Keeping it Real on Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Keeping it Real on Lincoln Road:

new director targeting local residents as well as tourists

Timothy Schmand, recently appointed as the Executive Director of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District, remembers a Lincoln Road that wasn’t so vibrant. When he moved to Miami in the 80s there were only two stores and at night, the street was very dangerous.
The turnaround for the entire area, he said, started on Biscayne Bay with Christo’s Surrounded Islands work. He points to the Art Center of South Florida as “the beginning of art on Lincoln Road”.  Schmand recounted his experiences to the Miami Beach Thursday Breakfast Group this week.
Today, he said,  “When I think of Lincoln Road, I think of art and culture as an essential ingredient.” He called the Colony Theater, the Art Center of South Florida, and the New World Symphony the “three legs of the cultural stool” that he is building upon in his job.
He is looking to create experiences that will attract people to the street. “If we can give them moments of surprising beauty and their life is changed momentarily by what they see on Lincoln Road, then we have done our job,” he said.
Schmand was appointed to his new role at the end of October, replacing the BID’s original Executive Director, Ivannia Van Arman. Previously, he was the Director of Miami’s Bayfront Park. While doing consulting work with the Coconut Grove BID, he was offered the position on Lincoln Road. “Lincoln Road played such a role in my life and South Florida, I couldn’t say no to the job.”
The BID, which according to its website was “formed with the purpose of stabilizing and improving the Lincoln Road retail business district”, spans the area from Washington to Alton on Lincoln Road. Through the BID, property owners pay a special tax that is used for marketing and promotion of the District.
Schmand says the District includes 76 properties that pay the additional tax assessment amounting to $1.4m annually. The street, he said, is "an economic engine". Lincoln Road businesses pay ad valorum taxes totaling $27m to Miami-Dade County while employing 4,000 “ground floor” employees.
He noted the cultural diversity found on Lincoln Road. When you walk the street, he said, you will hear “some English, some Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Portuguese, and on and on”.
“[Lincoln Road] provides jobs. It provides opportunity. It provides entertainment. It provides a destination,” he said. “In order to have a functioning vibrant society, you need to have the things Lincoln Road provides.”
Schmand is focused on how Lincoln Road interacts with and benefits residents living nearby. Ensuring a good local experience also attracts tourists, he said. “People want to go where the locals go. They want authentic. We need to provide programming that appeals to the real and the authentic.”
The authenticity of the character is something that businesses also recognize, he said. Not only do they recognize the overall historic district, “they also recognize the importance of historic preservation … which wasn’t always the case,” he added.
In addition to regular musical performances, the BID is now sponsoring free yoga on Euclid and is looking for funding for a zumba program. Through a partnership with New World Symphony, it will provide entertainment after every wallcast “to give people a reason to go from the wallcast to Lincoln Road.” For now, programming is targeted “in season” from December to May though, eventually, it may occur year-round.
Schmand acknowledged some of the challenges retailers are experiencing when discussing the vacant storefronts. “The problems with brick and mortar retail are real. There are retailers who are suffering,” he said. However, he added, “The businesses I’ve talk to claim they are doing some of the best business they’ve ever done. Lincoln Road is not your suburban mall. If [a retailer is] offering the appropriate mix, the crowd is there. They’re going to walk in and spend money.”
To illustrate his point, he said, the BID recently installed pedestrian counters to quantify the daily traffic on Lincoln Road. On Christmas Day, when stores were closed, he said 126,000 people strolled the street.
Responding to a question about the types of stores that are coming in, he emphasized the market economy. “The value of real estate on Lincoln Road attracts [the larger] chains.”
Schmand is focusing on what he can control, namely the street experience. He noted the Ambassadors program, which offers block by block personal guides to offer directions, take photos, and provide escort services to cars. He hopes the new programming encourages locals to come by more often.
“Lincoln Road is a magical place and I hope to make it even more interesting,” he said.
For more information on Lincoln Road and a schedule of events, see their website.

For more information on the Thursday Breakfast Group, visit their Facebook page.

Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Ciraldo

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