Pamela Weller Garcia-Serra has undoubtedly made her mark and elevated the city by making Bayside Marketplace one of the most visited tourist sites in South Florida. Pam is a well-loved figure in Miami’s philanthropic circles, a respected businesswoman in city hall, and a trusted leader for the Miami Bayside Foundation. AVESSA had a chance to speak with this imaginative and charming woman as she took us on a visit to Bayside Marketplace and helped explain its importance to Miami and her strategy for the future.
An Afternoon with Pam
As Pam guided me through the sun-dappled spaces of Bayside, I was entranced by one thing, her beautiful, gentle smile. She has a soft, gentle voice but conveys her ideas in a firm, thoughtful way. There is a sense of strength surrounding Pam, which is enormously effective as she navigates her working day and solves both strategic and tactical problems. Pam Weller Garcia-Serra is the Vice-Chair of the Miami Bayside Foundation (MBF), a nonprofit organization designed to advance economic development in Miami through the support of minority businesses and education. Pam also runs the daily operations of Bayside Marketplace as Senior General Manager and has earned numerous accolades from her industry peers for her contributions to the community.
As I walked alongside Pam, the blue-green water of the manmade bay was unusually clear, with soft clouds tempering the golden sky. There was a gentle, crisp breeze that helped in cooling the hundreds of visitors to the local. Joyous laughter and amazed eyes surrounded us, which only reinforced the success that Pam and Bayside had achieved. But today, I could not keep my eyes off this lovely woman as she stopped, greeted, and encouraged the Marketplace workers we encountered on our walk. From a shy woman cleaning the floor near stores to the day manager of the Hard Rock Café, Pam knew their names and made sure to reassure them that she would be there to support them.
It was clear that I was in the presence of a true leader as well as a genuinely kind, thoughtful operating manager. So rarely are these qualities found in one person that it became easy to see why Pam was so thoroughly admired by her peers and friends.
Pam is Bayside, Bayside is Pam
Bayside Marketplace opened in downtown Miami on April 8, 1987, with a vision of revitalizing the city and changing its reputation of drugs, crime, and corruption. Nearly four decades after opening its doors, it remains a leading attraction. With Pam as the leading visionary, Bayside has made arts, literature, and culture a part of its mission, hosting events such as opera and Shakespeare in the park. She was the chief proponent of Bayside’s gorgeous and grand Ferris wheel, prominently displayed in almost every current photo of Miami.
As we slowly walked through the sprawling complex, I continued to reflect on Pam’s intense focus on making sure that all was well with Bayside, in addition to all that she has accomplished as a community leader, philanthropist, business leader, and visionary for the city of Miami.
The Legacy of Pam Weller
You have always been an enthusiastic supporter of Miami and worked tirelessly for the city and Bayside. Originally, you are from Ohio; what drew you to Miami? What keeps you excited about the city?
My love for the gorgeous City of Miami began in 1974 when I left Columbus, Ohio, to attend Bauder Fashion College. The City of Miami is an international business hub. It is also an internationally-recognized arts and entertainment district; and is home to famous league sports teams. I am most enthusiastic about strengthening our community partnerships and being an integral participant in maintaining and developing Miami as a thriving city of the future.
You have also had a successful career creating commercial properties. What are some of the proudest moments you have had in your career? What attracted you to focus on Bayside?
Art and fashion are in sync not only with the arts community but with shopping centers as well. Being able to sponsor and host artisans is a core objective of mine. Bayside is a waterfront shopping and entertainment mecca.
From a public service perspective, many of the city’s philanthropists consider you a friend and partner. Has it been easy working with Miami’s donor community?
Philanthropy is a long-term and strategic partnership, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of Miami’s donor communities. The relationship is easy to navigate, and we have a shared commitment to building a thriving community.
The Bayside Historic District is significant in the historical, cultural, and architectural heritage of the City of Miami. Most preservationists and open-lands activists typically want historic areas to remain open to the public. But this discounts potential economic gains for the city, such as the taxes from developing commercial venues, entertainment, and living space. What were your concerns when developing Bayside for Miami? Were you concerned that the commercial aspect would overwhelm the site?
The development of Bayside Marketplace has evolved for 35+ years. It is a fast-paced cycle in which we are constantly striving to be the best in the 305. I have never been concerned about the direction in which we are going or that a tenant is not right for us. I fully understand the property, and each tenant is vetted to ensure that the fit is a true partnership with the landlord.
The Ferris wheel is iconic. It is on many Miami postcards, providing a glittering point of view in the evening. It also created about 70 permanent jobs, an $18 million investment in our city, without the city having to put one penny into it. Does Bayside shares the revenue as well as sharing the branding and marketing opportunities? Tell us about the long journey to get the Ferris wheel when built. What was the most challenging aspect of getting this iconic structure operating and built?
Yes, Bayside shares in the revenues of the Observation Wheel, marketing, and branding. The journey was complicated. We were able to change the building code and garner support from the Downtown Neighborhood Alliance, which was a huge feat. Great friends were made along the way to change the Miami skyline. The journey took in excess of three years. Changing the building code was the most challenging. We were committed to doing the right thing knowing how impactful it would be to Bayside and the Miami skyline.
Have you received any feedback or criticism on Bayside that you’ve found especially interesting?
The feedback I usually get today is how much Bayside Marketplace has changed, which is music to my ears.
What is your long-term mission for the bayside? What is the future for Bayside?
Evolve. Bayside has evolved into an energetic, dynamic property that is an integral part of Downtown Miami. We live in a fast-paced world of new stores, pop-ups, new leases, and state-of-the-art services. Being on our game is essential in exceeding our shopper’s expectations. We must continually reimagine how we live, play, work, and learn to ensure our continued success.