In part one of a two-part interview with Dezeen, Design District doyen Craig Robins talks about his early days in adaptive reuse in South Beach, buying up Ocean Drive hotels with Island Records' founder Chris Blackwell. Unlike many Miamians who thought South Beach was lost to ancient retirees and crack heads, Robins, a native son who was a law student at the time, saw the area's huge collection of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings as an "incredible legacy that Miami could offer to the world." This historic district, the largest collection of 1930s and 40s Art Deco buildings of any place on the planet, was just waiting to happen. Robins was then living right in the middle of it, at the Webster Hotel.
After reopening the Victor, Tides, Cavalier, Cardozo and The Carlysle hotels, other prominent locals like Gloria and Emilio Estefan jumped into the game. "The neighborhood had this collaborative, competitive spirit where everyone was expressing themselves in their own way. Kind of the opposite of what Disney World does," says Robins. "The whole idea of Disney World is to give you a fantasy with something that's fake." Whereas, we gather, South Beach is different because its wedding-cake architectural confections and bizarre characters are all very real.
Moving on, in the second part of the interview, Robins says bringing sexy (furniture) back to the Design District, which he started working on after his South Beach successes, has been the catalyst to the neighborhood's revitalization. Restaurants and galleries have followed. The final piece, Robins says, is fashion, and he's collaborating with Louis Vuitton on that. "I think we have a chance at being the most interesting neighborhood in the world, with this balanced concentration of art, design, fashion and food." Those lofty ambitions aside, Robins also wants to make the Design District in some ways a lot more like South Beach—that is, a great place to walk around.
· Craig Robins: People Thought Miami's Art Deco 'Should Be Torn Down' [Dezeen]
· Craig Robins: Furniture Companies Key To Regenerating Design District [Dezeen]
· Construction Continues Furiously on 'New' Design District [Curbed Miami]