During the last two decades, Miami has evolved into one of the world’s most innovative and creative capitals, bridging the cultural influences of Europe and the Americas.
For meeting planners, that global dynamism brings a fresh energy to business events hosted in the city. Miami embraces a singular spirit for connecting people and ideas from far and wide, with a deep respect for tradition, modernity, collaboration and experimentation.
In the late 1990s, Wynwood was a barren landscape of old abandoned textile warehouses. Tony Goldman, who stewarded the growth of South Beach across Biscayne Bay years before, commissioned graffiti artists to paint big brazen murals on all of the buildings. They were then converted one by one into edgy art galleries, providing a catalyst for the launch of Art Basel Miami in 2002, which brought many of the world’s top contemporary art dealers and designers to the neighborhood.
Likewise in the late 90s, developer Craig Robbins began luring small galleries, shops and bistros to the Design District, transforming the struggling neighborhood. Today, the outdoor urban village is punctuated with almost every global luxury brand from Armani to Tiffany, mixed with world-class cultural facilities, including the Haitian Heritage Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, the De La Cruz Collection and Rubell Family Collection, and art installations such as Zaha Hadid’s “Elastika.”
Meeting planners can easily integrate all of that buzzy culture and creativity into their events in Miami. For instance, the outdoor Wynwood Walls venue is available for private gatherings, anchoring what’s considered the world’s largest outdoor street art studio for emerging and established graffiti artists.
Likewise, the new St. Roch Market Miami opened in the Miami Design District this year, expanding on the popular St. Roch flagship in New Orleans. The new 10,000-square-foot space is home to 12 culinary concepts including CooP, where brothers Robert, Ruben and Giancarlo Rodriguez serve the area’s best fried chicken, which they perfected at their successful pop-up restaurant, Barn Bites.
St. Roch Miami owners Will Donaldson and Barre Tanguis had no previous experience in restaurants. Instead, they designed the $3.7 million market as an incubator for young chefs to dream up their own kitchens. “We build it, and the chefs come,” Donaldson told the Miami New Times when St. Roch opened in March. “They get to test their concept with minimal risk, and we get to create a space for a community with really interesting food and drinks.”
Market-style dining is a big trend in Miami. That’s compelling for groups of meeting attendees who appreciate different dining options in one place so everyone can find what they want and still be together. The modern market experience also aligns with business themes relating to community and collaboration, updated for today’s fast-paced Instagram foodie generation.
St. Roch is the fourth food hall to open in Miami in the last 12 months, along with La Centrale and Casa Tua Cucina in Brickell City Centre located downtown, and the 1-800-Lucky Asian emporium in Wynwood. And there’s more. The Citadel in Little River and Time Out Market in South Beach are two more food halls presently in development. All of them are, or will be, bookable for private events.
The Art of Place and Experience Design
Greater Miami has a long legacy of creative placemaking, designed to bring people from all walks of life together. In South Beach, which constitutes the lower half of Miami Beach, the world’s largest collection of Art Deco buildings is bisected by Ocean Drive and Lincoln Avenue — easily two of America’s most unique and dynamic public boulevards.
In the Miami Design District, the Palm Court development represents the evolution of shopping malls toward “high street retail,” marrying luxury stores with innovative urban design, high-end restaurants, and ambitious art and cultural experiences. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic Fly’s Eye Dome installation anchors Palm Court, which is available for private group rental.
Nearby, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA Miami) is aggressively involved with the local community. The facility hosts regular group tours and public events examining contemporary culture, such as the merging of our physical and digital lives amid the growth of smart cities. Also, a series of ICA Narratives aims to develop critical thinking skills and personal transformation by giving participants the tools to express their own narratives about the creative process more effectively.
Meeting planners can organize similar knowledge-sharing events for private groups.
ICA Miami was designed “to create a vital and enduring cultural resource for our community that fosters appreciation for the work of the most innovative artists of our time,” says Irma Braman, co-chair of ICA Miami’s Board of Trustees. Co-Chair Ray Ellen Yarkin adds that the museum’s primary mission is to provide “an important hub for cultural dialogue and exchange within our community.”
Back in South Beach, just a couple blocks from the ocean, the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) unveiled a new $620 million renovation and expansion this fall, highlighted by 500 new aluminum and glass fins undulating along the facade, reminiscent of an ocean wave rolling onto the beach.
The local and highly-regarded Arquitectonica design firm established the fluid architecture theme first in the U.S., which has since scaled globally. The new LEED certified facility includes 500,000 square feet of renovated exhibit space, new grand ballrooms, and new versatile indoor/outdoor public spaces.
The MBCC is also just a few minutes walk from Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road, creating one of the most glamorous convention center districts anywhere in the world.
“World-class communities have world-class meetings facilities,” says Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. “So, we’re very competitive now with all of the new technology and design upgrades. There’s a lot of interest among our meeting attendees in coming to a convention center that feels well connected to the local community and our spectacular environment.”
It’s impossible to meet in Miami and Miami Beach without feeling the creative, multicultural vibe in the above neighborhoods. These are places that connect people, ideas and aspirations. They inspire new perspectives among visitors, especially about how communities can come together easily around innovative food, art, culture and design.
The best part is that anyone can access it. Miami, after all, has always been the “Gateway to the Americas” based on the willingness here to embrace diverse ways of thinking to create something new and inventive. “Miami is a vibrant, dynamic and truly cosmopolitan destination that draws travelers from all over the world,” says Danny Hughes, Executive Vice President and President, Americas for Hilton Hotels.