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    Real Estate Journal: Banking on art to revitalize communities, spur business

    Across Hialeah’s “Leah Arts District,” a dozen outdoor murals bring a bright face to this urban landscape. Tucked within Miami-Dade County’s second largest city, the murals depict the city’s and region’s people and environment.
    To City Councilman Paul B. Hernandez, the idea was simply to brighten and revitalize an area that once had been a thriving garment and industrial corridor, but had gone fallow in recent years. Today, building walls are not only a canvas for art, but a lure to area businesses and patrons, he says.
    “What we created was a beautiful outdoor museum,” said Hernandez, who sponsored the ordinance establishing the artist live/work district and worked with local promoter JennyLee Molina to market the mural project as an area beautification effort. Sponsors for area events and even paint and supplies in “Leah” have included Beck’s Beer, Jameson, Pepsi, Starbucks, Cafe La Llave and others.
    “Hialeah is 92 years old, but people haven’t had an overt exposure to art. Now, people see that manifestation,” he said.
    Across South Florida, cities’ downtown and urban areas are turning buildings
    into outdoor canvases, a trend civic leaders say is helping to rejuvenate communities and spur business.
    It’s a winning trend.
    Just ask long-standing Miami-Dade County residents who remember Wynwood before art became central to its transformation.
    But don’t confuse these community murals with graffiti. Artist renderings are closely reviewed before approved. Often done in partnership between government agencies and business owners whose walls will serve as canvas, the hope is to enliven spaces, create a lure for patrons, and even curate new outdoor art for walking tours.
    Murals have been lauded internationally for fostering civic dialogue.
    “Artists working in collaboration with communities to create mural projects can help them publicly celebrate the interplay between their past, present and future,” wrote online publication, The Conversation, about how outdoor art helped revitalize a stagnating inner-city district in Shandon, Ireland, which dates reinforce a sense of place and distinguish communities from neighboring areas.”
    Murals in Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village help enliven the district and engage passersby. Nearby, Pompano Beach was selected as one of Broward County’s 10 “Visualeyes” art campaign destinations for outdoor murals. Artist Cecilia Lueza unveiled in August “Visionary,” a mural on a back exterior wall at Bailey Contemporary Arts.
    In Hialeah, the murals, artist colony, and events that date back to 2014 – including jazz nights and spoken word and poetry readings – have revitalized the area. Craft brewery Unbranded Brewing Co. moved to the area.
    Restaurateurs and retailers, including thrift stores, are seeing revitalized business.
    The two dozen pieces that make up downtown Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency’s mural project create a collection of contemporary outdoor murals at key locations in the city’s downtown. The CRA initiated a code amendment to simplify the approval process for murals by having the city commission delegate the approval authority for murals to the CRA board, said Jill Weisberg, the CRA’s mural project coordinator.
    The first mural was painted in 2012. The 24th goes up this month. The CRA pays artists a performance stipend to paint the mural and to interact with the public during monthly artwalks. Property owners assume all other expenses associated with the mural, she said.
    “Outdoor mural programs have been known to help local businesses and communities create a uniquely attractive and positive identity while increasing
    to medieval times. “Collaborative mural projects can establish or commercial interest and investment,” Weisberg said. “The murals bring attention to their business and tenants. Many people take photos of the buildings with murals which generate positive publicity and attention.”
    Around Delray Beach’s Old School Square, the Pineapple Grove arts district is home to a host of outdoor art dating back to artist Anita Lovitt’s 2008 “Dancing Pineapples” mural at the entrance of Pineapple Grove. Today, the piece is an iconic backdrop for tourists’ photos.
    “The idea of murals developed over time as a way to create a sense of energy, excitement and community pride,” said Robert Currie, an area architect a key proponent of the city’s design and artistic growth, including the recently completed Arts Warehouse – itself a colorful centerpiece to the city’s artistic ethos.
    “While the venues attract visitors, the murals connect the community in a very tangible way. They created a walkable community where art becomes a shared experience,” he said. “Murals absolutely enliven the downtown space and create a terrific branding opportunity for the city.”
    Original content SouthFloridaBusinessJounal

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