177 // OCEAN DRIVE RE­VIVE

Ocean Drive - - Contents - BY BECKY RANDEL

The heart­beat of South Beach re­turns to its for­mer glory.

THE HEART­BEAT OF SOUTH BEACH, OCEAN DRIVE GETS A RE­VAMP WITH NEW RESTAU­RANTS, HO­TELS, EVENTS, AND, YES, EVEN REG­U­LA­TIONS, BRING­ING THE AREA BACK TO ITS FOR­MER GLORY.

Way back in the day, it was a locale that was the epi­cen­ter of Mi­ami’s ex­cit­ing, sexy, and glam­orous scene. Since then, Ocean Drive be­gan to lean a bit more “spring break” than spring run­way. So the city and lo­cal busi­nesses de­cided to take ac­tion, and set up a task force to re­vi­tal­ize the area.

Af­ter years of re­search and a list of de­tailed rec­om­men­da­tions from ex­perts, res­i­dents, and busi­ness own­ers, the city—led by Com­mis­sioner Ricky Ar­riola—last fall passed a 10-point plan to ad­dress a num­ber of im­prove­ments.

One of the first items tack­led were the side­walks; reg­u­la­tions now re­quire busi­nesses to move their fur­ni­ture west and fol­low spe­cific de­sign guide­lines for um­brel­las, chairs, and ta­bles. “The idea was to share the side­walk with the pa­trons and the pub­lic,” says Su­sanne M. Tor­ri­ente, as­sis­tant city man­ager, “to cre­ate com­fort for the peo­ple who are sit­ting, eat­ing, and en­joy­ing, but also for peo­ple who are walk­ing by.” These are not “pie in the sky” poli­cies, ei­ther: Busi­nesses had un­til mid-jan­uary to

com­ply, or they would start re­ceiv­ing fines.

The city also re­lo­cated 30 over­grown palm trees from the side­walk to Lum­mus Park across the street. “The orig­i­nal in­tent was to have the palm trees in be­tween build­ings, and not cov­er­ing the beau­ti­ful Art Deco façades,” Tor­ri­ente ex­plains of the move.

An­other com­po­nent of the plan is the ad­di­tion of 12 po­lice of­fi­cers solely ded­i­cated to the Mixed Use En­ter­tain­ment Dis­trict (MXE), which in­cludes Ocean Drive from Fifth to 15th Streets and Collins Av­enue from Fifth to 16th Streets. These of­fi­cers will fo­cus on noise vi­o­la­tions and crime, as well as en­forc­ing open con­tainer laws. An ad­di­tional park ranger has been brought in to over­see Lum­mus Park, which will even­tu­ally of­fer ex­tended arts and cul­tural pro­gram­ming.

Other parts in­clude third-party hospi­tal­ity train­ing for all Ocean Drive staff, new light­ing in the al­ley­ways, and a halt to chain stores, tat­too par­lors, and pawn­shops. “The orig­i­nal vi­sion for Ocean Drive in the 1980s was an Amer­i­can Riviera of bou­tique, Art Deco ho­tels with charm­ing side­walk cafés. This vi­sion never con­tem­plated the trans­for­ma­tion of Ocean Drive into a re­tail des­ti­na­tion for sou­venirs and T-shirts,” the plan reads.

One Ocean Drive busi­ness owner who has been deeply in­volved in (and af­fected by) this process is Jonathan Plutzik of the Betsy Ho­tel. Not only did Plutzik con­trib­ute to the task force, but his ho­tel just un­veiled a large, two-year trans­for­ma­tion, adding a new Art Deco wing, a sec­ond full-ser­vice restau­rant, new guest rooms, and more. Plutzik says of the street re­vamp, “The busi­nesses in gen­eral have locked arms with the city to re­ally make sure that the re­al­ity of Ocean Drive matches the in­cred­i­ble global brand that Mi­ami Beach has as­so­ci­ated with Ocean Drive.”

He points to the hospi­tal­ity train­ing as one ma­jor up­grade, along with the over­all cleanup. “The most important thing is im­pos­ing high stan­dards on all of the op­er­a­tors and cre­at­ing a sense of open­ness on the side­walk so that all peo­ple feel com­fort­able walk­ing freely.” Plutzik also notes how quickly these changes have taken ef­fect. “What’s ex­cit­ing for me is that you can see it hap­pen­ing right be­fore your eyes.”

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, or pos­si­bly serendip­i­tously, Ocean Drive has at­tracted new­found in­ter­est from restau­rants, re­tail­ers, and na­tional events. The 40-year-old Art Deco Week­end be­gan its own re­vi­tal­iza­tion two years ago to “co­in­cide with the city­wide ef­forts on Ocean Drive,” says Chair­man Lori Bakkum. She says they have more than dou­bled their pre­sen­ta­tion of arts and de­sign (PAMM, the Bass Mu­seum, and The Wolf­so­nian-fiu are all new part­ners), and counted over 150,000 vis­i­tors at last month’s event. The famed South Beach Wine & Food Fes­ti­val con­tin­ues to see in­creased at­ten­dance

ev­ery year, par­tic­u­larly at its Grand Tast­ing Vil­lage, off the sands of Ocean Drive. This year, they’ve even added a nightlife el­e­ment from David Grut­man of LIV night­club.

More re­cent ar­rivals on the scene, the in­no­va­tive out­posts of Sugar Fac­tory and Down N Dirty Tacos are pulling in big num­bers, while new restau­rants in­clud­ing Lolo’s Surf Cantina, which opened last month in the beau­ti­fully re­fur­bished Stan­ton Ho­tel, are re­ceiv­ing na­tional at­ten­tion. Bring­ing the glam back, the new Forte Dei Marmi at Ocean 150 is a re­cently opened cul­tural space that fea­tures a restau­rant from Miche­lin-starred An­to­nio Mellino and his son Raf­faele, as well as the swanky FDM Arts Club, an in­vi­ta­tion-only, pri­vate mu­sic and arts club.

Fu­ture plans for the street in­clude the cre­ation of a Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict, a ma­jor crack­down on “hawk­ing” or ag­gres­sive so­lic­i­ta­tion (the city is cur­rently fight­ing the is­sue in court), and a con­tin­ued fo­cus on bring­ing the area back to its for­mer glory.

As Plutzik sum­ma­rizes, “Our goal is cer­tainly not to fun­da­men­tally change the vibe. Iconic Ocean Drive should re­main iconic Ocean Drive, but we can de­liver that ex­pe­ri­ence in a tighter, safer, more cleaned-up way.” Af­ter all, as Tor­ri­ente points out, “There is no other street like Ocean Drive.”

THE ORIG­I­NAL VI­SION

FOR OCEAN DRIVE IN

THE 1980S WAS AN

AMER­I­CAN RIVIERA.

Known for its stun­ning Art Deco façades and sexy bou­tique ho­tels, Ocean Drive epit­o­mizes South Beach cool.

The an­nual SOBE Wine

& Food Fes­ti­val draws crowds to the beach with star chefs, cook­ing demos, and tast­ings from lo­cal eater­ies. be­low: An out­post of pop­u­lar restau­rant Sugar Fac­tory re­cently launched on Ocean Drive.

A guest room at the re­vamped and ex­panded Betsy ho­tel. above: Hospi­tal­ity train­ing and opened side­walks will pro­mote a wel­com­ing at­mos­phere.

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