history. I think it’s going to be like a big connected Downtown.