At a time when investors are paying record prices for land in Wynwood, real estate broker and developer David Lombardi is choosing not to build on his Wynwood properties.
Lombardi is among the few investors who bought into Wynwood just before the neighborhood began its ascent to Miami's colorful capital of hipsterdom. His legacy in Wynwood includes the Wynwood Lofts, O Cinema and fine art storage facility Museo Vault.
Despite the rapid redevelopment of the neighborhood, Lombardi says it's time to wait out the "rush to develop."
In the video above, he explains why, and also responds to criticism of his role in Wynwood's gentrification, as portrayed in the documentary "Right to Wynwood." (You can watch that film at the end of this post.)
You recently told Miami Today that now is a good time not to develop. What is your reasoning behind this?
Right now there’s a huge rush to develop. There’s something like a hundred residential towers in various stages of development in [the] downtown corridor, so when that’s going on, it’s very hard for someone doing smaller projects in Wynwood to get the attention of all of the trades, the architects... the materials have gone up 50-60 percent, so the cost of construction has gone up 50-60 percent in the last year.
Some have called Wynwood the Williamsburg of Miami, referencing the notoriously gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood. As a Brooklynite, what do you make of that comparison?
I wish we were as evolved as Williamsburg. That’s my hope that we will get there. The thing that’s different from Williamsburg here today in Wynwood is we don’t have four stories of residential above all of the retail. And I think that’s what we need. We need a lot more residential here to make Wynwood alive 24 hours a day the way Williamsburg is.
In the film “Right to Wynwood” the filmmakers cast a critical light on the gentrification of the neighborhood and the negative impact it may have on longtime residents. How does this type of criticism affect the way you do business?
I really can’t let it affect the way I do business. I have big investments in this neighborhood, I took big risks here, and ultimately I do that for return on my investment -- a pay off. So, I think that film was rather unfair in the way it shed, or cast a light on my and other developers’ work in the neighborhood.
How does that type of criticism affect the way you see your role in the community?
I really try not to let the criticism affect me. The people who have been longterm residents here who chose to move on, whether it was because they got a large amount of money for their longtime family house, that’s their decision to do so. If others got forced out of rentals because the developer bought it and tore down the building, when he buys the building he can do as he wishes. So, you know, I think it’s just the course of doing business, there’s nothing new to it. ...
This has become my life’s work, this neighborhood of Wynwood, so you know, when a film like the one you mentioned came out, it was like a personal attack to me. It’s insulting.
You can watch "Right to Wynwood" below: