A handful of food halls — all located within a stone’s throw of Biscayne Boulevard in Miami proper — is in the works, though it’ll be at least a year before any open.
Conway Commercial Real Estate and Urban Atlantic Group are planning a 10,000-square-foot hall called The Citadel on Little Haiti’s northern boundary on NE Second Avenue. The space, slated to open sometime next year, will host about 20 vendors ringing communal seating. In the offing will be pizza, steak, sushi, Spanish tapas, and tacos.
“We’ll have a butcher, bakery, coffee, and a wine bar,” said Conway principal Thomas Conway. “We’re hoping to have a nice blend of local and national operators, but national operators who understand how neighborhoods develop through food.”
The concept is partly inspired by Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel, which has temporarily popped up in Bayfront Park, and Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, which is housed in a historic, unused Sears, Roebuck & Co. building.
At the same time, All Aboard Florida, the Flagler East Coast Industries subsidiary building a high-speed rail line between Miami and Orlando, is courting a handful of local restaurants and purveyors. So far they’ve spoken with Blue Collar’s Danny Serfer, Zak the Baker’s Zak Stern, Azucar Ice Cream Company,Panther Coffee, Blackbrick’s Richard Hales, and even Jackson Soul Food.
Whispers about Mario Batali’s sprawling Italian market Eataly coming to town have been floating around unconfirmed for the past couple of years. Meanwhile there are rumors that condo developer NR Investments, the company behind the Miami Arts & Entertainment District near the Adrienne Arsht Center, is also exploring the possibility, though a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment.
A bit north, New York City-based East End Capital is developing the Wynwood Arcade, a 20,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor venue that has already secured the wildly popular Salty Donut as its first food tenant. There is also space for two restaurants. Yet this one seems to be more of a lifestyle project, rolling together food, fashion, shopping, and possibly a spinning studio. “We’re being very selective on the quality and type of tenants; we want to create a unique composition that will complement Wynwood,” said Metro 1 Executive Vice President Tony Arellano, who is leasing the space. Still, the project has great potential to offer a variety of dining options. The space can be broken down into slots as small as 700 square feet. At present it’s about 50 percent leased.
Food halls are nothing new, but they’ve enjoyed a renaissance in recent years and are cropping up in many cities outside of New York, San Francisco, et al. It’s exciting to see Miami not far behind, as the city for some reason has been with the doughnut trend that’s gripped the country for years.
One of these halls should make an effort to bring in at least a couple of the small Caribbean, Central, and South American food operations that are strewn across the county.
For months, the internet has been freaking out about Anthony Bourdain’s sprawling food hall on Manhattan’s Pier 57, slated to host more than 100 vendors from almost every far-flung dot on the globe.
“Think of an Asian night market,” Bourdain told the New York Times in a 2015 interview.
You don’t need to be the face of a popular travel show to pull off such a feat in Miami. Put a dot in the center of the county. Drive 30 minutes in any direction. You’ll find a mind-boggling array of culinary diversity. That’s what an ideal Miami food hall should include alongside other quality purveyors.
Yet many of these forthcoming projects are also dealing with the economic reality of undertaking construction in pricey markets.
“We’re not going to exclude any cultural influences but because we are investing heavily into pretty much everything that has to do with the kitchen… this food hall is for those who we consider to be the best in their particular class,” said Conway.
Landlords, who have to service massive debt payments each month, are also reticent to take on mom-and-pop operations that don’t appear as pristine on paper.
The ideal food hall would include opportunities akin to what Della Heiman is trying to do at the Wynwood Yard. The open-air space came alive in November with a central bar surrounded by a number of food trucks includingMyumi and Heiman’s own concept, Della Test Kitchen, which offers vegan bowls in a Chipotle-like setup that allows you to customize your choice of a base, protein, and vegetable. Think quinoa with tofu and crispy broccoli.
She realized the need for a kind of culinary incubator after trying to turn a business plan into reality. “I spent about seven months looking for the right space and I couldn’t find a single lease that made economic sense,” she said.
The Wynwood Yard will remain in its current space for at least another year. After that, Heiman said she’d look to bring it indoors.
Yet the best move would be for her vision and programs to be rolled into one of the rising, well-funded food halls. A combination of some quality, high-profile purveyors hawking their wares alongside stands featuring a la minute pupusas, Jamaican patties, and griot and pikliz is what could make a Miami food hall the envy of the world.