Even if you aren’t a fan of modern and contemporary art, you have to appreciate the impact of art and design on the South Florida economy. Miami’s Art Week, which includes Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami and Art Miami, has an economic impact that one source estimates could be $1 billion.
This month’s cover story pays homage to developer Craig Robins, who launched Design Miami. Robins’ Dacra Development dates to 1987 and has developed more than 2 million square feet of real estate projects, fueling the renaissance of South Beach and the Design District, where he is a major landlord.
Like one of our previous cover personalities, Phillip Frost, Robins’ interest in art goes back to his experience in college. While Frost studied in France, Robins studied in Spain.
Robins worked with Tony Goldman and Mark Soyka in the mid-1980s when the restoration of art deco hotels was just starting to take off. He also partnered with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell to help renovate numerous properties. Those who haven’t lived in South Florida for the last three decades might not realize that the art deco hotels used to be filled with retirees on fixed incomes.
One of my initial exposures to Robins’ work was Aqua, a new urban residential community that was created on Allison Island. Robins smartly enlisted famed urban planners Duany Plater-Zyberk and 10 architects, whose different designs give the project an organic look instead of the homogeneity found in many projects.
After Aqua and South Beach, Robins focused on the then-troubled Design District. The district had experienced an exodus of tenants in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of them fled Miami, which had a wave of crime and unrest, for the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach.
Robins launched Design Miami in 2005 to coincide with Art Basel. That gave a good reason for international collectors to cross over the causeway and visit the mainland. Robins is a noted art collector and helped found the Institute of Contemporary Art, whose new home was scheduled to open Dec. 1. He also is on the board of trustees of the Perez Art Museum Miami.
It’s thanks to visionaries like Robins that South Florida has become an international hot spot.