The Parking Garage That Has it All
by linda lee
"You complete me!” If Lincoln Road could talk, that’s what it would say about 1111, the megaproject at the western end of the street: a sinewy car park, illuminated at night like a vertical Stonehenge, and a new plaza equipped with 30-foot bald cypresses, water pools and an interactive, hurricane-proof, handicap-accessible artwork by Dan Graham. Oh, and new shops, a high-end blend of the hip, the offbeat, the foreign, the expensive and the taste-tested.
“Who’s done anything like this in Miami Beach, or anywhere?” exclaimed developer and art collector Craig Robins—and it isn’t even his project.
It’s the brainchild of Robert S. Wennett, president of UIA Management, an urban visionary who previously worked on five projects to revitalize downtown South Norwalk, Connecticut, and 15 in Washington, DC, all involving mixed use. Wennett believes the 1111 car park, designed by world-famous Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, will become a premier Miami destination. Robins thinks it trumps the Arquitectonica foliage-covered garage on Seventh Street and the Carlos Zapata garage and people mover at the Miami Beach Publix on West Avenue. “Each has been really well done and is an important part of the city,” he says. “Each of those is really strong, and this is an incredible addition.”
The seventh level of the car park is already being used as an event space, a Miami necessity. It can hold 500 people, and for a really big event, the entire building can be rented. (Those who have already entered into discussions include the White Party, Design Miami and, natch, the auto show.) Above that, a 5,200-square-foot private penthouse on the roof will be finished in August.
“The building interior is like a big stage that commands views of the surrounding city,” says Miami architect and historian Allan T. Shulman. “It seems cleverly configured that way, these split levels and double-height spaces. Maybe it’s a car park, but they look like decks, great spaces for entertaining.
“Miami Beach has a great tradition of challenging building types,” he continues. “Mixing uses, multiple and even strange new combinations of uses.” He lists as examples the Albion—a hotel with a semiprivate courtyard and retail— and the old Gulf station on the MacArthur Causeway (now gone), a radio station, bait shop, gas station and marina.
Shulman says the garage betrays one architectural tenet—“It certainly doesn’t perform like a traditional corner building”—but adds that it has challenged architects to “think in new ways.” It already has the popular vote.
“We’re finding a ton of people who are coming to it for the views,” Wennett says. “They’re taking photos. People are posing on the staircase, like a modeling shoot. It’s a public space, like a train station”—a very high-end train station. “A lot of sexy cars are coming here, fancy cars,” he says. “They are respecting how they park their Maseratis, their Bentleys. And then we have the store on the fifth floor.”
That store is Alchemist. Unlike its sister store at the other end of Lincoln Road, this one will sell only three names: Rick Owens, Maison Martin Margiela and Chrome Hearts, for that avant grunge, filthy-rich rocker look. Bonus: Your limo can drive up the ramps, right to the store, park next door and wait for you. No double-parking!
The rest of Wennett’s shops are street level, where he has upped the firepower of the brands already on Lincoln Road. It’s as if he said, “I see your Victoria’s Secret, and I raise you a Journelle,” the lingerie boutique that opened in February featuring La Perla, Stella McCartney, Myla, Fleur of England, Elle Macpherson and others.
photographs by robin hill