WYNWOOD VILLAGE APARTMENTS
An abandoned apartment complex in Wynwood Art District.
The U-shaped Wynwood Village Apartments now covered in graffiti | Photo © 2016 Sugarbomb
Tucked into the south end of Wynwood's design district, this three building apartment complex was originally built in 1953.
Fifth Avenue Apartments, as it was originally named, had survived through countless hurricanes, time, and the sheer destructive power of the neighborhood itself this apartment complex was built in the style and quality of the time with concrete block framework and a concrete and stucco exterior. The half-acre property featured 46 units with 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom and was home to many low-income residents in the heart of Miami.
Graffiti on top of the painted mural on the side of the building | Photo © 2016 Sugarbomb
In 2000, building inspectors ordered the complex to close its doors after it was found to be rife with faulty wiring, broken windows, and infested with bugs and rats. The closed apartment complex quickly became a hangout for vagrants and thieves who knocked down interior walls between the apartments and ripped away toilets and tubs.
David Meunier, a former race car driver, was driving around the neighborhood and stumbled across the dilapidated complex. He had taken on rehab projects in Central Florida previously and the Fifth Avenue Apartments became his next project after he purchased the property for $2.5 million in 2002.
Meunier was faced with the daunting task of fixing up the ramshackle complex, an endeavor that would end up taking about a year to complete. New bathroom fixtures and air conditioning units were installed, walls were rebuilt, and the buildings were freshly painted in burgundy, green, and cream. To keep with the neighborhood's "artsy" vibe, murals were painted on the walls facing 5th Avenue and each apartment number is hand painted.
By October 2003, the former eyesore was completely unrecognizable when Meunier hosted a cocktail party, complete with a flamenco guitarist and catered sandwiches, to celebrate the apartment complex's reopening under the name Wynwood Village. To quell concerns of some over the rising property values, Meunier reassured that Wynwood Village would continue to be primarily for low-income residents, with 70% of the 46 units reserved for people who receive Section 8.
Photo © Apartments.com
With new developers like Meunier fixing up old properties in the area and the new wave of art galleries in recent years that have turned the neighborhood into a Bohemian-style haunt, many feared that the revival would lead to gentrification. There was a growing undercurrent of concern that the redevelopment would lead to families being priced out of their homes once property values started rising.
These concerns were unfounded, as it turns out, because by mid-2015 Wynwood Village had gone the way of its earlier incarnation. Windows were missing and boarded, gaping holes had been broken through walls between apartments, and the buildings were coated in a new paint job of colorful graffiti.
I found it much in the same way as Meunier did years before; completely by accident while driving around the art district. A chain link fence had halfheartedly been erected to surround the property but was barely an inconvenience since there was large opening where the two pieces of fencing at the front failed to meet. On my second visit, I discovered an emaciated prostitute and her male companion in one of the rooms. They invited us to join them for an intimate encounter but we politely declined.
During the Zika outbreak in the summer of 2016, the fence around the Wynwood Village Apartments was reinforced, most likely due to the influx of government officials rather than the real desire to keep anyone out of the complex. The dilapidated buildings covered in a steadily growing layer of tags and graffiti still sits fenced off at the far end of Wynwood and it seems there are no future plans for the property.
Stay classy, Wynwood!