Why Miami Needs a Food Hall

May 24, 2017



By Pola Bunster

In this current growth spurt, every artistic and creative sphere in Miami’s is expanding, reaching heights and supportive levels many of us never even fathomed. We can sit here and celebrate our passage into creative maturity, but what Miami really needs is a place for these spheres to collaborate and build off of each other, a hub for community development and innovation, a destination where locals and tourists can experience that evolution together. What Miami really needs is a food hall.

At the root of things (and across all cultures) food is a driving point that stands the test of time: it’s what binds us. Food, and the gathering rituals of both society and pleasure that come with it, are one of the only things we can say we all have in common. A vibrant place like a food hall will serve as a testament to the things we all share, it will serve as the connective tissue we need to remind us that we aren’t all that different.

While there’s been quite a bit of buzz about several similar concepts coming to our city this and next year, we’re most excited about The Citadel, Miami’s first food hall coming to Little River. First off, and most importantly, The Citadel was developed entirely with Miami in mind. “Whether it’s breaking bread or making bread, my partners and I have built The Citadel to be a voice for those who best represent what Miami actually is” said Thomas Conway, Principal behind the project. The Citadel’s food hall will boast culinary pop-ups by 100% local concepts rather than importing big names from other cities. Miami favorites like Taquiza, Cake Thai, and The River Oyster Bar have all confirmed among over 15 others.

Throughout history, marketplaces and bazaars have been the central location for energy and growth across the globe. Not only mercantilistic, but cultural. In America, food halls have embodied a similar character, becoming the anchor point from which the surrounding city develops. They not only serve as a physical place, but as a beacon to what the city’s identity represents. “Our goal is that The Citadel will represent Miami’s true brand which includes really smart people, that do really great things” he said. What’s a better place to encapsulate our growing city than a nucleus for multi-sensory exploration?

Food halls provide a place for consumers to not only engage with their local businesses, but with the products themselves–experiencing first-hand where they come from and why they were made. They function as a necessary gathering place for the community, something our city is still lacking. When it comes to The Citadel, sourcing from within is the best way to go: “By offering a critical mass of the best of the best we believe our local businesses will benefit from a cross pollination of best practices, finest ingredients, leading trends and so on” said Conway. All so that the customer sees and feels the value provided by those that have the greatest understanding and appreciation for the community.

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They are also a catalyst for collaboration, where businesses work alongside each other not in a competitive atmosphere, but one that fosters collective support and growth. “Miami needs a food hall to serve as an example of how, through collaboration, we can collectively elevate one another to achieve new heights beyond the imaginable” said Conway. This idea of equal footing has a 100% success rate. We’ve seen it in other cities like New York and Philadelphia, where the collaboration and thoughtful creation build powerful energy, one that is both infectious and prosperous for everyone involved.

The Citadel, and all other future food halls coming to Miami (hopefully) should continue to bear the weight of what the city needs. Much of that drives from supporting our local infrastructure and creating a place where it can thrive at its best. “Local businesses are the foundation of our community” said Conway. “Miami has an infinite supply of small businesses many of whom never get to the next level because the infrastructure to do so does not exist.” Food halls and developments like The Citadel offer opportunities for businesses of every size to function without having to deal with the hassles of permitting and getting through the city. They serve as the megaphone for small businesses to distinguish their value from the larger companies that have reigned for far too long.

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In the end, Conway and his team will create a space where everyone from the community, no matter their class or other distinction, can come together and enjoy the fruits of what makes this city so great. They’ll have food, retail, services, creative happenings, moments for conversations, and everything that generates an atmosphere of enjoyment and authentic connection. What does he want the upcoming food hall to generate? “I would like The Citadel to serve as a kitchen, coffee shop, laboratory, library, studio and any other platform that people find refuge coming together to think boldly.”

And so do we.