Miami’s crypto-loving mayor visits the Gateway, a five-day NFT festival
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez spoke to a small group of crypto and NFT enthusiasts last night to officially unveil “The Gateway: A Web3 Metropolis” exhibit. This was the second consecutive year that the Gateway, a festival organized and funded by nft now, a web-based publication3; Mana Commons, a property development company owned by billionaire real estate tycoon Moishe Mana; and MoonPay, a crypto-trading app, had come to Miami, and this time the vibe was much different.
“It’s the last time we’re going to be completely in the physical world,” Suarez said. “Right? Last time.” But he didn’t seem too disappointed about it.
As he hailed the advent of a digital world, a “world without limits” where inner city kids could go to Harvard virtually for free, he began his speech by thanking Mana for her investment in Miami, a place real and physical.
The Gateway was installed along Flagler Street, with storefronts for Gateways partners, which included Porsche; generative art platform Art Blocks; RTFKT, which produced Murakami NFT; and Adam Bomb Squad, a streetwear company. Mana and Suarez are redeveloping the area, and it’s not the first time they’ve done this kind of work together.
Mana’s fame is for having redeveloped Wynwood, a neighborhood in Miami. Wynwood used to be cheaper, a bit grittier, mostly made up of warehouses, but it supported a thriving art scene, with over 70 galleries. In recent years though, while projects like MANA Wynwood have helped turn the neighborhood into a tourist hotspot, the neighborhood is now best known for its Instagrammable murals and nightclubs.
Wynwood would become the center of the crypto community in 2021, with many crypto companies, like Blockchain.com, Solana, and Ripple, setting up their offices there.
Now, Mana has invested some $25 million in this new venture to revitalize downtown Miami. It all started with a phone call.
“One day, Moishe calls me, as he does almost every day. He says: ‘Mr. Mayor, I’ve seen the plans for Flagler Street,” Suarez said in his catwalk address. “He said, ‘You’re going to redo the street, but I think it’s a $10 million project, and I’m going to spend my own money redesigning and redesigning the project. I say, ‘Okay Moishe, it’s your money…’”
In the end, Mana increased his investment to $25 million and Suarez pulled the strings to secure additional funding from Miami County.
A big part of that vision is to bring crypto and NFT money to the city, something Suarez has been calling for for a long time, with varying results. When all was well, merchants brimming with high-value Bitcoin could pay for bottle service using crypto, but as the market fell, Miami club owners lost that particular cash cow, reports Initiated. Another embarrassment is FTX, which calls Miami home with the FTX Arena.
However, Suarez continues and insists that he still receives his salary in Bitcoin, according to Bloomberg.
Everyone at the opening of the gateway seemed intimately familiar with the highs and lows of the crypto market. Like Suarez, they didn’t think a few months of bad business made the dream of digital ownership any less legitimate.
Once Suarez finished his remarks, he, the Gateway team, the media and anyone who wanted to come headed to the former City National Bank building across the street, which Mana bought in 2019 to $25 million. At the top of the elevator, purple lights and pulsating screens waited. nft now founders Matt Medved and Alejandro Navia gave Suarez a tour of a section of the exhibit. Cameras filming like a spotlight shone on Suarez’s face. “It’s good!” he said, vibrating with energy. Meanwhile, Mana in the crowd looked tanned and tired.
They led Suarez to a collection of works on display in the bank vault. Works by popular NFT artists like Beeple, Tyler Hobbs, IX Shells and Mad Dog Jones were featured. Some of them are for sale on Christie’s 3.0, the house’s NFT auction platform. At one point, Suarez leaned over to get a better look at one of the screens, put his hands behind his back and made a face in concentrated consideration.
“Wow, look at the details on this. It’s just amazing,” he said. A walk around the room, and the mayor and the Gateway team went to a well-lit area to take pictures.
After the departure of the mayor, the Gateway team was able to breathe a little before the start of the evening. Reflecting on the project, Medved and Navia spoke of the gateway as the result of their call to educate the world about NFTs.
“It’s really about empowering artists and trying to fit in as many people as possible,” Medved said. “We see the catwalk as this glimpse into the future of art, of digital property, of what our lives are going to be like.”
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