Exclusive interview with Wynwood developers Mana, Furst and Yormak reveals $10M donation
09.23.2016 | South Florida Business Journal

Exclusive interview with Wynwood developers Mana, Furst and Yormak reveals $10M donation

Already popular for its art, restaurants and stores, Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is poised to attract more residents and creative companies, according to three of the area’s leading developers.

The Business Journal hosted a panel discussion on booming Wynwood on Sept. 22 with Mana Wynwood founder Moishe Mana, Goldman Properties Managing Director Joseph Furst and East End Capital founder and Managing Principal Jonathan Yormak. All are working on major developments in the area.

Mana, who developed a massive art complex in New Jersey, plans to make art a key feature of Mana Wynwood, which was recently approved for 9.72 million square feet. To jump start this, Mana announced he will make a $10 million donation to Florida International University to supports its College of Architecture + the Arts’ partnership program with Bauhaus, a German art founded that was founded in 1919. Mana said that the Bauhaus education and art program will take place on his property.

The collaboration between FIU and Bauhaus will be part of Mana Wynwood’s 500,000 square feet of space dedicated to artists, including studios and galleries.

“It’s enough of a place where we can really create an impact,” Mana said. “This will really be the cultural hub of Miami. It is really like what we did in Jersey City.”

Mana said many New Yorkers come to Wynwood and say it’s going to be like New York’s Meatpacking District. As one of the original developers who boosted the profile of the Meatpacking District, Mana said he hopes Wynwood doesn’t follow that example because he wants it to remain affordable for local businesses and residents.

Yormak said he initially came from New York and compared Wynwood to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, but he later came to realize that was wrong. Wynwood has a distinctly Miami vibe and it belongs to the people of Miami, he said.

“Wynwood attracted my company because there was already a strong embedded creative class and that’s what differentiated it to me from other parts of Miami,” Yormak said. “The whole world revolves around content and people want to have unique experiences. And I think Wynwood offers that. It’s not just about the murals on the walls. It’s more about the people who we and others have seeded to bring people to the neighborhood and create great products.”

East End Capital transformed several old warehouses into the Wynwood Arcade, which has a roster of new retailers and restaurants such as the Salty Donut. Yormak’s company also plans to build Wynwood 25, a building with retail and residential space.

Yormak said he expects the 289 apartments to rent for $1,300 to $2,000, so they should be affordable for many local workers.

Having more residents in Wynwood will be a new thing. Furst said many of his tenants have stronger sales per square foot than tenants in downtown Miami, even though Wynwood has relatively few residents and downtown is packed with workers and residents. The success of Wynwood has been driven by atypical forces that draw people, local and tourists, to the neighborhood, Furst said.

Furst said the Wynwood Business Improvement District, of which he’s the chairman, will strive to keep unique local businesses in Wynwood and preserve the character of its building designs. Yormak said he could have leased Wynwood Arcade four times over with the number of tenants who wanted into the property. But they weren’t the right fit for the neighborhood and Yormak recognized that a big-name national retailer could hurt the value of his property and the area.

“If someone is self-serving as an owner, it immediately destroys the Wynwood brand,” said Yormak, who is on the BID board.

Goldman Properties is able to offer favorable rents to many tenants because it acquired its buildings years ago at lower prices, Furst said. It recently sold a property for $30.75 million to RedSky Capital and JZ Capital. Furst said the company would use the proceeds to fund construction of its next project, a 334-space parking garage with some commercial space.

While Goldman could pursue a more lucrative use for the property than parking, Furst said that is what the community needs. The new zoning rules in Wynwood allow developers to lessen parking requirements and even offer no parking spaces for some apartments.

Mana eventually plans to build apartments at Mana Wynwood with units as small as 400 square feet so they are affordable for recent college graduates, but he’s focused on the arts and business side first. He wants to bring a trade center to the property so international exporters can showcase their products.

“I am giving it all my resources and my energies to make it happen, but if it works, it will make Miami into a global trade city,” Mana said.

Mana has already created a tech incubator at Mana Wynwood and he’s invested in some of the companies. He regularly takes equity stakes in his tenants in exchange for favorable rents and helps their businesses, because that’s what makes an area truly prosper, Mana said.

Mana is also reaching out to some of the world’s largest tech companies about coming to Mana Wynwood.

Many people talk about the growth and transformation of Miami, but Mana said the city hasn’t changed enough. It’s still driven by tourism. That’s what he wants to change, starting with Mana Wynwood.

“Why is it not a global city?” Mana said. “It is the capital of South America. It’s the destination desired by many Americans, the Caribbeans, the Europeans, and yet, there’s nothing happening with major industries. There are only so many coffee shops and restaurants that you can fit in Wynwood. You need businesses.”

Even with the new zoning and surging prices, Furst said the changes in Wynwood over the next 10 years won’t be as dramatic as many people may expect. Most of the existing low-rise buildings will remain. Vacant land, which accounts for about 40 percent of the area, will be developed, he said.

“I think it’s still going to be a little bit gritty and imperfect and, frankly,” Furst said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep it that way”