Just off busy Washington Avenue in South Beach sits a preserved postcard from a bygone era, a street lined with Spanish and Mediterranean style hotels, restaurants and small shops complete with a public plaza and balconies where guests drink coffee and wine.
Miami Beach’s Española Way, nestled between 14th and 15th Streets from Washington to Drexel Avenue, was developed in the 1920s as a space for artists, live music, food and drink. The pocket of Mediterranean architecture has remained intact despite falling into disrepair in the ’70s and ’80s. Now, after about eight months of renovation work on the street, the city plans to celebrate the completion of work on Tuesday.
The celebration will include tastings from more than a dozen restaurants, including cuisine like paella and ceviche. It will also feature performances in the Spanish Plaza by the Tony Succar Band along with DJs, mariachi bands and flamenco dancers throughout the day.
“This project’s the final culmination of 20 years of work,” said Scott Robins, owner of the properties along the street.
The street improvements include new trees and lighting and a curb-less design to make Española Way more pedestrian friendly and to hearken back to the European influences on the buildings and architecture in the area.
Miami Beach paid about $2.5 million for the work, which started in August and was set to be done by early 2017 but was delayed by problems with sewer and water infrastructure below the street.
Some business owners along the street said that while the work made things tough for a while, they think visitors will be pleased with the new look.
“We’re very positive people and we knew it would be better at the end,” said Angelo Bruno, who works at Soleiado, a sunglasses and accessories store. “Of course delays were to be expected, I don’t blame them though.”
Claudio Giordano, chef-owner of seafood restaurant Mare Mio, compared the construction work on the street to a tourist going to visit the Trevi Fountain in Rome and wanting to throw coins in only to find that there’s no water in the fountain.
“If you go back and the Trevi Fountain has water again you are going to be happy. So let’s bring on the coins,” Giordano said.
Robins said now that the work is done, he and city leaders hope Española Way can draw both tourists and locals away from higher-traffic areas like Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.
“I think this block will become the new block in Miami Beach,” Robins said.
Beyond Tuesday’s event, the city plans several regular events along Española Way centered around food and wine and open-air market fairs. They’re also planning a monthly family event called Noche de Coche, where kids will be invited to drive little cars and big wheels along the street.
More new restaurants and stores, including Mercato della Pescheria and a new Sugar Factory location, are coming to the area, and renovations at the Clay Hotel are set to wrap up in the next year.
“We had a rough year but things are going to get better,” Giordano said.