A Day in the Life of Craig Robins



The real estate developer who helped turn Miami into a global destination for design is bringing scores of luxury fashion brands to the revived Design District

SPHERE OF INFLUENCE | Robins inspects the installation of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye dome in front of new construction designed by architect Sou Fujimoto in Miami’s Design District.Photography by Audra Melton for WSJ. Magazine

As much as the complexity of any modern metropolis resists the influence of a single individual, Miami native Craig Robins, 51, the founder of the real estate development firm Dacra, is nevertheless making a strong case for himself as the author of the Magic City’s future. After aiding the transformation of the moribund South Beach area into a glamorous district of pristinely restored Art Deco hotels in the ’80s and ’90s, he helped engineer the launch of Art Basel–Miami Beach and co-created the satellite fair Design Miami. Now he’s about to see the fruits of more than a decade of planning and construction as another area revitalized under his care—the once-derelict Design District—becomes home to a who’s who of high-end fashion retail brands like Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana, with 50 stores set to open next year.

Robins came by his métier partly by blood—his father, Gerry, was a successful New York City real estate broker who decamped to Miami in the 1950s. A college stint in Barcelona sparked the younger Robins’s interest in the arts—and in the idea of preserving cultural history, a belief that shaped his efforts to rehabilitate iconic hotels on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive alongside his mentors, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and developer Tony Goldman. His vision for the Design District, comprising about a dozen square blocks, is even more ambitious: a pedestrian-friendly streetscape framed by artworks by Marc Newson and John Baldessari and graceful architecture by the likes of Sou Fujimoto.

Robins has the brisk, direct manner of a deal maker (and a more than passing resemblance to Lex Luthor). He conducts much of his business by phone, and if he learns of an operational holdup during a meeting, he is likely to speed-dial the responsible party on the spot. His personal and professional lives are elaborately intertwined; he often entertains visiting luminaries at his home, and even his fashion choices—Louboutin shoes, Berluti pants, an Hermès belt—reflect the Design District’s business partnerships. As might be expected of a man who keeps a copy of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on his desk, he’s playing the long game with his hometown. “We’re free to be a city of the future,” he says.

<strong>8:29 a.m.</strong> Breakfast at home: fruit, salmon and an egg-white omelet

1,000 artworks in Robins’s private collection, including pieces by John Baldessari, Mike Kelley, Richard Tuttle and Paul McCarthy.

3 trees perched atop the Design District Hermès store. Robins likes the effect of overhead greenery.

$12.6 million Cost of a private jet at the center of a lawsuit between Robins and two other developers. One of the parties who sued him, Jackie Soffer, is now his girlfriend.

1 dog A brown boxer named Laz, who’s been trained to push a button to let himself in and out of Robins’s house.

1,000,000 square feet of retail space in the Design District, allowing brands to open large shops, with some flagships at 10,000 square feet.

0 seams between the floors, walls, shower and sinks of Robins’s custom-made, Zaha Hadid–designed bathroom.

24 Robins’s age when he founded Dacra.

$100 Cost of what his girlfriend calls the best gift she ever got him: a Kindle. Robins is a compulsive reader.

40.5 million passengers flew in and out of the Miami airport last year, a new all-time record.

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