Park West club owners score city officials for lack of support
By Paola Iuspa
A new entrepreneur is leasing warehouse space in Park West for a nightclub and 24-hour bowling alley while the handful of existing business owners await a makeover by the City of Miami.
Two years after the city designated an entertainment district to allow 11 sites to hold liquor licenses, the neighborhood, adjacent to Overtown and the Omni area, is undergoing change. But club owners said the city is moving too slowly in attracting other businesses to help them survive.
For a year, the city has considered turning an alley behind 11th Street into a cobblestone, pedestrian-friendly street. A decision is still pending.
Louis Puig, owner of Club Space, 142 NE 11th St., said he applauds the city for creating the district but the revitalization is taking too long.
"Do anything," he said. "Plant a tree. Fix a sidewalk. Paint a wall. Just stop talking and do it. But do it fast because the Park West entertainment area hype is fading fast. Creating the district was a great step, but nightclubs alone cannot save this area. We are going to need other business such as restaurants and retail stores."
Security, he said, is also an issue in Park West, home to at least three nightclubs and a strip club.
City Commissioner Arthur Teele agreed that safety needs to be reinforced. He chairs Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA, in charge of luring economic development to targeted areas.
His agency, he said, plans to spend part of $1.1 million from property taxes on more patrols. The agency also vows to develop a promenade from Biscayne Boulevard west to Miami Avenue between 10th and 11th streets.
Evidence that investors are pouring money into Park West, Mr. Teele said, is that property values are ballooning.
"Four years ago, the CRA was collecting $140,000 in tax increment funds," said Mr. Teele, who took over the agency's reins in 1997. "This year we collected $1.1 million."
Mr. Puig thinks the agency should use the funds to reshape Park West's image to attract more investors like David Lombardi.
Ten months ago, real estate broker Lombardi bought two warehouses there. One was the 17,000-square-foot former Park West Production Studio, 85 NW 10th St., for $850,000, and the other, he said, was the 6,000-square-foot warehouse at 67 NW 10th St. for $350,000.
He has now leased both sites to Tony Torrellio and partners for NJOI, a 24-hour bowling alley with sushi bar and lounge. They plan to open by September.
NJOI will be west of Club Space, the Living Room, 60 NE 11th St., and Gold Rush, 15 NE 11th St. Operators of Club Exile at 90 NE 11th St. are applying for permits.
Commissioner Teele said he knew of at least two other owners planning clubs for the area.
"Property in that area is still affordable enough to do projects such as this," Mr. Puig said. "Some other people are also working on a skating rink project.
"Entertainment," Mr. Puig said, "is not just about nightclubs. There are other ways to make money in this area. Investors just have to be a little more creative."