Meet Alex Van Mecl, founder of Discover Opa-locka

đź“· Photo courtesy of Alex Van Mecl

Hi Alex! Let’s start with the basics: who are you? What do you do?

I’m a public and community relations pro, a citizen preservationist, and an eco warrior.

What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?


How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

The melting pot that Miami is offers me a chance to be inspired by and learn from my surroundings. People young and old, established or recently transplanted all have an interest in being in a place that has a unique, unmistakable spark to it. It’s this blend of backgrounds that makes me want to create something of permanence and purpose.

What’s your favorite Miami memory?

Living on South Beach during college (18th and James), writing my university essays on Lincoln Road, and getting involved in the local film community to start my career.

What’s a project you’re working on and how can our readers help you with it?

I’ve launched a digital archive and community hub for the City of Opa-locka, one of Miami-Dade’s oldest, most fascinating municipalities where I live and own a historic home.

Discover Opa-locka is the most complete, singular source for showcasing the history of Opa-locka, rooted in the ancient Tequesta tribe who inhabited the land known as Opatishawockalocka; the arts, as the city’s concept and design were informed by the iconic Arabian Nights novel, as well as silent films of the era; and the people, primarily the famed American aviator Glenn Curtiss and his chief architect Bernhardt Muller, both determined to create America’s most extraordinary place to live.

I invite readers to learn about this place and its people, and to visit the community, appreciating where we’re at today and where we’re about to be. We have inviting small businesses, unique architecture, and a story unlike any other in North America. Opa-locka is a gateway to legacy, and your journey to learn about this place will leave you feeling inspired.

What’s your favorite local social media account and why?

It’s hard to choose one, as I follow many related to history, but I’ve become very fond of @hialeahlove1925.

They do a great job showcasing the city’s people, businesses, and attractions, while also showcasing the fact that it’s one of Miami’s oldest incorporated cities dating back to 1925. I’m always learning something new, both from what we can enjoy today as well as what we can marvel at from the past.

What brings you most alive about the 305?

The environment around us. We have so many amazing landscapes to appreciate and protect, both built and natural. Renowned habitats, architectural wonders, and an abundance of events connected to them all!

If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?

The use of single use plastics in every business.

There’s too many alternatives out on the market, too many brilliant minds to develop them for us to still be so reliant on things like styrofoam containers and plastic water bottles. Our environment is too precious, and people should do better to make conscious decisions that reduce or eliminate this waste.

Also, it’s not good for our health! On top of that, our communities and roadways are littered with all of it, and we need to do a better job of enforcing this.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Byblos has become my new favorite dining spot, both for the service and the atmosphere. Their hummus royale dish is out of this world.

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.

In no order of importance: Oleta State Park for an overnight stay at their log cabins; a trip down to the Redlands for one of their many impressive nurseries; a walk around Vizcaya followed by a lunch in their cafe.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Get engaged with your cities. Learn about what’s happening, how you can be involved, and create something special for yourself and for others. Not often does a major metropolitan area give you the leeway to establish a brand within a brand. Do something to make your/our home a better place.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

In the near term, our first Opa-locka historic tour, which will take place on Saturday, May 20 at 10:00 a.m.

More broadly, the restoration of key landmarks in Opa-locka, my home!

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know, sponsored by Discover Opa-locka. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.