Washington Avenue is on the edge, physically and aspirationally. The once vibrant street, which borders Miami Beach’s South Beach Entertainment District, experienced a severe downturn that it is finally starting to come out of. Now, after a master planning process, development incentives, and the establishment of a Business Improvement District (BID), the street is poised for a comeback. Depending on who you talk to, it’s still on the edge between where it was and where it wants to go.
Troy Wright is the Executive Director of the two-year-old Washington Avenue BID which covers Washington Avenue from 5th to 17th Streets. Under a BID, property owners agree to tax themselves more to provide funding for marketing, promotion, and other initiatives to improve the area. The BID followed approval of the Washington Avenue Overlay in 2016 which increased allowable height to 75 feet for properties with more than 200 feet of frontage on Washington Avenue, reduced minimum hotel room sizes for new hotels and conversions, allowed for co-living or micro residential units, and eliminated parking requirements for hotels.
Since then, the Kimpton Anglers Hotel
opened a new addition, a new Moxy Hotel
has opened and the Good Time Hotel
will open soon. Approved or under construction, a new hotel at 1685 Washington Avenue
and Urbin Retreat
in the 1200 block.
One of Washington Avenue’s appeals is that it is close to the sand and the action of South Beach but that is also one of its downsides given the current issues in the Entertainment District. The street sits just outside the Entertainment District which runs from 5th to 16th Streets on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue.
From a perception standpoint, Wright said, “I think it’s impacting all of us because there doesn’t seem to be a separation being made between, for example Ocean Drive and Washington Avenue and there’s a big difference. We have museums, we have clubs, we have retail, we have historical buildings. We have a lot more to offer.”
Washington Avenue isn’t immune, however, from the chaos and criminal behavior. On February 1, a triple shooting took place
in front of The Licking Restaurant at 754 Washington Avenue. “The shooting was horrifying,” Wright said. “I couldn’t sleep for a couple of days. I was sick to my stomach.”
Despite the Spring Break issues, he said Washington Avenue is an example of how to turn an avenue around “and make it attractive again.”
In addition to the Moxy and Good Time Hotels, Wright said, “We have a lot of businesses that are moving onto Washington Avenue,” highlighting the reopening of Jazid, with “an entirely different look. It’s French burlesque at its best, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen here not just in Miami Beach but South Florida. The investment there is incredible.”
Wright said the new bicycle lanes have helped, too. They “opened up the opportunity for locals to take advantage of Washington Avenue without having to park.”
The “parklets” which allowed restaurants to extend sidewalk cafés into the streets to help them during COVID restrictions on indoor dining “saved Washington Avenue.” Businesses that have taken advantage of the opportunity are “doing over 30% better” than those who do not have the extra outdoor seating, he said.
“We may have lost one, maybe two” businesses during COVID, he said, but that’s a result of the willingness of landlords to work with tenants to keep them. “I know property owners get a bad name a lot of times but most of the property owners were willing to work with the businesses.”Read More