"I never dreamed when I was using the buildings that I would own them one day," he said. But he had already been thinking about property investment, ever since he made a bunch of money flipping a house in the early '80s. Then, in the late '90s, dot-com fortunes were on the rise, and property was hot. McCraw's developer friend, Alan Hooper, was planning the Avenue Lofts, a set of high-rise condominiums just to the south along Andrews Avenue. McCraw decided to make an offer. In 1998, for a sale price of just over a million dollars, the buildings were his.

He inherited a few tenants, like a theatrical prop manufacturing shop that employed recovering drug and alcohol abusers. It was called Starting Over Enterprises. Despite its good works, Starting Over was soon moving out. Doug Jones and his fledgling event company, Sixth Star, moved in. Jones rented a wood chipper and used it to destroy the props and detritus of addiction that were left behind. The piles of wood chips still sit behind the building by the railroad tracks.

The tracks. It seems like such a cliché, the role they serve, separating this side from "the other side": the traditionally black Sistrunk neighborhood. Inevitably, black men with dreads, black women with strollers, and black children will walk down the right of way. And inevitably, the some of the mostly white artists and shopkeepers in FAT Village will watch them with suspicion. The intersection at First and Fifth has cleaned up considerably — "crack central," McCraw called it during his first days as a landlord — but occasional break-ins persist.

One day in January, an art collector with some money to spend was visiting the studio of Francisco Sheuat, an artist who had recently moved in. The prospective client parked his silver Dodge SUV on the street outside, and he and Sheuat talked business in the doorway, looking on nervously as a group of kids wearing skullcaps sat on the top of the wall and threw rocks. As if preordained, one of the rocks smashed the windshield of the SUV. The collector didn't buy anything that day.

McCraw's dream, at the beginning of the century, was to build FAT Village into a technology workplace. The name — an acronym for "Flagler Arts and Technology," as tenants are constantly having to explain — occurred to him during a drive to the beach. He envisioned a collection of businesses hooked up to T1 internet lines, building the future from sunny Florida.

Then the dot-com bubble burst. Tenants lost money, and McCraw was stuck with warehouses he couldn't rent. So he drew up a contract to sell them all, to pull out of the neighborhood. The buyer would probably demolish them for condos. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma stopped the deal.

Suddenly, said McCraw, "There was nobody here to buy it. There's still not really anybody here to buy it."

And so FAT Village was born, an attempt to do something unconventional with space that nobody seemed to want. McCraw says he has lost millions of dollars maintaining the buildings. He insists he can't afford to be a philanthropist by renting spaces to starving artists below market rate, but he says the capacity of art to generate wonder excites him more than the bottom line: "When we do art walks, nobody is more surprised than me. I just get goose bumps. It's more than anything I imagined in the beginning."


Saturday night. Meredith Lasher sat in a director's chair inside the roll-up door of Sixth Star Entertainment, legs crossed, eyes twinkling. "Hey, no photographs," she called in a joking, sing-song tone to visitors who stopped to take pictures of 20-foot-high shelves filled with stuff. Lasher runs the Women's Theatre Project in a space shared with Sixth Star.

On the last Saturday of the month, FAT Village opens its warehouses for an art walk. Inside Sixth Star, a scale-model Christ the Redeemer beams down from a high shelf; bits of old vanity mirrors and mock-up storefronts look like the wreckage from a bombed-out Our Town. A Seminole Hard Rock logo glitters near the ceiling. Near the back, there's an Oscar statue left over from a private party in the Fort Lauderdale Isles neighborhood.

Sixth Star is an example of the kind of shop that works indisputably well in FAT Village: an event-planning and stage-show company, with a healthy client base, that needs somewhere to work. The art walks, for it, are an opportunity to show off what it does, but the audience is an afterthought. It doesn't need to make money from the people who drink its wine.

FAT Village wasn't crowded on this Saturday in February. Maybe a hundred people walked the block, ducking into galleries and workshops. The audience felt more like a group of friends exploring a neighborhood than the crush of humanity seen during art walks in Miami's Wynwood or West Palm's Antiques Row. With Hula-Hooping competitions in the street and plenty of time to talk with shopkeepers, the vibe was right. Still, if these crowds were any indication of whether FAT Village would succeed, it was clear the neighborhood had some work to do.

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11 comments
Captain Sandbar
Captain Sandbar

How can Adam White say "I was paying rent"? READ: Around the corner, a storefront on Andrews sat dark and empty. It used to house Gallery 101, Taped to the door was an eviction notice, claiming $18,788.07 in unpaid rent, signed by P. Douglas McCraw. White sounds like a dead beat to me based on the article...Creepy

D.F.W.M.
D.F.W.M.

The rents at FAT may be higher in some places, and for good reason as it sits in a very booming area with recently a 20 million dollar residential building is under construction.

Adam White didn't do the right thing and quietly moved out and snubbed McCraw of almost $20,000.

What an opportunity to see the character of a so called "business owner" that Adam White is!

McCraw should file charges against White and take him to court for unpaid back rent.

Michelle G.
Michelle G.

I think you have a foggy perspective of Adam and Doug's dispute and posting you're opinion of a great gallery is hardly doing good for the area. We need to be supporting artist and galleries and not landlords. Let the landlord manage and mitigate whatever the dispute was.

D.F.W.M.
D.F.W.M.

The "great gallery" you claim White's had, apparently wasn't that great since it didn't attract enough people to sustain it -- hence one of the other reasons why he moved.

Maybe it was great for Adam White himself, as he was pocketing a large portion of the artists money with commissions and the cost he charged for them to hang their art on the walls of his gallery.

The area has continued to build momentum and foot traffic with the artwalks and other events there, but this article and the writer certainly hasn't helped the "struggle" by maliciously espousing only a negative view of the area. The area has much to offer and is getting better with city improvements by the week.

There's a reason a $20 million dollar development is going up right across the street.

Everyone who leaves FAT Village seems to only speak of the negative side of the equation. But there are two sides to it, and the benefits that White gained from being at FAT Village -- from the artwalks and events and foot traffic that steered them into his gallery, shows us how positive that area was for him from the new clients he gained that came to the events which he took with him to his new gallery.

If White would have stuck it out and supported the efforts of FAT Village like he said he did, and not left the property owing $18k in back rent thus being evicted on bad terms, then he truly would have been doing something positively benefiting everyone involved.

What Francisco is doing with that space is amazing and I applaud his efforts!

R. D. M.
R. D. M.

I bet if you had a few food trucks there you could get a few hundred people, but what do I know? I've never been bankrupt.

Miami Beer Tour
Miami Beer Tour

Thanks to Doug, Travis and everyone at FAT Village. Murals out back of FAT Village walls and containers inside Collide Factory created by MBT (Miami Beer Tour), a group of artists based in Tokyo, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Murals are always changing and living outdoor installations with the use of tape which preserves parts of the murals before them. Artists include La Mano Fria, Broke, Team Panza, Marvel, Neon 7...For more info and images check out:http://tokyobeertour.tumblr.co...and follow MBT on facebook:http://www.facebook.com/profil...

Bap1346
Bap1346

Is this where the New Times office is? Otherwise I can't see why they wrote about this.

counts
counts

Well... they couldn't event support their area... I wonder... Oh!!! it was was the new guy Stephan who wrote the article.... He doesn't even know that The Galt area is dead!

New Times
New Times

The name is an acronym for "Flager Arts and Technology".

steroids
steroids

excuse my stupidity but why is it called fat village ?

 
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