Craig Robins strongly believes that all good things take time. Since launching his vast real estate enterprise Dacra in 1987, at age 24, he has, with this ideology in mind, become one of Miami’s shrewdest mover-shakers. Intimately involved in the revitalization of South Beach in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Robins helped restore—and save from demolition—several now-prized Art Deco properties, including The Webster (designed in 1939 by Henry Hohauser as a hotel and now home to Laure Hériard Dubreuil’s flagship fashion boutique). From there he began to quietly shift his focus across Biscayne Bay, to the Design District neighborhood, unveiling the beginnings of his ambitious plans in 2002. A visionary thinker, tinkerer, and doer, Robins also got involved in bringing the Art Basel fair to Miami in the early aughts and in 2005 co-founded the Design Miami collectible design fair.
Thinking about things slowly and holistically, Robins—unlike so many others in his line of work—does not follow a build-it-cheap-and-fast-and-flip-it edict. His is a long-haul, less-but-better vision. Robins cares deeply about the urban fabric and the textures of the city, about architectural serendipity and surprise, about moments of wonder and beauty and joy. A finger-on-the-pulse master of cultivating culture, he has thoughtfully constructed a synergistic amalgam of art, architecture, design, dining, fashion, and urban planning within the Design District, a New Urbanism–infused neighborhood that seems to subtly morph every month, if not every week, bit by bit. While it hasn’t been without its detractors and naysayers, the Design District clearly offers an alternative, human-scale approach to city building. Now home to standouts such as the Institute of Contemporary Art (which opened in its new location in late 2017) and the Pharrell Williams–owned Swan restaurant and Bar Bevy, the Design District is beginning to show its potential not as just a luxury shopping mall—though it’s certainly that, too—but as a dynamic cultural hub.
On this episode of Time Sensitive, Robins talks with Spencer Bailey about his big-picture vision, his early career helping rejuvenate South Beach, his forward-thinking approach to bolstering Miami culture and his obsession with river rafting and disconnecting in nature.