Queen Latifah Looks At Miamis Wynwood As Operations Base
By Catherine Lackner
There’ll be a joyful noise in Wynwood if the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency succeeds in its bid to bring Queen Latifah to Miami.
Attracting such a luminary might serve as a cornerstone for a Miami Entertainment District, agency members said. The rapper, singer and actress currently records at a Doral studio; her production company is in Atlanta.
"It would be a great booster," said Michelle Spence-Jones, agency board member and Miami city commissioner. "We went to Atlanta to visit her. She has three existing shows, on CBS, FOX and Viacom. Each show hires 200 to 250 people."
The entertainer’s representatives toured Wynwood and expressed interest, Ms. Spence-Jones said. They indicated they could move as early as September if a deal is struck, she said.
A key provision would probably be incentives, she said. "Atlanta gives her a 30% tax incentive, so we’re not talking about a big rebate here."
While there’s no indication where in Miami Queen Latifah would set up shop, speculation centers on the Wynwood Free Trade Zone along Northwest Fifth Avenue, a large parcel including several buildings owned by New York investor Moishe Mana. Included is a 160,000-square-foot studio where the "Charlie’s Angels" television show was shot until the series was cancelled.
"Moishe Mana owns 22 acres, and it’s very high-end stuff," Ms. Spence-Jones said. "He was behind the meatpacking district in New York City," she added, referring to the transformation of a gritty industrial district into a trendy neighborhood. "It would be so cool to have something like that happening in the heart of Wynwood."
The redevelopment agency is committed to "seeing what different people are interested in doing," said its spokeswoman, Julia Lopes. She said she hopes to announce a meeting within 30 days. "We want to talk to people who are doing business here, to see what incentives are available. We’ll be brainstorming, trying to build or create a Miami entertainment district."
"That has always been a concept of ours," said Tony Cho, a commercial real estate broker who represented Mr. Mana in the Wynwood Free Trade Zone deal and is again leasing the property. "We built the sound stage in the Free Trade property. We are always pushing the arts and absolutely are big fans of an entertainment and arts district."
Willy Gort, Miami city commissioner and agency board member, backed the idea. The agency sent a delegation to the National Association of Television Program Executives’ convention in Miami Beach last month and was well received, he said.
"People from three major films said incentives brought them here," Mr. Gort said. "Lots of independents want to be here. Once it gets started, a lot of those producers will come. They told us the Number 1 place for talent is now Hollywood, and the Number 2 place is Miami. This is where they want to be."