The history of Miami’s hottest ‘hood

WHAT IT IS: With its street art, award-winning restaurants, and hopping bars,Wynwood is unquestionably one of the most popular neighborhoods in Miami. It attracts waves of tourists and locals every year, but like so much in Miami, it wasn’t always that way. The latest immersive experience from Juggerknot Theatre Company is looking to showcase that history with “Wynwood Stories.”

The area has a much sleepier origin story that goes back to the early 20th century when two developers, Josiah Chaille and Hugh Anderson, bought and sold land in what they eventually called “Wyndwood.” After the City of Miami built a park called Wynwood Park in the neighborhood, the entire area adopted that name and then eventually dropped the Park.

AFTER THE EARLY DAYS: In the decades that followed, the neighborhood eventually splintered into three areas, according to Miami historian Paul George. It was divided between a largely Puerto Rican community north of 29th Street, unofficially known as “Little San Juan,” the Garment District along Northwest Fifth Avenue which featured various clothing and fashion stores owned by South Korean immigrants, and the well-known arts district that runs primarily along Northwest Second Avenue and east to North Miami Avenue.

George said that in the 1980s and ‘90s, the neighborhood just didn’t garner the same attention as areas like South Beach and Downtown Miami.

“It had some substantial businesses along Fifth Avenue and Second Avenue but people didn’t give [the area] the time of day,” he said.

THE ARTS DISTRICT: That changed in the 2000s when developer Tony Goldman and his family began buying property in the area and began to envision a destination that would start with artists working in warehouses and then eventually attract business.

Goldman’s plan was a rousing success as Wynwood is packed to the brim with new development, foot traffic, and plenty to do. “How Tony Goldman envisioned that is beyond me,” said George.

But the continued success has also meant that artists and longtime businesses have had to leave the neighborhood because of rising rents and operating costs. Even the Wynwood Yard, host to the Wynwood Stories, will be closing next month.

“The business development seems endless and prices keep skyrocketing,” George said. “It’s the two-edged sword of gentrification.”

MOST SURPRISING FACT: The neighborhood was home to several processing factories and facilities including an orange juice bottling facility, and both a Coca-Cola and Royal Crown Cola Company bottling plants. The American Bakeries Company also had a plant in Wynwood. Both the Royal Crown Cola facility and American Bakeries plant have taken on new lives through the RC Cola Plant, which is used as an events space, and as the Bakehouse Art Complex.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT: As Miami continues to grow up as a city, and once-forgotten neighborhoods attract development, historians and long-time locals are emphasizing the importance of preserving the city’s unique history to share with future generations.

HOW TO LEARN MORE: Hit up “Wynwood Stories.” Tickets are available now and the show runs April 16 through May 4 (each ticket includes two cocktails). You’ll get to choose which series of stories to experience, either route 2 or route 32. Wynwood Yard closes May 5.

By The New Tropic Creative Studio
The WhereBy.Us Creative Studio helps clients big and small engage locals, through campaigns that use creative marketing, storytelling, events, and activations to build community, conversation, and impact.