Hillary Clinton’s first Miami campaign office is in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. It’s a choice that says something about what her campaign is trying to do and about what the neighborhood looks like today.
The converted warehouse that will be the new office is around the corner from the neighborhood's Northwest 2nd Avenue hub. When I got there an hour before speakers took to the stage to mark the opening it was already booming with the sounds of the preparations of volunteers and staffers.
Walking to a back room for an interview with Robby Mook, the campaign’s national director, someone was painting a sign on the wall using a projector as a guide. Another hand-drawn one on the wall reads “La Hillary está contigo.”
Mook said that Wynwood was a good choice for the campaign office because it’s a diverse neighborhood, and it offers a lot of space in a central location. He said the campaign is emphasizing its broad coalition.
“We’re very proud to be hiring a lot of Floridians onto the staff at this time,” Mook said. “Forty percent of our staff speaks Spanish. Over fifty percent of our staff are people of color.”
That isn't remarkable in Miami-Dade County where only 15% of the population is non-Hispanic white, but statewide, about 55% of state residents are non-Hispanic white, according to census data.
Wynwood’s representation of South Florida diversity was widely accepted at the event, but the meaning of the neighborhood’s transition is not a settled matter. Rents have skyrocketed there along with the openings of galleries and restaurants, and that has changed the character of the historically Puerto Rican neighborhood.
Robert Ascencio, a Puerto Rican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives, remembers patrolling the neighborhood as a police captain in the 90s. He said he’s excited to see the new businesses opening up in Wynwood.
“I really like what’s happened,” Ascencio said. “I wish more of the Puerto Ricans had stayed, but I think we still have a good concentration of Puerto Ricans."
Henry Brown, 59, a community organizer in nearby Overtown, said he thought the neighborhood was a good choice for a campaign headquarters but he’s worried about the way developers advocate for the image of Wynwood as a new, cool place at the expense of Overtown.
He wore a shirt to the event that read “Black Work Matters,” on the front and “#HireOvertown” on the back. He advocates for developers to hire local residents when they do new construction projects.
Andrew Dier, a travel writer who is working on a guide book on Colombia, moved to Wynwood four months ago. He said that the decision on the office looked like an appeal to young people.
“Actually, I think it’s more like Sanders territory, but I think she needs young people,” he said. “I think she needs that Obama coalition.”
Former Heat star James Jones, who grew up in Miami Gardens, spoke at the event too. Miami Beach mayor Phillip Levine introduced him.
"I've watched the city grow and just like the city has grown the country has grown," Jones told me before taking photos with some fans. "Miami is a very diverse place."
"I just wanted to make sure I was visible and I was heard," he said.
Campaign officials advertised that the building would be open for visitors during the Wynwood Art Walk that night. That sets the office up alongside the art galleries that open their doors for Art Walk.
The campaign expects to open more offices soon. The statewide headquarters is in Tampa.