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Meet the 2013 Curbed Young Guns: Jeff Weinstein

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Jeff Weinstein, 31, doesn't have hundreds of projects under his belt. He doesn't have dozens of them, in fact. Though he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania almost a decade ago, the Philadelphia native has spent the better part of his post-college life working for the Miami Beach-based UIA Management under the tutelage of white-hot developer—or in Curbed Miami parlance, "uber cool local 'indie' developer"—Robert Wennett. And he's focused all of his time thus far on two enormous, balls-to-the-walls, soup-to-nuts projects that have—or will—change the fundamental urban makeup of Miami Beach and revitalize an underutilized area of the city.

One of those projects was 1111 Lincoln Road, a $65M Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking garage (with residential/retail) that "has become an instant icon," as Vanity Fair's Matt Tyrnauer put it in a February 2012 piece (?). The 300-car facility is so arresting that one woman not only rented its seventh floor for her wedding in 2011—at which point it asked $12K to $15K a night—but incorporated a sketch of the building on the wedding invitations. (At the time, a New York Times piece described 1111 as "a piece of carchitecture that resembles a gigantic loft apartment, with exaggerated ceiling heights, wide-open 360-degree views and no exterior walls.")

Sure, working with the renowned Swiss architects "was like five-year course in architecture" for Weinstein personally, but the guiding principle behind the work, he reflects, "was to take a mundane program—for example, parking—and see how we could have the building interact with people in different ways so it was no longer just a storage facility for their vehicles, but somewhere for the community to come together. One day we're parking cars, the next day we're doing a wedding, the next day we're doing a corporate event, and photo shoots, and filming movies." In adding a significant amount of public art, incorporating plantings and water features native to the Everglades, and pedestrianizing the street in front of the building, "all of these different aspects of the project that were quite dynamic creates a social element, as opposed to just building a building," he says.

It's that philosophy that guides Weinstein, now UIA's director of development, as he works on the Miami Beach Convention Center project (?) along with architect Rem Koolhaas and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), landscape architects Raymond Jungles and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and megadeveloper Tishman. "As the local partner on this team," he says, "we're responsible, along with Tishman, our partner, for coordinating all of the activities as it relates to the development, and that includes design, finance, construction, and everything in between." Named South Beach-ACE, this assemblage of major players beat out architect Bjarke Ingels' opposing team to win the bid for the project from the Miami Beach City Commission in July.

Their proposed a plan for the 52-acre site, which will go to public referendum in November, involves reorienting the existing convention center building; constructing an 800-room hotel on top of it; expanding the area's open green spaces and parks; adding tens of thousands of square feet in new retail as well as a residential component; and much, much more. "On face value, a convention center is not necessarily exciting, but if done the right way, with a fresh perspective and the right minds working on it," Weinstein says, "we think it could be a huge opportunity to make a real impact on the city, and a positive one at that."

Wennett, meanwhile, a member of the Young Guns advisory committee, enumerates in more detail the impact Weinstein has had on the city:
"He's probably one of the most capable people you'll ever meet in development. When he started he really had really little experience, but was able to get up to speed and manage an enormous, complicated project with multiple disciplines, multiple people, corodinating with the city, permitting, getting it built on time and on budget. Normally you cut your teeth on something small—he cut his teeth on something huge, and it was one of the most successful projects. Now he's 31 years old and he's coordinating the entire convention center process, with multiple teams, architectural designers, graphics people, PR people, political strategy, and so on. There's nobody in Miami who has that much experience on development projects. He's unbelievable; he's very well liked and everybody knows of him already because he's really the face of 1111 project, and he's the face of massive projects in the city of Miami Beach. If all goes to plan, the convention center project is scheduled break ground in late 2014 or early 2015, with a projected 2018 opening. It's not every day one gets to work on what the Miami Herald has outright called "the most important development deal in the history of Miami Beach," so Weinstein is content to stay put at his current gig, "an amazing opportunity," for a while. "Miami is a young city, and there's a lot of opportunity to make a real impact when you do a building. I think also there's an opportunity to do something that's a little bit edgier." As for whether he'd ever consider working on a much smaller scale—say, private homes or a single-use project—he says, "It's about doing buildings that are interesting and have some sort of cultural relevance. If we were able to do something like a parking garage and have an impact—a cultural and social impact—I think if you do the right kind of projects you can make anything of any scale work."

? "The biggest problem is that the convention center acts as an urban blockade," Weinstein says. "It's essentially like a massive Walmart in the middle of Miami Beach. What the project aims to do is make the site more permeable for visitors and for the public and the residents who live here. I think the design is quite successful in doing that. Being a resident here, obviously that's in my best interest, too."

? "There's a sea of parking lots there now, and we're reclaiming green space that used to be there historically. It's a huge revitalization project, similar to [1111] Lincoln Road, and we think that this will make it an area that even for locals is something that's a much better facility not only to go to but also to go through and around."

? "The convention center adds huge amounts of open space and public space, which I think, urbanistically, just doesn't happen that often. Cities don't get a chance to add acres of green spaces. Usually when you hear about a city in relation to green space, it's just about sort of taking an old park and making a new park."

· All Young Guns 2013 coverage [Curbed National]
· 1111 Lincoln Road [official site]
· All Miami Beach Convention Center coverage [Curbed Miami]