When you think of Miami, Florida what are the images that surface most rapidly? Is it the streamline moderne curves of the low-rise vacation sites that dot the shores of South Beach? Is the view of the skyline as your gaze drifts beyond the traffic curving along 95. Or is it the feeling of a city with contradicting motifs; a mishmash of art, culture and design? The colorful tropics and dense sea breeze of the natural land is starkly contrasted by all that is becoming of it. The native landscape is being stripped of its mangroves and sea grapes and replaced by hip shops and luxury hotels. The particular essence of Miami has developed a resilience to both natural and man-made trends alike. From hurricanes to Internationalism, Miami has endured many changes and has defended itself against the inevitable mix of differing cultures, lifestyles and social classes.
Miami has seen an exciting history of abundance. The first settlers were attracted to the climate and rich soil that provided fruitful harvests throughout all of the seasons. This notion of excess caught on in the business realm when the city boomed in the early twentieth century with the addition of numerous vacation attractions and leisure activities. Over time, foreign visitors and natives alike have built up Miami to eventually develop its own, unique voice while simultaneously inviting an eclectic array of global arts and influence. With the adoption of Art Basel, a Swiss trend, to the commissioning of international architects, fashion schools, and ballet groups to name a few examples, Miami has evolved into a destination hot-spot for a diverse assortment of arts and entertainment. Currently, Miami is working out its own version of internationalism, moving towards modernism and identity. It is our intent as a local architecture firm, to be contextually and socially aware of the essential qualities that have formed the character we understand Miami to be.
The Internal Development of Miami’s Neighborhoods
In terms of Miami’s neighborhoods, flare and cultural character are developed internally as every precinct defines itself against the next. Little Havanah and Little Haiti compete for tourist taste buds while Downtown Miami looks to the Design District for inspiration. Concurrently, there is a larger movement taking place at the scale of the city. Architects both near and far are seeking to redefine the look and feel of Miami’s skyline in new and novel ways. Since the early 1920s, many international designers have been commissioned to design innovative ideas as to which architectural qualities are fit for Miami’s cityscape. Herzog & de Meuron, an architecture firm based in Switzerland, designed the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) in Museum Park in 2013. Nearby, the concrete-exoskeleton tower by Iraqi female architect Zaha Hadid named One Thousand Museum Park is erected adjacent to 10 Museum Park by the local architect Chad Oppenheim. These projects stand as examples of what the International style becomes when fused with the native notions of building by local Miami code and conventions.
The Problem with Internationalism
Though this international aesthetic has increased property values, updated the skyline’s material palette, and recognized Miami as a global city, this all merely scratches the surface of the social problems of the city for the occupants at ground level. We are equipped with the engineering and aesthetic capabilities to construct the tallest and most appealing inhabitable sculptures, but does it give back to the public the way we need it to? Do these solutions answer issues of fair prices for people already living in Miami, or do they just add to the gentrification problem? Do these proposals support the infrastructure for a community that requires resources to sustain itself, grow and prosper? Do they alleviate issue of blight in the areas left to abandonment? Can we end hesitation as to where to spend the money that the city has set aside for this very reason?
CRA as a Solution
Fortunately, these questions have not been abandoned by political authorities. The legislature of the State of Florida has enacted the Community Redevelopment Act for the Omni district (Omni CRA) as a solution to these questions. This initiative was realized in 1969 to help revitalize and redevelop the Omni CRA district by helping residents and businesses succeed, and by helping to improve the neighborhood with new commercial and housing opportunities without displacing current residents or businesses. The organization is funded by the tax increment (TIF) of the properties within its boundaries. The funds are used for the redevelopment and revitalization of the area with a current focus on improving the quality of life for residents in the district and creating affordable housing and economic opportunities. The CRA values cultural institutions as an aid for improved quality of life and has subsequently helped fund institutions such as the Adrian Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the Perez Art Museum Miami; infrastructure projects such as the Port Tunnel, and Tri-Rail portion of MiamiCentral Station1.
2nd,3rd,4th and 5th LEVELS
“Omni”, Now Arts + Entertainment District
This mission statement aligns very much with the Omni, or Arts + Entertainment district as is evident in the areas past and present situation. From the 1920s to the 1950s, The Arts + Entertainment (A+E) district of Miami, formerly “Omni” was a high-end shopping area with many major department stores along Biscayne Boulevard. In 1977, the Omni International Mall opened replacing much of the street-side stores with a suburban-style shopping mall, taking many of the indoors and out of viewers sight. The mall closed in 1998, when many of the large department stores shut down. Part of the mall portion has since been converted to use for Miami International University School of Art & Design. In the 2000s, rapid construction of high-rise residential skyscrapers has revitalized parts of the neighborhood from urban blight. The area around the revamped Margaret Pace Park has seen large population growth from 2000 to 2010. The CRA envisions a connected and collaborative neighborhood where everyone can afford to live, work, and make an impact in improving the quality of their city.
Today, the Arts + Entertainment district has a large residential population, and with continued retail and residential construction in the neighborhood and its proximity to the Central Business District, it has grown into its own unique neighborhood in the city. The Omni neighborhood sits at a crossroads of Miami, sandwiched between Wynwood and Downtown. It has a central connection between arts, culture, history, business, media and entertainment. Additionally, the height and density allowed in this area will almost definitely deliver thousands of new units of development in towers, which shows that it has a unique opportunity to develop in ways that no other neighborhood in Miami will.
The Omni CRA purchases Omni’s Citizens Bank
The latest purchase by the Omni CRA is the 14,820 square foot Citizens Bank building originally designed by architect H. George Fink in 1925 and historically designated in 1988. The building is situated on the curve of 14th Street and Miami Avenue, and has been purchased by the city to renovate, restore and activate its character as an anchoring retail, dining or cultural venue, with offices above. The prominent Citizens Bank represents a fashionable architectural trend in 1920s South Florida of classically-inspired building designs. Constructed during the Land Boom years, this building is a reminder of a time when local architects were seeking to create a visual identity for a new retail district serving locals and visitors alike. With paired Corinthian columns and arched entrances, this Neoclassical building is sited on a major intersection of what promises to be a lively neighborhood center.
What we are proposing is the execution of the idea that this site will connect neighborhoods and promote a design philosophy that aligns with the vision of the Omni CRA. The proposed design will be a larger step than the smaller storefront renovations and restaurant build-outs that the CRA has recently endowed. This project will be an extreme impact for the area and prove to the city that affordable housing is indeed possible. Our design proposal is the result of a careful consideration for the historical and social contexts of the district to deliver a project that will provide for the community as well as reflect the history and culture of its journey. Paralleled with the intent of the CRA, our goal is to transform the city from the inside out. Starting with the occupants themselves, the design proposes an actual affordable housing solution to Miami’s notoriously blighted area. Within the current context of the surrounding views of Miami, the city does already have a mix of international-style office buildings seen from the neighboring site of downtown. This project seeks to open the envelope and propose a design that shifts from the typical tropical-themed, leisure buildings to include a dark-glass material that functions to keep the building energy efficient and lower internal temperatures.
IS DESIGNED BY WILLIAM H. ARTHUR IV, LEAH ZALDUMBIDE, ADRIANA CONTARINO, CRISTINA GOMEZ and YAILYN BARRERA, Copyright © 2019 WM. H. ARTHUR ARCHITECT, INC. (WHAA).
The Omni CRA’s Big Step Towards Accomplishing its Mission
The building activates the edge of which it sits, energizing the street side with a local cafe and inviting guests into a grand entry and loggia, with a large mixing space of social interaction. With a new material palette for the area, this project will be Miami’s version of the Hearst Tower, fit for the area. This lobby space will be a double height airy and welcoming area where public and private can learn with a Maker Incubator space and share through events and community gatherings. The new tower addition would amplify the existing Citizens Bank building and would increase the square footage to 153,000 and feature 24 floors. Paired with the current initiative of the Omni CRA to extend district sidewalks to 20’, this project will provide a public space that livens the existing city street into a safe, well lit area of art and inspiration. The building will also deal directly with the main problem at hand: affordable housing. The tower will have 4 floors of low-income housing, about 12 units per floor with each floor being about 5800 sq.ft. Of the floors above, some will function as whole offices with a flexible open plan to accommodate a number of different types of business models, bringing the idea of “we work” to the Omni district and demonstrating that this building can accommodate many different cultures and classes. The German company, StilWerk, works with historic architecture for adaptive reuse and is experienced and is interested in partnering to finance this project.
“We really reject the ideas of the development norm taking place; get agreements in with the city promising workforce housing, developer builds something different, city looks the other way.” -WHAA
This project is much more than a historic re-birth of a small bank. It is about the history of its exact location and a continuation of economic revitalization of an area that has been somewhat forgotten. That the architect who first designed it has the same principles set into place as the one who wishes to protect it. Both were creating a reaction to the current and future of the area, helping to define an architectural language which responds to the anthropocentric ideals of the context. Former architect H. George Fink was reacting to the Land Boom while present architect, William Hamilton Arthur sees a vision that encourages community, affordable housing and the execution of an idea by the Omni CRA joining different groups of people through art, coffee, food, entertainment, office and housing. The tower will initiate the momentum necessary to develop the Omni district into a thriving area drawing visitors with it’s own unique character. The project highlights the historic Citizen’s bank and marks the curved corner as an ode to the future of the Arts + Entertainment district. It ties together the material palette of the upwards view all while aligning its motives towards the progression of civil rights and a right to affordable housing, accessible living and an artful and cultural lifestyle of local art and inspiration that will permeate throughout Miami.
1367 N Miami Avenue
2920 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, Florida 33134
(305) 770-6100 or (305) 770-6070
Renderings, graphic materials, plans, specifications, are proposed only and based on conceptual development plans that are subject to architectural and other revisions at the sole discretion of the developer, builder, architect, or as may be required by law, and should not be relied upon as a guarantee or de facto representation.
27@ Lincoln designed by WHAA Inc. 2016.
Rendering by WHAA, Inc. via Curbed.com ©
WHAA is a Full-Service, Third-Generation Firm for Miami Architecture. With a heritage originating in Miami since 1949, WHAA was created by William Hamilton Arthur IV in 2015. WHAA works in Miami’s most diverse and Culturally- Sensitive neighborhoods. Our buildings are Efficient, Environmentally- Sensible and Historically- Minded.
Our experience is comprehensive— We Design, Procure and Manage all of our own Construction. Our clients have brought us into all sectors; Restaurant, Retail, Residential, Multi-family, Hospitality, Manufacturing and Aviation.
We are located at 2920 Ponce de Leon Blvd, downtown Coral Gables; the district George Merrick designed for Artists and Architects in 1924.
We have a strong commitment to the Environment— we consider the overall impact on both South Florida’s built and unbuilt Environments. Our traditions of passive energy design, open-air environments and atmospheric transparency came from our research, and were adopted from our roots with prominent Miami Modern (MiMo) architect, Igor B. Polevitzky, FAIA.
We represents an important change in the industry— Our Miami firm for Architecture alleviates the need to hire and coordinate additional consultants because we offer comprehensive project design, management and planning. We perform Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Structural design for most of our projects in-house, decreasing delivery and permitting times.
Our projects are effective— A report by Professional Bank, of Coral Gables found that new residential projects managed by us are constructed for about 25% less than the average firm in South Florida.