New Cultural Arts Neighborhood in Miami Beach will bring artists back For many years, rising costs in housing have exiled artists and those working in the city’s museums, theaters and other arts venues from Miami Beach in search of affordable housing. Now, the city wants its artists back. And through designating a cultural arts neighborhood – CANDO Art Neighborhood -, renovating three run-down hotels and coming up with property-owner incentives, the city’s committee, composed by more than 30 artists, developers, hoteliers, property owners and representatives from arts venues and organizations in Miami Beach plan to receive them back. Last year during his State of the City Address, Mayor David Dermer talked the talk about forming a committee to guide the creation of the cultural arts neighborhood district overlay, CANDO. This year the committee walked the walk and not only formed the cultural arts neighborhood but tapped the Miami Beach Community Development Corporation to fund the purchase of The Barclay House at 1940 Park Ave., The Allen at 2001 Washington Ave. and the London House at 1965-1975 Washington Ave. to be converted to affordable-housing. “The city is taking it seriously,” explained Jeremy Chestler, executive director of ArtCenter/SouthFlorida, who also serves on the committee. “Not only by supporting the idea by pulling together such a diverse committee, but with its financial commitment.” While the funding source has been identified, there are the details to fight with. In addition to the renovation work on the hotels, which A.C. Weinstein, the mayor’s office senior adviser and liaison between the committee and the mayor’s office, says is too early to determine, the committee, with the help of the city finance, zoning and planning departments, still has to shape incentives to encourage property owners in the neighborhood to designate a portion of its space for live / work space for artists and come up with a formula for determining tenant eligibility. “We’re just trying to do the right thing here,” Weinstein said. “We’ve researched other cities to get an idea of what they did and what’s the best way for us to create a livable, affordable area with small galleries, maybe an art supply store and live and work spaces for artists, dancers, musicians and writers.” While other sectors of the community’s population face the same affordable-housing issues that the community development corporation has worked to address since it was founded in 1981, The new CANDO Arts Neighborhood represents the city’s commitment to the arts. Ask Nancy Liebman, former Miami Beach commissioner and chairperson for the committee and she’ll tell you that the city owes much of its success in becoming a world-class destination to the arts. “Let’s get over trying to gentrify the artists out,” she said. “It’s the arts and culture in Miami Beach that’s helped put the city on the map as a great destination.” Whether it’s Soho in New York 30 years ago, Lincoln Road 15 or so years ago, or even Wynwood in Miami over the past five years, the revitalization of a neighborhood can be brutal on the artist. In that vicious cycle artists breathe new life into left-for-dead spaces by turning them into studios and galleries because it’s what they can afford. Dealers and collectors then brave the perils of those run-down, sketchy neighborhoods where these galleries and studios are in search of new artworks, while in the process generating a buzz about the next big thing. In the midst of all the breathing, braving and buzz-generating, developers often spot an opportunity to match the soon-to-be prime property with prominent tenants. The result can turn out to be the unsanctioned, unsupervised revitalization of a neighborhood where a city might not have to spend dime one to jump-start it. But while the city, developers, dealers and collectors seem to get the most bang for their buck, it’s the artists who get the bum’s rush from the once affordable spaces they breathed life into in the first place. Sara Stites, an artist at ArtCenter/SouthFlorida who participated on the committee, said it’s encouraging to see the city address affordable housing for artists. “I was skeptical at first that this was just an endeavor to get things for the developers using artists as decoys,” Stites said. But I am very impressed by the people on the board who are working really hard to actually get things accomplished. I think it would be wonderful to keep artists living on the beach.” Liebman says it’s an unfortunate cycle and that something needs to be done. “The idea behind the initiative is to create affordable housing and arts-related businesses so that we can have a real arts – oriented neighborhood,” she added. Chestler said he sees the initiative not only as a means to bolster the arts community now, but in the future. “The artists are keenly of the cost of living and have to live far outside the area to be able to come here to work,” he said. “So this initiative compliments perfectly. It helps when artists know they can live in the community and increases our ability to be able to attract artists from outside of region.” In October, 2006 the city commission unanimously approved the district overlay and set up district’s boundary, 24th Street to the north, Lenox Avenue to the west Lincoln Lane to the south and ocean to the east. In March 2007, the mayor’s committee officially launched CANDO Arts Neighborhood.
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