Craig Robins: Art Basel in Miami Design District will be biggest ever as next phase of development opens
Three years after the first major piece of Dacra’s redevelopment of the Miami Design District opened, the high-end district is about to fire on all cylinders with the debut of several major buildings in time for Art Basel.

“The Design District is actually now really, for the first time, opening in it’s full offering,” Dacra founder and CEO Craig Robins said. “Half of it has been open for the past couple years. The second half is opening now.”

Retail sales in Dacra properties have increased 40 percent over the past six months as more people have visited the district, Robins said. There are a few restaurants open now, but the biggest change will come as 10 restaurants open, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, he said.

Soon people who visit the Design District can spend more time there eating and appreciating art, even if they can’t drop five figures on a handbag.

Robins said the Design District will have its largest-ever crowd for Art Basel this year, given the number of events planned and new buildings open.

“We’ve got real momentum,” Robins said. “It will all come together now."

Paradise Plaza, the northern anchor of the Design District, will open in late November. This open-air plaza is on the north side of Paseo Ponti, an art-lined walkway through the heart of the district that ends at Palm Court, which opened in late 2014. The stores and restaurants in Paradise Plaza will be undergoing interior buildout for several months, but some will be open by December.

Goop GIFT, a store curated by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, is already open in Paradise Plaza.

What’s unique about Paradise Plaza is that multiple architects worked on the buildings and their facades. It’ll be more restaurant focused than Palm Court, as Paradise Plaza will have outdoor café seating on both the ground floor and second level.

French chef Joël Robuchon has four restaurants coming to Paradise Plaza, with the first openings in January. L’Atelier will offer fine dining, Le Sushi will be a Japanese restaurant, Le Bar will be a bar/lounge, and Le Boutique will be a café and bakery.

Palm Court will also have St. Roch Market open by the end of this year. In Paradise Plaza, Chef Brad Kilgore restaurants Ember and Kaido will open in mid-2018.

Blue Bottle Coffee and Roberta’s pizza recently opened in the Design District. The pizza store is in Jungle Plaza, an expansive open space with jungle-themed seating and a weekly market. Several pop-up stores will be in Jungle Plaza during Art Basel.

Other new stores that will open in the Design District in the coming months include Gucci, Aesop, Creed, Empresa, Dolce & Gabbana, Celine, Joseph, Eres and Ralph & Russo. In some cases, they are permanent flagship stores that will replace temporary stores.

The seven-story Museum Garage, with space for 800 cars, should open in early 2018. The structure of the garage is mostly completed, but it will take time to install major exterior art pieces by five artists, including a display of vehicles fastened to the building appearing to defy gravity.


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For Art Basel, there will be multiple exhibits in public spaces throughout the Design District. COS X Studio will host a celebration in the COS store at 3915 N.E. First Ave. to celebrate its new exhibit with floating globes in Miami Beach. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have metallic shade sculptures and fountains being installed along Paseo Ponti. At Paradise Plaza, Urs Fischer will have a sculpture that resembles a skeleton at a bus stop.

Dacra will also wrap the district’s trees in silver tinsel to resemble frost or, as Charlap Hyman & Herrero call it, “White Rain.” Ghana artist Ibrahim Mahama is creating an exhibit made up of shoemaker boxes stacked together at 3802 N.E. First St.