BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI
The most diverse, bustling working-class barrio in Miami that you’ve probably never been to, Allapattah, is supposed to be the next big thing. It’s the newest chapter in the by-now familiar Miami story of gentrification: first come the edgy art people, then the bars, and finally the big investors snapping up properties and planning big projects.
That’s all starting now in Allapattah, a working-class enclave of 45,000 people, produce suppliers and warehouse districts that borders hotter-than-hot Wynwood and smacks of the authenticity its neighbor is quickly shedding. So there’s a chance now to get a real taste of the place before it all goes to heck.
The brand-new Allapattah Market, an open-air food and crafts marketplace run by the people from Wynwood’s popular Wood Tavern, marked its grand opening, likely only the first in a series of spots that will draw in outsiders to the neighborhood. The market is open just weekends for now, but will increase hours and offerings “organically” with demand, the owners say. And that’s probably only a matter of time.
The market, set in the courtyard-like space at the center of a set of warehouses, features a bohío-like tiki hut and vendors’ stalls. Its operators promise a family-friendy atmosphere and, on Saturdays, some of the same vendors who attend a crafts market at Wood Tavern. Sundays feature food.
There’s an easy way this weekend to find your way to the market. In what’s probably the first-ever guided cycling tour of the neighborhood, historic-preservation group Dade Heritage Trust will take visitors on Sunday to see the old and the emerging new Allapattah, including the market.
The Valentine’s-themed “Allapattah is for Lovers” tour will visit Dominican bodegas — the barrio is Miami’s unofficial little Santo Domingo — as well as historic churches, graffiti murals and one new-economy outpost, the offices and studio of McKenzie Construction and Craft, a boutique design-build firm ensconced in a converted 1938 warehouse.
Another stop — bring a basket for those Valentine’s Day flowers — is Allapattah landmark Berkeley Florist Supply, which has been there since 1947 and says it’s Florida’s oldest.
Because the future is not quite here now, it’s a good time to check out Allapattah, said DHT executive director Christine Rupp, who last year launched a series of cycle tours of historic neighborhoods that have visited Overtown, Little Havana, Coconut Grove and downtown Miami, among other places where the organization has fought to save valuable landmarks.
“It’s to get people to see how raw and edgy some of these neighborhoods are before they all start looking the same,” Rupp said, adding that the Allapattah tour “gives people an opportunity to see an old Miami neighborhood that’s ethnically diverse before it becomes the next hot spot.”
“It’s cool see the look on peoples faces when they see these places,” she said. “Most people have never been to Allapattah. But there is a lot of old building stock in the neighborhood. There are historic churches and funky streets. It educates people about why the organization exists and why we do what we do.”
Allapattah, which gets its name from the Seminole word for alligator, was once a rural area settled around the time Miami was incorporated in 1896. It stretches from the Miami River north to Northwest 41st Street, and from Interstate 95 (the border with Wynwood) to Northwest 27th Avenue, and is locked in relative isolation by the river, I-95 and the 112 expressway.
Technically it includes the Jackson Memorial hospital complex, but it’s better known for its big produce market and the 10 blocks of discount clothing outlets along Northwest 36th Street.
Given the prime location, Allapattah has already been discovered by speculators looking for bargains almost certain to increase in value. So many speculators are buying homes cheaply and flipping them that, according to one report, prices are rising faster in Allapattah than in Miami Beach. Warehouse prices are rising sharply as well.
Last year, 1111 Lincoln Road developer Robert Wennett paid $16 million for the famous Allapattah produce market, although he has not announced what he plans to do with the nearly 10-acre property. The Rubell family, meanwhile, has already announced the move of its landmark art collection to Allapattah from Wynwood, where their private museum helped start it all.
McKenzie’s Allapattah warehouse home was bought last year by investor Michael Simkins for $3.58 million. Coincidentally, McKenzie will also build the Rubells’ new Allapattah museum. It will include 40 exhibition galleries, a research library, lecture hall, event space, storage, sculpture garden and a restaurant.
“Allapattah is rapidly transitioning from an entire local unknown to a powerful buzzword in the business, investment, design, creative uses, and artistic community,” commercial real estate broker Carlos Fausto Miranda, who has handled several high-profile sales in the neighborhood, said in an email.
Here comes the neighborhood.