From wholesale to wholesome: Wynwood’s development boom

The western edge of Wynwood, specifically Northwest Fifth Avenue, is changing as wholesale stores are being replaced by new mixed-use developments.

The Wynwood Business Improvement District was founded in 2013. Alexander Sanchez said the board works with the city of Miami’s Planning and Zoning Department, recommends zoning regulations, reviews new business projects, and keeps the neighborhood safe and clean, all with the aim to keep Wynwood’s identity intact.

“Wynwood has this idea of being gritty, industrial and at the same time very colorful because there’re murals everywhere,” he said.

That same year, city and BID officials created a plan for the Wynwood area to help transition it from an industrial to a mixed-use area that includes retail, residential and industrial sites, according to the Planning and Zoning Department’s website.

“A lot of warehouses have been sold so they can become a part of an assemblage which will probably be a future development site,” said Sanchez. “They are largely being replaced with adaptive reuse projects. They take these old warehouses and they gut them out. They add air conditioning and plumbing and make it into a restaurant.”

Yves-Rashad Deus, a real estate broker at Nahomi Group, said things are shifting quickly.

“With these new buildings moving in, they’re basically raising the property taxes and the businesses who are currently there can’t afford the prices right now, so they’re kind of being forced to move out,” said Deus.

According to Sanchez, Wynwood used to be primarily made up of wholesale shops and warehouses. After the economic recession in the 1980s, manufacturing slowed. In the early 2010s property owners began reinvesting in the area, utilizing the vacant spaces for new projects.

And alongside the property developers, the blank canvas of the warehouses was perfect for graffiti artists to practice their skills.

“The graffiti artists brought in the art aspect and that in turn drew galleries to the area,” he said.

The art galleries then spread throughout Wynwood, creating the Wynwood-feel Miamians and tourists know and love.

New Connection Inc., located on 2550 NW 5th Ave., is a store that sells mostly wholesale. The owners plan to stay in business for the next five to 10 years.

“People who don’t own the buildings cannot afford the new rent anymore,” said manager Helen Lee. “They’re all moving.”

She noticed there have been many parking garages built over the years. Lee has worked on Fifth Avenue for almost thirty years. 

“We used to open Saturdays for the retail customers, but after COVID we don’t do that anymore,” said Lee.

They are open Sunday to Thursday for businesses who are purchasing wholesale and on Friday for retail shoppers.

Lee said that these days, their customers prefer to purchase their merchandise online instead of coming into the store.

Alejandra Marin, an associate in the store, receives the merchandise, takes photos and sends the photos to the customers. 

“In two or three years– in my imagination– Wynwood will be more like the Design District or something like that,” said Marin.

With an influx of new businesses and stores arriving to the neighborhood, Marin’s prediction is probably not too far off.

“Wynwood is definitely a place of diversity. I think there’s always going to be manufacturing here to some degree,” said Sanchez. “The big thing here right now is office, residential, food-and-beverage, retail– things like that, not so much a manufacturing hub. That’s Wynwood from a past life.”