Mana Wynwood Could Become Huge Latin American-Asian Financial Center

Miami New Times - April 11, 2017

Miami residents were already skeptical about mega-developer Moishe Mana's plans to pave over a huge portion of Wynwood and build a gleaming micro-city in its place. Mana, who splits his time between Manhattan and the Magic City, is the largest single landowner in Wynwood. For years, he's been fighting to turn his holdings into a gigantic,"arts-based" village complete with luxury shops and 24-story residential towers. But longtime Wynwood patrons have warned that the project would irrevocably change the low-lying warehouse neighborhood into another playground for the ultrarich.

Those complaints came before Mana started comparing himself to Florida pioneer Henry Flagler, and before he unveiled his full, huge plan for the neighborhood. Mana revealed last week that his micro-city will include space for corporations, banks, law firms, government agencies, millions of square feet of office space, and a new luxury hotel. And the whole project will be pitched at Chinese and Asian investors.

The project is a massive step up from the already gigantic plans Mana had for Miami's hippest neighborhood. Last week, Mana's company announced via press release that it's building an entire "Americas-Asia Trade Center and International Financial Center" at his MANA Wynwood property, which Miamians otherwise know as a hip music venue that hosts the music festival III Points. The project is openly advertised in order to court wealthy Chinese investors to the area.

Per the Mana company, the project is split into both a "trade center" and "international financial center." The trade center will contain up to two million square feet of showroom space, one million square feet of office space, 75,000 square feet of retail area, 90,000 square feet of "open space" — and a 400-room hotel. The financial center, meanwhile, will include another million square feet of office space for those corporations and banks. Mana claims the project will create 20,000 jobs.

"The IFC will provide major corporates from across Asia, Latin America, and the world with a dedicated hub from which to conduct business and more efficiently expand trade and investment between Asia and the Americas," the release says.

Last year, city officials gave Mana the ability to build multiple 24-story towers on his property. Mana's "special-area plan" encompasses 24 acres and more than 10 million square feet.

The company says it's looking to turn Wynwood into the capital of trade between Latin America and Asia.

"This is a legacy project,” Mana said in a press release. “I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of Henry Flagler and be instrumental in positioning Miami for the 21st century.” (Flagler, of course, created the Florida East Coast Railway, which opened the door for mass migration into Florida, and mass ecological destruction thereafter.)

The project is pitched directly at rich capital owners from emerging markets in China, India, and South Korea. The press release says that trade between Latin American nations already tops $500 billion per year, and is set to jump to $750 billion by 2020. But the company claims trade between the two continents is "fragmented" and does not have a spiritual "hub" where the two groups can do business.

Enter Mana's financial center.

Dr. Peng Lu, the vice-provost for international programs at Florida International University, sings the project's praises in the company's announcement, claiming that the gigantic development will help bridge a gap between the two continents.

"Trade between Asia and Latin America remains fragmented, and is being held back by a lack of a widely recognized platform which can reduce trade friction, uncertainty and logistic and financial costs, and increase market indicators and symmetry of information to all players,” Lu said. "The world’s best location for such a platform is Miami. This is because Miami functions for Latin America the way Singapore or Hong Kong does for Southeast Asia."

None of the company's documentation addresses the fact that Miami already is a world financial hub — just not the exact bridge between Chinese and Latin American investors that Mana is pitching here.

Mana's goals for the project have always been, to some degree, at odds with the existing vibe in Wynwood. He's also been questioned over his business tactics several times in the past year: City officials have already accused Mana once of using "bait-and-switch" tactics to skirt paying local development fees for his earlier Wynwood pitch, and a separate contractor sued Mana last year for using what they called "Donald Trump tactics" to avoid paying them for work.

Regardless, it appears III Points will have to find a new home once the project is complete.