MorningRituals with Avra Jain
MorningRituals with Avra Jain
It’s not everyday that you meet someone thats incredibly intelligent, talented, humble… and cool. Last month, I was invited to tag along on a MorningRituals with Avra Jain, the CM/Mia “Heritage” speaker. I read up on her before heading out and I must say I was a little nervous to meet her. The plan was to meet up at the Buena Vista Deli and take a tour of the areas that Avra is currently investing in and check out some projects that are under construction.
Quick side note: Other than meeting Avra, I finally had a chance to meet some of the people behind the scenes for CM and other organizations in Miami: Cat, the CreativeMornings official photographer extraordinaire, and Ashley from INFRACULTURE. It was great meeting Cat because I had seen her shooting away at the previous talks and to top it off I’d been scribbling all over her pictures for the CM write ups! Ashley is the brains behind Infraculture, the premier cultural events calendar for Miami. I had a chance to speak to her about how the site got started and the idea behind its uniform aesthetic. INFRACULTURE’s events are meticulously curated and it serves as a great alternative to other MIA event sources.
Back to Avra! When she arrived to BVD she was rocking a black tee and skinny jeans… Maybe not what I initially expected, but this was way more my speed. Her personality ended up matching her laid-back attire; she was approachable, engaging, and relaxed. We all ordered a variety of coffees, teas, juices and got to talking about all things Miami and “heritage.”
Avra started off by telling us how she got started on Wall Street and “instead of spending money on fancy cars and houses in the Hamptons” she chose to invest her free time and money in real estate. Within her first couple years, she was given an opportunity to convert a 100,000 sq. ft. property so she made the transition from Wall Street to full-time real estate development.
Since her move to Miami, she has continued with her real estate ventures, most recently smart investments on Biscayne Blvd in the MiMo district. Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side has a rich history and a particularly strong presence of motels. Avra realized that she could make a difference in the neighborhood… by buying these motels. How so? People used to vacation in Miami and stay on Biscayne in the 50’s but the area took a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, prostitution had made it’s way into the area and it was supported by the motels. By buying the motels, revamping and modernizing them, she is taking away the negative and replacing it with a new revenue producing system and encouraging the improvement of the rest of the neighborhood.
After coffee, Avra showed us around a couple sites in the area: a series of revamped warehouses, the future Wotel and healthy food joint at the South Pacific Motel, a MiMo ‘bookended’ Starbucks at the former Stephen’s International Motel, and then finally the Vagabond. The Vagabond is the crown jewel of the MiMo district and it has undergone an incredible renovation after enduring years of disrepair. Avra and her design crew, including Billy Myers, showed us around the rooms and the breathtaking courtyard. The decor is reminiscent of the motel’s heyday and has a “whimsical sensibility.” Each room is accented by a hand-painted mural by an Ugandan artist who’s name I have not been able to find, but if you happen to know, leave me a comment with his name!
Through a back-and-forth with the preservation board and the county’s preservation office (two separate, and often conflicting, groups), the buildings exterior was restored, neon and all. Avra says 50 grand was spent on the motels original neon to recreate the 50s feel. LEDs just didn’t cut it. That shows real dedication to the history of the building.
This visit gave us insight into the development, design, and overall vibe the rest of projects are going to have, and to say the least, I’m really excited. This neighborhood went from being an area I barely even thought about to a place that I can’t wait to live in, in a matter of hours.
Meeting Avra and hearing about how she has achieved and created all the things she has worked so hard for was incredibly inspirational. What I feel was the greatest takeaway from this meeting was the chance to actually see with my own eyes how you can choose to make the right decisions and positively influence a neighborhood. There are plenty of people investing in ways that create a negative cultural impact and take away from a neighborhood’s quality, so it’s great to see someone investing their time, effort, and power to do better. I was also inspired seeing the strength and capability of a woman along with the amount of respect that her partners had in her.
Avra encourages taking responsibility and having pride in yourself. And if you can do good, do it.
I’d like to thank Avra Jain once again for her time and Malik for inviting me along with the CreativeMornings crew to this awesome MorningRituals! Also, if you’d like to see more pictures from this MorningsRitual, check them out here.
This portion of the post was attached onto my most recent CM post and I wanted to re-share it because it was inspired by Avra’s talk. Share your thoughts with me!
This last point is a very important lesson that we, the creative community in Miami, can learn and reflect on from this talk. Miami is in a renaissance, in flux, and we can all benefit from it’s ever evolving environment. Miami is creating it’s ‘Heritage’ now… People are taking ownership and affecting neighborhoods, and it’s even seen in architectural moves. When the PAMM opened earlier this year I read about how Herzog and de Meuron took an initiative and designed a building that will serve as the new vernacular for Miami: raised mass on stilts, large overhangs, vertical gardens, permeability… It’s great to see even people from outside of Miami see the value in Miami’s youth and flexibility. Show your pride in Miami and you too can make your mark in this city!
So I leave you with a question, how you can make your mark and showcase your city with your talents? Or, how are you already doing this? Let me know in a comment below!