South Beach’s Washington Avenue is getting the Facelift it Deserves
In the past, Washington Avenue was the host to South Beach’s party scene. It was full of restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. But after 20 years developers began to look elsewhere, and Washington Avenue made its fall. Today it’s just a street, one that gets you to where you want to be. But the City of Miami Beach is ready to make a change.
The commission approved a resolution, Business Improvement District, to take place on Washington Avenue from 5th to 17th street. It provides a tax fund in the area for beautification and overall improvement of the area.
The first step forward is the development of hotels and retail complexes. Residential and office spaces will follow these. The Business Improvement District has been granted a yearly budget of $511,311.
Some of the new projects set in place is a brand-new hotel on the east side of Washington Avenue. Moxy South Beach, a seven-story boutique hotel. Plus, renovations and expansions on existing hotels (Clay Hotel and Clinton Hotel).
There are also two commercial developments being put in place, which will consist of a combination of restaurants and retail stores.
Two other projects are pending review, and they are expected to be approved shortly: a large scale residential project and an additional hotel.
“Our hope is the work we’ve been doing will move Washington Avenue in the opposite direction than the one it’s been going,” stated Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. “Washington Avenue went into an abyss for a few years. It’s going to take a lot of investment to bring it back to where it needs to be. But a lot of private developers see what it is — a beautiful, wide street which should embrace business activity. It needs to be more than dark, vacant stores and surf shops.”
Some Washington Avenue fixtures have slowed down the aging of the area, such as the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, the Cinematheque, the 11th street diner, and Twist, a bar. The Washington Avenue Vision and Master Plan were created by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The panel was formed in 2015 to help recommend zoning and bring about positive changes.
“Washington Avenue is like the hole in the doughnut,” said Blue Ribbon Panel member Lyle Stern, president of Koniver Stern Group consulting firm. “We have lots of tourists and residents straddling both sides of the avenue. The difficulty is populating it with businesses. Tourists enjoy Washington Avenue — it’s reminiscent of the Village in New York City 30 years ago, with all the head shops and boutiques and novelty stores — but it still needs to be cleaned up.”
Smaller can indeed be better
“The concept of micro-urbanism appeals to the person who doesn’t need that super luxury product but still wants to be in the thick of things,” said Javier F. Aviño, a partner at the Bilzin Sumberg law firm. “Washington Avenue is still that. You’re a few blocks from Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive. You’re in the heart of it, and it’s appealing to a clientele that doesn’t need this huge unit. It makes a lot of sense, and it shows that Miami is getting to the point where New York has been for a very long time.”
Local businesses on Washington Avenue are looking forward to the influx of business.