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October 26, 2016updated 03 Nov 2016 10:29am

Is Miami’s billion-dollar district the USA’s most ‘dramatic’ urban project?

By Zak Smith

From bedazzling, Baz Luhrmann-style hotels to a collossal art space and an impressive bazaar complex, Alan Faena’s ambitious project is set out to attract more well-heeled travellers to one of the world’s hottest destinations, writes Zak Smith.

As one of America’s top tourist destinations, Miami is famed for its pristine beaches, tropical climate and first rate hospitality. Azure waters gently lap the coastline from South Beach to Miami Beach, and despite recent fears over Zika, it’s popularity continues unabated going into the Christmas period.

With dozens of luxury hotels and multi-million dollar high rise condominiums and apartment complexes, the city is not short of options for the well-heeled traveller. However, for one developer and cultural connoisseur, the destination lacked something special, and backed by the billions of tycoon, philanthropist and investor Len Blavatnik, Alan Faena has created not only an impressive development, but an entirely new multi-billion dollar Miami district, one of the most dramatic urban regeneration projects launching this year not only in Miami, but in the entire United States.

Transforming an area ten minutes North of South Beach in the heart of ‘mid-beach’, Faena has renovated and breathed life into a jaded and lifeless part of town, reimagining it into a six-block development made up of the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, boutique hotel Casa Claridge’s, three apartment buildings, the Faena Forum cultural centre and the Faena Bazaar retail complex, all forming part of what will become the artistic and cultural hub of Miami.

The hospitality and residential element make up a large part of the development, and captures the imagination for those looking for the hottest place in Miami to stay or live.

The Faena Hotel Miami Beach opened late last year to critical acclaim, housed in the former Saxony Hotel, a landmark property loved in Miami’s heyday by Hollywood icons and local glitterati. Designed in conjunction with legendary film director Baz Luhrmann, the hotel is an Art Deco masterpiece, packed full of all the usual luxury trimmings, including, unsurprisingly, a fabulously appointed cinema. Sitting alongside the hotel is Faena House, a futuristic, luxuriously appointment tower housing 47 sophisticated and resplendent residences with price tags to match, all with wrap around panoramic ocean and city views, as well as three penthouses with private pools and elevators setting buyers back a cool $50m.

However for those not looking for a bedazzling bedroom, the real draw is the Forum and Bazaar – the jewel of Faena’s eye.

Faena Forum is a colossal dynamic art space totalling 43,000 square foot, built to house events and art exhibitions, curated by Ximena Caminos, Executive Director of Faena Forum and Chair of Faena Art. Created closely with OMA/Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu, the space is designed in the spirit of an ancient civic and architectural forum,  and through it, Faena aims to offer Miami an utterly progressive and dynamic venue for the arts, one which will no doubt become a focal point for Miami’s cultural life.

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Faena Bazaar is the final piece of the jigsaw, an innovative retail concept housed in the former Atlantic Hotel. An open air interior has been completely rebuilt to create a courtyard of contemporary circled with spaces housing a curated mix of retail stores and pop-ups which will change on a quarterly basis. Conceptualised in conjunction with fashion consultants Kelly Framel & Zach Lynd, Faena Bazaar will support the development of emerging international talent, as well as the usual array of luxury names.

With so much excitement going on North of South Beach and the hottest new destination taking shape in the heart of the city, it may just be the right time to get cultural and visit Miami.

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