Creativity and style are as important to real estate development and gallery curating as they are to fashion and architecture, as Jessica Goldman has proved with her pioneering role in the transformation of Wynwood into Miami’s premier arts district.
ARQ: Wynwood has become a style hub within Miami, almost more so than South Beach; more on trend and forward-looking, peppered with galleries and artistic spaces, with a very distinct style. How do you foster a neighborhood with Wynwood’s style?
Jessica: When we first went into Wynwood, we wanted to create an environment that would be the hub for the creative class, and if you utilize creativity in your projects, creative people want to be there. As an example, you have the Wynwood building. It was a 40,000-square-foot box, nothing substantial, nothing special about its architecture, so what do you do? We painted this outrageous black-and-white stripe around the entire building that made such a statement. I really believe that creative people want to be together. It’s the tenants that we go after, the people that we want to be in the neighborhood, and it’s all about a mix. It’s about having great art galleries, retailers and businesses, whether it’s architectural firms or marketing firms or printing companies or clothing companies. Whatever it is, it’s all about a mix, and that way it gives people a reason to come there.
I think that art was the foundation of what we based the neighborhood on, and so when we go into neighborhoods, it’s about finding the essence of the neighborhood. Street art was a very big part of this neighborhood, and so what we did is we started to curate it and we started to bring the best of the best and integrate it into what was already there. I think being around art and its color and texture is very inspiring, and so in creating something like the Wynwood Walls, we wanted to create a town center and a place for people to come and feel inspired, a place for people to think and dream and be around things that they weren’t normally accustomed to being around. I find it to be amazing how people have really taken the whole genre of street art and integrated it into their fashion or their designs or their postings on Facebook, and so that’s very, very exciting.
ARQ: You’ve really succeeded. As a matter of fact, when we were talking about five must-see places in Miami that you didn’t have to pay to go to, we had Wynwood Walls. You really also created a destination, which I think in a tourist town is a critical thing to do for your survival.
Jessica: Sure. And I also think that every neighborhood is different, and creating something like the Wynwood Walls works where it is because it feels like it belongs there. It might not work somewhere else. It might not work in Delray Beach or it might not work in Chicago. Every neighborhood has something special and it’s a function of digging into the essence of what that neighborhood is and looking at the history, and also seeing what in a community is missing.
And so Miami had an amazing array of different things, but there was no cultural hub. It was too spread out. We have extraordinary culture and great beaches and amazing restaurants, but there was something missing as a pedestrian-driven cultural environment, and that’s what we really wanted to create. And I think people are responding beautifully to the whole experience of having the Wynwood Walls as the flagship of the neighborhood, that it is free to the public, that you can be 5 years old or 85 years old and you’ll still go there and be able to find something that really excites and inspires you.
ARQ: Do you think that your personal style relates to the aesthetic that you see in Wynwood, and how does one influence the other?
Jessica: Everybody has their style. I was born and raised in New York City, and so I’d like to think that I’ve got that New York City edgy, funky style, but still sophisticated and classy. My dad would always say, “Give one pop of wow, something unexpected.” I have the distinct privilege of being the one to choose the artists that paint on our buildings and that we include in the Wynwood Walls, and art is a very personal thing. It has to talk to you. You have to feel some kind of emotion. I like things that make you feel positive versus making you feel negative. I think that’s what you’ll see in my choices, you know, things that are whimsical, things that are really vibrant in color, things that make you think. We want to create a neighborhood that is really almost like this incredible garden of artistic expression.
ARQ: You live between New York and Miami, correct?
Jessica: Miami is my home, New York is where I grew up, but I go between both. I was 7 years old when we first went into SoHo.
ARQ: So you’ve been witness to these incredible transformations in neighborhoods, and you’ve been able to see day by day that it’s a slow-moving process. How do you maintain faith in your vision?
Jessica: It’s a marathon mindset, you know, it’s not a sprint. It’s a lot of hard work. It does not happen overnight. People think that, wow, Wynwood is just taking off, but we’ve been in Wynwood for seven years. It’s having a vision and never faltering from that vision and having a lot of confidence and belief in your own abilities. If you have that passion and confidence and belief in yourself, then you can really do anything and succeed at anything.
ARQ: The future of Wynwood is a marathon, so the first stage has been establishing, as you said, a place for the creative class.
Jessica: Also, at the time there was a very serious recession. So it’s also buying and having the ability to hold on for an extended period of time. It’s being creative in how you use your spaces and how you generate income. As for the future of Wynwood, it is still in its infancy stage. It’s still a baby; it still has a ways to go. We’re starting to walk, but we don’t run until we’re really solid with our walking, and I think that you’re going to see a lot of really exciting new tenants in the neighborhood, people that want to be pioneers. It is a pioneer mindset because there’s not huge amounts of people on the streets 24-7, but there will be a point when there will be. And I think for people that have the foresight to see that, they want to get in when they can, because in a year or two from now, you won’t be able to sign a lease in Wynwood because there won’t be any spaces left. So I think there are some really strong and exciting business owners that want to be in that neighborhood and we’re signing amazing leases.