One-On-One With The King Of Miami’s Design District Craig Robins

Craig Robins

If you’re a Miami native (or a recent import), you’ve surely heard the name Craig Robins. As the President and CEO of Dacra—”a real estate development company that has a unique vision for cultivating strong and vibrant communities through a distinctive combination of commerce and culture,” per Craig Robins’ website—what he’s best known for is redeveloping Miami neighborhoods and transforming them into culturally-driven city hubs that have become globally-coveted destinations. For instance, Dacra played an integral role in the revitalization of Miami’s famed South Beach during the ’80s and ’90s. Today, his focus has shifted to Miami’s Design District, or MDD, which most recently hosted Watches & Wonders Miami. The four-day event, in conjunction with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, held major significance, given that this was the first time it had ever come to the US and Miami was its first American venue. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Robins, to discuss the growth of MDD and Miami as a whole, as well as how the city matches up in comparison to the other major players in the US, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Miami is growing and now becoming a major player in the US, comparable to NY and LA. Why do you think that is?

Our art scene is growing, the tech scene is growing, and over time the city has become more and more lively with a creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Last year, South Florida was named the number one region in the US for startup activity. The rise of cultural institutions like Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Frost Science Museum, and the Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) located right here in the Miami Design District, also help define us as a major cultural player in the US. Miami, much like New York and Los Angeles, is a truly international city, with a combination of influences that shape the city’s personality. We have strong ties to the Latin American community here which also differentiates us from other major US cities.

Miami Design District
Miami Design District

A lot of global design houses are choosing MDD to showcase their latest collections, even before other destinations, such as Louis Vuitton’s men’s SS18 collection, Gucci’s SS18 collection. What makes the Miami Design District such a special space in Miami, and in the US as a whole, attracting these big names?

Since Art Basel Miami Beach began, Miami has been receiving international attention for our unique combination of art, design and fashion, with renowned artists and celebrities flooding in to the city every year. It has become a place for some incredible brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci to launch new collections. The area has historically been devoted to design and that is something that will always be in our DNA. We have an eclectic collection of public art installations from some of the world’s leading contemporary artists in the Miami Design District. These renowned fashion houses share our vision, and are constantly looking to push the envelope. The Miami Design District has proved to be a successful collaborator for them.

You seem to have the magic touch when you choose areas to grow and build in Miami. What gives you that discerning eye and vision to see potential in spaces where others don’t?

My passion has always been developing creative communities that integrate art, design and architecture to enrich urban life, first with Art Deco landmarks in South Beach, and then with the revitalization of Miami Design District. I quickly realized early on that creative public programming fosters a sense of community, and my projects, like Miami Design District, are defined in part by performances, public art and dynamic events that cater to residents and visitors alike. Watches & Wonders is the perfect example of this. While watches are the main focus, the weekend will be filled with an exciting program of workshops and lectures from industry experts, a multi-media exhibition, “Telling Time,” involving films, creative installations and performance works by international contemporary artists; along with musical performances produced by Grammy award-winner Emilio Estefan, all complementary and for all ages. Also the inaugural Miami Design District Concours will feature more than 125 exotic and collectible automobiles. The neighborhood is already becoming a destination for high-end watches and jewelry year round, so it made sense to host such an important event here.

Watches and Wonders coming to Miami is a very big deal. What do you think this says about Miami overall, especially in the luxury space, and what do you think has changed about Miami to make it a luxury destination?

We’ve been in talks with Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) for the past three years to bring this luxury watch trade fair to Miami for the first time, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with them. They are such a powerhouse in the industry and to host a global event of this size that showcases the Miami Design District is truly an honor and goes back to the fact that Miami is a world-class luxury destination.

All photos courtesy of