Tony Goldman: December 6, 1943 – September 11, 2012
Image credit Michael Bryant of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Everyone dies, but not everyone lives,” said Joey Goldman, Tony Goldman’s surviving son, to a crowd of yarmulked men and done-up women, a crowd mostly finely attired except for the casual rags of some artist-types. They gathered at the golden-domed Temple Emanu-El for the elder Goldman, who died on September 11, 2012 (the significance was not lost on the speakers: Néstor Torres, a Grammy Award-winning jazz flautist and friend, said that when Goldman died, it was as though “100,000 men had died.”). The rows of pews were skinny to the point that whenever someone had to leave to the aisle, those with longer legs had to stand up. “The world knows you were here,” he went on.
Tony Goldman was a developer that didn’t want to be known as such. He, along with his tight-knit, familial real estate empire, Goldman Properties, bought dozens of properties at break-neck speeds in New York’s SoHo district in the 80’s, on Miami’s Ocean Drive and Philly’s 13th street in the 90’s, and then in Wynwood in 2004 (his most recent project was located in downtown Boston). His model of urban renovation consisted of a gentrification-lite approach that sought out decaying industrial enclaves and moved in hip restaurants and spaces for artists to live and work as a way to attract commercial business. Not satisfied with just renting out space to artists, he integrated the arts into the neighborhoods he helped change, as evident in the Bowery Mural in SoHo and Wynwood Walls. The murals illustrate Goldman’s near monopolistic effects on both hoods, and are a reminder that sweeping change from one place (or person) can sometimes spur homogeneity.
Recounted by many as a visionary, Goldman was praised for his ability to see the manifest future in seedy frontierlands, but he was also heralded as an “ardent preservationist,” highlighted by his involvement in the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Not content with urban renewal based on older paradigms, Goldman also helped fund and found the Goldman Infill Studio with Olivia Ramos at FIU. The architecture studio focuses on platforms for renewable energy implemented throughout buildings themselves, and as Ramos told me, was the first of it’s kind to require “design based on financial calculations.” Student architects in the studio worked on such designs for Wynwood, which, with Goldman’s passing, is heading in an uncertain direction. Ramos commented that there’s going to be many changes in the neighborhood in the next 6 months, and that Goldman’s “vision for it will definitely live on” through the developers that are coming in.
Tony Goldman ushered in an art epicenter in Miami and did it elsewhere on the Eastern seaboard. His passing, at the too-young age of sixty-eight, will have ramifications unknown, though his Goldman Properties will surely continue on in his footsteps. The one thing certain now, is that he’ll be bringing his stylish magnetism to that ever-growing, great-weather development in the sky[.]