The "Design District" is an isolated area of several city blocks with a bunch of banal small commercial buildings that, incredibly enough, predominately house stores of extremely expensive luxury retail brands. The one good thing I can say is that it is, at the most basic level, pedestrian-friendly: Most buildings come up to the sidewalks and are closely spaced, which is the exception to the rule in car-centric Miami. But this is NOT the Deco District of South Beach, where interesting architecture and shops provide scores of blocks of pedestrian pleasure: this is the mainland. The areas around the Design District look like...well, like most of the rest of non-super-rich Florida: endless suburban grid of small concrete block houses and strip mall businesses. Or, in the case of the impoverished neighborhood immediately to the west of the Design District, vacant lots and cracked asphalt.
A few years ago, the "Design District" had lots of furniture stores, kitchen showrooms, and the like. "Design" referred almost entirely to the items for sale: the buildings were dull. This made some sense, insofar as such users need relatively large spaces, and the location and character of the "District" surely provided it inexpensively. It was convenient to be able to walk from showroom to showroom to compare. But most of those tenants are gone nowadays, replaced by luxury goods chain stores, selling pricey handbags and shoes and the like. There are hardly any restaurants. One gathers that wealthy visitors from South and Central America keep the Design District alive, but why such people would choose to shop in this wasteland is a mystery to me.
Apparently the owner of the Design District realizes this. Currently, literally half of the District is under renovation or reconstruction, with the goal of bringing design pizzazz to the buildings themselves, and bringing more and bigger luxury brands and (I assume) pricey eateries. The usual roster of "star architects" are under employ, from what I read. I wish the developers and architects well, and I intend to come back in 3-4 years to see if the change is meaningful. But for the time being, I have little use for the Design District. I don't need or want $10,000 watches, and if I want "design," I have the wonderland of South Beach.