Take a cab to the Panther Coffee shop in Miami, and not only will you get a great cup of coffee, but you'll also be able to witness an area on the threshold of transformation. The surrounding Wynwood area is adorned by countless street murals - so many that if you step out with your freshly brewed cup and walk the streets, you're likely to see a group of others being guided on a similar walking tour.
These murals are the product of a "vision in progress" of a forward thinking property company who bought more than twenty five properties in the area nearly ten years ago; a company that has championed the role of art in helping bring places to life. Unlike the self-organised gathering of artists in urban areas which offer low rents (usually as an indicator of later gentrification when the artists leave because the price become too high), this is the deliberate curation of large scale art to help kick-start a new mixed community.
This creative approach comes from Goldman Properties, a company already credited with having been the driving force behind the re-interpretation of the South Beach from a run down 'God's waiting room' in the 1980s into the fashionable vibrant internationally popular destination that it is today; an approach stemming from the company's origins regenerating parts of Soho New York in the 1970s.
Wynwood already boasts the world's largest outdoor collection of museum quality street murals, and in addition to a number of art galleries and restaurants initiated by Goldman, the area will soon see two new major buildings opening with a multi-dimensional mix of commercial and retail operators.
Much is made of the phrase 'meanwhile use' whilst areas are being regenerated and developed. And indeed there are some great examples of how communities benefit from imaginative facilities and 'pop-up' experiences created before and during the construction phase of projects. But all too often such facilities disappear once the development is complete, and some of the spirit of the place and the temporary vibrancy is then lost.
At Wynwood, the vision of the regenerated area was hard-wired into the way it was originally conceived and developed - "meanwhile use" merges into final purpose. And whilst the words on one mural; "Art is all you need" may be overstating its role, there is no doubt that art when used intelligently can play a critical role in bringing places to life.
Author: Nick Jones