Doral officials have extended a permit to close a stretch of Northwest 53rd Street until May 31. It now serves as a pedestrian walkway and outdoor seating area for restaurants.
Along this street, 20 businesses were forced to shut down indoor dining due to COVID-19. In order to help them stay afloat, Codina Partners, the developer of Downtown Doral, requested the street closure.
“Downtown Doral is committed to responsibly supporting our residents and businesses during these difficult times,” said Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners. “By expanding the outdoor dining space, the restaurants at Downtown Doral can continue our vibrant way of life in the safest way possible by offering world-class dining experiences in an al fresco setting that provides for the well-being of all.”
Codina Partners worked with Baptist Health South Florida to create a plan to ensure the safety of the public while allowing restaurants and retailers to serve their community. With guidance from the health system’s director of safety, Joel Fleitas, the retailers were able to set up socially distanced outdoor seating and hand-sanitizing stations placed throughout the area.
“This plan helps Downtown Doral’s restaurants expand outdoor seating in a health-conscious and mindful manner, which can serve as a model for other communities to follow,” he said.
The closure and repurposing of Northwest 53rd Street was conceptualized with the help of Della Heiman, Doral Yard co-founder and founder of the Wynwood Yard. Doral Yard was set to open in March 2020 but was forced to delay until August. During this time, Heiman and company worked on ways of engaging the community while figuring out how to make the project come to life.
“While we were closed, we worked on different projects, some of them had to do with engaging our community digitally,” said Heiman. “We wrote and self-published a digital cookbook for the concept, we also hosted remote cooking classes and remote fitness classes.”
Heiman said her company worked with Codina Partners to create a space that would support the success of all the local businesses in downtown.
“We got to work on this really inspiring project with Codina Partners to envision what it would look like to totally activate downtown Doral main street to really support the local business community during the pandemic,” she said. “Many restaurants lost their footprint and did not have enough property space to achieve full capacity. Most restaurants can’t make money when they’re not at 100% occupancy.”
Lilyvania Mikulski, marketing director of Codina Partners, said the Main Street/pedestrian walkway project also includes live music, art pop-ups and all sorts of educational classes, including fitness, wellness and cooking for people of all ages – all as an effort to engage the community during difficult times.
“We like to think it wasn’t just closing the street but also giving people something to do,” she said. “It’s been a combination, I think, of all of these efforts as well as the retailers who are doing their part by continuing to serve their patrons.”
According to Heiman, the retailers on Main Street have found a balance that enables them to work together as a community.
“There’s this really beautiful symbiotic relationship between all the restaurants and other retailers who work together to create a safe and vibrant place that helps the businesses thrive but does it for the well-being of the community,” said Heiman
Doral spokeswoman Maggie Santos said there aren’t any plans to continue the closure past May 31.
“Public Works haven’t received any complaints about the street being closed during this time,” she said. “However, it is important to note that the school right next to it (Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School) has not been in full operation so there hasn’t been the same level of traffic and cars in that area. Schools will all be going back in August.”
Regardless of whether the walkway stays, Heiman has many plans for the future of Doral Yard, including a 15,000 square foot outdoor area that will be open in the summer. The outdoor dining will expand the concept of the artisan venue.
“We will be adding an outdoor music venue, an organic garden and culinary vendors, along with a full-service restaurant that is being conceptualized by chef Eileen Andrade, owner of Finka Table and Tap,” she said. “That’s all part of our business model that is going to continue to evolve and continue to get better in the coming years.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified Lilyvania Mikulski as Trina Sargalski. Mikulski is the director of marketing for Codina Partners.