Mighty Mel

By Lois Whitman Hess,
Miami Life Editor
Mel Schlesser

Believe it or not, Miami Beach has a Lincoln Center. It’s not as massive as the Lincoln Center in New York, but it certainly is an important building to the creative community in Miami Beach thanks to owner Mel Schlesser, who is also president of Jameck Development Inc. Lincoln Center is located at Lincoln Road and Euclid Avenue.

The real estate developer decided to bring back the artist community to Lincoln Road during the pandemic by providing them with affordable studio space to create their masterpieces at the Lincoln Center. It turned out to be one of the most popular creative spaces for artists because of its location and surrounding amenities. Art collectors often stop by to see new works and to converse with the artists. The art complex is called Peekaboo Studios.

Mel said he is very interested in making sure Lincoln Road makes every effort to keep its status as one of the most important areas for arts and entertainment. “There are other areas of Miami (Wynwood, Allapattah, Miami Design District) that have the same goals, but the beach is the beach. You can’t compete with that. Everyone wants to be in close proximity to the water. That’s why Lincoln Road has more potential than any where else.

“It’s true that Lincoln Road is going through a transformation now because of the pandemic, but so is every other area. I know the Lincoln Road Business Improvement committee has many exciting plans for the near future so I am very optimistic.”

Mel was one of the founding members of the committee years ago because he truly believed Lincoln Road is a city treasure. “I have been developing real estate properties in this town for four decades so I know a gem when I see it.  The combination of a long string of restaurants in an outdoor mall along with one retail establishment after another, is the right formula to draw traffic. People love to eat and shop all the time.”

Jayda Knight, artist and Peekaboo Studios Manager, Mel Schlesser and yours truly

It was at this moment in the interview that Mel revealed that he is going to turn the Lincoln Center building into an unique arts and entertainment hotel. “It’s truly going to be amazing. We are adding two more floors to the building and expanding out into the parking lot. We have been working on this for quite a while. All of the permits and legal documents have been taken care of.”

The new hotel is going to feature art galleries, art studios and public space. It’s going to be a major destination for everyone who loves culture and entertainment.  Mel is very excited about this expansion because he wants to give back to the community that he dearly loves.

In addition to that,  a 90 ft by 30 ft Keith Haring banner will be on display on the south side of the 1111 Lincoln Road from November 15 to the end of January. This is just in time for Art Basel. Called “Miss Liberty,” the banner was originally commissioned for the “City Kids” charity in New York.  It has been on display in Philadelphia, Europe, and New York City. Mel has been working on the details of this project for a while and knows this is going to be the talk of the town during Art Basel.

Another major attraction coming to Lincoln Road is a holiday market.  Urbanspace, the company that operates the biggest holiday markets in New York City, has picked Lincoln Road, Miami as their next location. As previously reported in The Three Tomatoes, the new holiday pop up shops will be open from November 15th to February 15th.

Urbanspace is hoping to have 100 local and out-of-state vendors participate in this first venture. That means all kinds of goodies will be sold including home goods, children’s toys and apparel, stationery, books and prints, men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, jewelry, kitchen and garden items and food and drinks.

Mel was one of the early real estate developers in Miami along with Tony Goldman, Craig Robbins,  and Saul Gross. These are the men who saw the potential of Miami Beach when Grandma and Grandpa were sitting on their rocking chairs in front of their rent control apartments.

As Mel puts it, “I was tired of the cold weather in New York. I could only use my sail boat a few months a year. My grandmother was living in Miami so I knew my way around. One day I was sitting on Ocean Drive looking at the ocean, the sand, and the sun  thinking “this is paradise. This is how I want to live. I have to get in on the action.”

The other real estate developers felt the same way. The one difference was that Mel had a major criminal law practice in Manhattan. Most of the time he was representing murderers, thieves, and con artists. He loved his work but he was intrigued by a new way of life under constant sun.

He took the leap and has never had a minute of regret.  He has built some of the grandest buildings in Miami Beach. Nothing can be more satisfying than walking past one of his projects knowing his vision built that place.

He’s not done yet. He hopes the new hotel will be his biggest and his best. “You can’t go wrong when you combine arts and entertainment. It’s a natural draw.

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