By Jessica Sanchez and Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporters
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – The City of Miami Beach is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony at 439 41st Street today, September 12th at 2:30 PM, to unveil new storefront designs created in collaboration with Design & Architecture Senior High (DASH) students.
In an effort to revive and beautify business corridors, including 41 Street, North Beach and Washington Avenue, the City tasked students from DASH to create visual concepts for vacant storefront windows last fall.
Under the direction of DASH instructors Dale Brooks and Miami Beach resident Eric Hankin, a member of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon 41 Street Committee, the students were asked to capture the spirit of Miami Beach and the elements residents and visitors know and love.
Over twenty designs were reviewed and five concepts, by students Analee Hyacinthe, Francisca Henrys, Sophia Gutierrez, Isabella Enriquez and Nicolas Finol were selected.
Bo Martinez, the city’s economic development director told the Miami Herald that 7.4 percent of the city’s commercial spaces are empty. A citywide survey in July 2018 found 117 storefront vacancies around the city.
Martinez said “The city was worried that the commercial vacancies would create a negative impression of the district and wanted to minimize the negative economic impacts of the level of vacancies by introducing art.”
“We think this would be a dramatic improvement over the brown paper covering the store windows today. We wanted to make sure that we work with our student artists to bring back a cohesive and lively design to the street and in turn more interest from potential business prospects and entrepreneurs.”
According to CoStar data the national average for retail vacancy rates is 4.5 percent, and Marcus & Millichap projects there to be at 3.6 percent in Boston, 6.4 percent in Chicago, 4.5 percent in Los Angeles and 4.1 percent in New York City.
Miami Beach is not alone as a municipality seeking to utilize visual arts to boost economic revitalization. While many cities have recruited professional artists and galleries, Miami Beach chose to directly engage the community through the eyes of its youth.
Mayor Dan Gelber, the City Commission and Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho will be in attendance alongside the five talented DASH students and their instructors.
The city will fund wraps for early adopters, however property owners will be required to pay for the installation. All prospective business owners within city limits can request the free storefront covers by sending an e-mail to ED@miamibeachfl.gov.