Gianmarco Agostinone is currently a senior finishing his undergraduate portion of his combined bachelors and masters degree in computer science. Over the course of his time in college, he has traveled on two study abroads with professor Bailly, France and Italy, and wants to culminate his travel experience by finally learning about the area he has lived in his whole life, Miami. After college, he hopes to continue his newfound lifestyle of traveling and photography and eventually make his way throughout the rest of Europe.
Miami Design District is the definition of modern and contemporary. The district is a relatively new and upcoming area built for the sole purpose of being the Mecca of Miami’s art, design, and fashion. It is an extremely small and compact district sandwiched between NE 41st Street and NE 38th Street from above and below, and N Miami Avenue and the Federal Highway on its sides. But don’t let its size fool you, it is jam packed with many luxury stores, restaurants, museums, street art, and pop ups that change every week.
Its compact size makes it one of the few areas in Miami that are perfect for walking. With only a few streets and many pedestrians only areas, anyone can make a day wondering through the Miami Design District. On the downside the area has no natural parks or green areas, as everything even remotely green consists of trees that are meticulously placed so they are not to block the signs of the luxury stores housed there. Although there may not be any parks to rest in there are many nooks and crannies where you can relax and take in the scenery waiting to be discovered here.
Miami Design District’s history is a relatively short one. The area started off as a pineapple farm in the early 1900s in an area then named Buena Vista (RSM Design). Eventually, the owner of the farm, T.V. Moore, built up the area with his creation of the Moore Building to house his furniture business, becoming one of the first stores in the U.S. dedicated to selling only furniture (Wikipedia). Fast forward a few decades and the area became a center for wholesale furniture and design.
Unfortunately, as other areas in Miami began to flourish with fame for design and art, the area that is now the Design District began to cripple and became run down. Only when Craig Robins of the Dacra Real Estate firm took interest in the area in the 90’s did it begin to rise back up to its former glory. He began buying up property from the area left and right with the vision of making this area the place to be for high end fashion and art. Now the area is home to over 120 flagship stores such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Cartier and more (Miami Design District).
Being a business district, there are very few people who actually live here. Approximately only 2000 people reside in the area, with about an even split between men and women. The people here are mainly in there late 20s early 30s and consist of mostly single non-family households. The average household income in way above the poverty line with an average of $52,000 which makes sense as the area has risen substantially in price and cost of living over the past two decades (Miami Design District Demographics).
But in regards to those that visit, the area attracts a diverse selection of people. Miami Design District is full of Miami’s elite. The luxury brands and restaurants welcome those who are in search of the best of the best when it comes to fashion and food. But don’t let that intimidate you, there are still many normal and everyday citizens that are encouraged to come visit the area. Thousands of young adults come every day to see the beauty the area has to offer. Whether they are photographers and models finding the best spots for pictures, artists trying to make a name for themselves at the local museums or with street art, or those that simply want to walk around and absorb all the beauty and have a good time.
One such person I met while I was there was a man who goes by the name Mr. Moda (@mr.moda). He is a local artist who was working on one of his pieces outside an event hosted by the ODDS clothing store. He was a lively and genuine figure and really represents the type of people and environment the Design District encourages to come.
The Miami Design District is the place to be if you are interested in seeing some of the best contemporary art in Miami. Not only does it house the De La Cruz Private Collection as well as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, but the district itself is a piece of art. The district I covered in various types of installations ranging from massive murals, modern statues and sculptures, to the design of the buildings themselves being an architectural masterpiece.
With over 30 pieces of public street art, and more always popping up, taking a stroll through the streets of Miami Design District are never boring. The founders of the district envisioned that this place will not only house contemporary museums but act as an exhibit itself. The buildings are all works of art, including the famous Museum Garage, which is as luxurious as parking garages get. Every arch, building, fence, wall, fountain, etc. is all maliciously created to strike awe in the district’s visitors.
The district is also home to one of Miami’s finest private contemporary art collections, the De La Cruz Collection. Originally exhibited for free in their own home, Rosa and Carlos De La Cruz’s collection grew so large and popular that they created their museum to house it. Their collection consists of works from over 50 artists such as Félix González-Torres, Salvador Dalí, Mark Bradford, and more. They believe in enriching the community with their art and continuing the tradition of acting like you are visitors in their home so as you don’t charge your guests to come visit your home, they do not charge people to visit their museum.
Another famous museum in this area is the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Like the De La Cruz Collection, they do not charge for entry into the museum. They believe that “contemporary art can help develop critical thinking skills and offers advanced educational programming for diverse audiences” and thus want it to be available to all audience regardless of their background and financial status (ICA Miami). They continuously rotate in new exhibits so going there often is a must.
Another fascinating and must-see part of Miami Design District are the different pop ups that come and go. There is always a new mini exhibit to see and the fact that they are only there for a few days means that you can’t hesitate to go. While I was visiting, I happened to stumble upon a pop up featuring the works of Eric Doeringer. He is an artist that specializes in conceptual art recreations where he mimics the styles of his favorite artists in order to make paintings like them. It was fascinating seeing how detailed and how much effort was put in by Doeringer to recreate the style of these various artists without just straightforwardly copying them.
One critical downside of the Miami Design District is the lack of green spaces. The only green you will see here are the sporadic trees lining the sidewalks used as merely decoration rather than a natural occurring landscape. In its defense it is an extremely small and compact area littered with buildings so when it comes to space for parks there isn’t any. But that doesn’t excuse not having at least one small park.
On the plus side there are many nooks and crannies in between the buildings and streets that have seating and nice views if you are looking to relax in between your shopping spree. There is also a main plaza outside the St. Roch Market where you can eat your lunch at. But other than that, the Design District is not a place you go to, to be one with nature.
Transportation at the Miami Design District is near nonexistent, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The area is just that small to not need any. You are encouraged to walk around and see all the area has to offer which is nice as it eliminates a lot of traffic inside the district. It is truly one of the few walking areas in Miami and more places should follow suit.
To get there you really have only a few options. You can take the metro rail getting off at the Allapattah station, which is still about a mile away from the district making it doable but not ideal, especially in the typical Miami heat. It is a shame that there are no better public transportation methods to get to the Design District but that is an issue all of Miami’s districts face and not a Design District specific one. The other and most preferred option is to drive. This option is actually encouraged by the district, as part of the area’s atmosphere relies on its famous parking garages. These parking garages incorporate many contemporary artistic designs and can be viewed as just a practical art piece where you can park your car at.
When it comes to food, the Miami Design District has much to offer, but at a premium price. As it is located in a luxurious area, it only makes sense that the dining options follow suit. One place that stands out is the St. Roch Market. This place while nice in ambiance, is really just a glorified food court. There are many different and unique vendors there serving food such as Italian, Sushi, Pho, etc. But unless you are extremely hungry, I would not recommend eating here as it is just not worth the price. They also have a bar in the center that serves $15 cocktails, which were very good, but again not worth the price.
But if you are willing to walk five minutes to the outskirts of the district, there is an amazing local pizza place called Harry’s Pizza. It is cheap, fast, and extremely tasty. I highly advise you go here rather than anywhere else in the district to eat unless you are looking to fine dine and spend lots of money.
Also, throughout the area there are many small vendors and stores selling specialty and niche food that you can try if you get a little hungry walking around.
that be luxury apparel and accessories such as the world-renowned Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Cartier. Or luxury cars like new and hot Teslas. This is what the Design District is known for. With over 100 shops here in the district, there is nothing you can’t find if you are looking for the name brand stores.
The district also keeps to its roots a bit and has a decent amount of home and furniture stores. Stores such as 4141 Design, Citco, and Dupuis. But again, these are the best of the best stores and not for the typical first home buyers trying to furnish their homes.
As for other types of businesses, the district has a surprising amount of fitness and workout centers. With the Ahana Yoga Studio if you are trying to get relaxed before or after work, Aviva Pilates, and DBC Fitness. These fitness centers fit the environment the district portrays quite well as they do promote high end and healthy living lifestyles.
Overall, Miami Design District does what it sets out to do very well. It is a luxurious shopping center that mixes in modern art extremely well. It attracts people from all over to spend their money and time there buying the best of the best brands. Its art and unique style attract hundreds of photographers, models, and artists there a week seeking to use the district as their backdrop and muse or trying to make a name for themselves.
But that’s it. I believe the area is pretty but, in the end, extremely superficial. It is nice to visit once or twice but unless you are there to shop, you won’t get much out of going there frequently as there are better places to spend your weekend. The area, to be a true pedestrian center for locals, needs more cheaper food options, more parks, and just more things to do than visit the couple of museums they have and window shop at the luxury brand stores most people can’t afford.
In the end, I do recommended people go out to visit the Miami Design District as it is a beautiful sight to see. But the place has a lot to work on to be a true contender to areas such as Wynwood.
“About Miami’s Famed Design District.” About Miami’s Famed Design District, http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/neighborhoods/miami-design-district.
“Creating a Miami Design District: Brief History.” Miami Design District, http://www.miamidesigndistrict.eu/miami-tours/creating-a-miami-design-district-brief-history/.
“De La Cruz Collection.” De La Cruz Collection, http://www.delacruzcollection.org/.
“Eric Doeringer.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Doeringer.
“ICA Miami: Free Admission Every Day!” Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, icamiami.org/.
“Miami Design District Case Study – Case Studies.” RSM Design, rsmdesign.com/portfolio/miami-design-district-case-study/.
“Miami Design District Demographics.” Miami Design District Population & Demographics, Median Income – Point2 Homes, http://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/FL/Miami-Design-District-Demographics.html.
“Miami Design District.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_Design_District#cite_note-43.
“WELCOME TO THE.” Miami Design District, http://www.miamidesigndistrict.net/.