Love Brought Avra Jain To Miami

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avra sitting
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By: A.M. de la Torre

And Then She Fell In Love With Miami.

Avra Jain is a big deal in Miami. In the eighteen years that she’s been living here, she has contributed significantly to the city, transforming a once dilapidated and rough-shod “red-light” stretch of Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard into one of the most admired community turnarounds in the U.S.: the MiMo (Miami Modern) district. And Avra’s not about to stop. She’s working on transmuting and reinvigorating areas all around Miami-Dade County, from Hialeah to the Miami River. We sat down with her and dove into her take on what makes Miami her favorite city.

So what prompted this intense commitment to Miami, from the gay, 57-year old, Indian-American, Illinois native/New York transplant?

“It’s a labor of love,” said Avra. “I came to Miami to follow love, and I fell in love with the city.” Since the 1980s, when she worked as a trader on New York’s Wall Street, Avra visited Miami, with her gay and fashion-industry friends. “The gay boys always knew about the next ‘in’ place to be and party,” she recalls. “They pulled me along— and I loved it! When my Wall Street coworkers were using their vacation days to summer in the Hamptons, I was using my vacation to winter in Miami. It was New York-Miami, Miami-New York, for many years.”

And then came love.

In the early 90s, and now a New York real estate developer, Avra started a relationship with a woman who lived in Miami. As the relationship deepened, living together became the priority. There was a choice to make. Miami won, handily. “Look around,” Avra says, “it’s a no-brainer. We are living where the world comes—or wants to come— for vacation!”

In Miami, Avra continued her real estate development work, building a portfolio of properties, and enjoying the amazing quality of life that the city offered. “I’m not into labels, I’m all about inclusion, but as a gay woman—and for many [LGBTQ] people—Miami tops the list of places to be. We choose to live in Miami because we feel comfortable here. The feeling and lifestyle. It’s sexy, and it makes you feel healthy, relaxed— and a little more alive. It’s a happy place!”

So how does a woman with a 12+ hour workday unwind, in Miami?

“I’m lucky to have a great wife and daughter and I love my life.” When not traveling, Avra concentrates her precious free time on friends, family... and MiMo, her home turf.

“There’s such a cool vibe in the MiMo neighborhood.”

At The Vagabond Hotel, Avra’s keystone restoration project in MiMo, she and her (mostly gay women) business partners have created “the kind of place where I, myself, would want to come stay, or hang out.”

The super-photogenic, retro-chic, 44-room hotel is her “second home,” a crown jewel in her portfolio. It’s an oasis of sophistication that once hosted 1950s Rat Pack celebrities, and now attracts guests the world over, who appreciate the history, the hip design aesthetics and serene, Instagram-ready pool area. Here you’ll find fashion and art industry people, friends that rendezvous in Miami from all parts of the country, families with children, and couples—gay and straight—who book the hotel for their wedding day celebrations, or, create a “home base” for their multi-day explorations of other areas of Miami or Florida.

“The MiMo area is convenient to everything. You’re fifteen minutes from one of my favorite beaches, on 74st Street in North Beach; fifteen minutes from great golfing facilities at Normandy Isle – a public course that’s one of Miami’s best-kept secrets and ideal for tourists, since they rent clubs. And we’re ten minutes to the Design District, Wynwood, the Performing Arts District—everything that’s cool and happening right now. There’s so much to do and see.”

Avra’s priorities for what’s fun in Miami have shifted since her early days as a tourist— when 12th Street Beach, the Palace, and Score in South Beach where her go-tos for meeting up with other gay friends and allies. Today, Avra’s social calendar comprises—besides lots of dinners with friends (“Have I become boring?”) — fundraising for numerous organizations, including the LGBTQ Task Force, the Aqua Foundation, and going to movies (Outshine, O Cinema). “It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people.”

When going out for dinners and drinks, what are some favorites?

BarMeli69, Via Verdi, Flavorish, Vista, Vagabond for its amazing sushi bar, Ferraro’s Kitchen, and for more formal occasions, MC Kitchen. And for ethnic, I love Zaika – the best Indian food in Miami—plus Tony Chan’s Water Club for Peking duck (with a water view), and Versailles for Cuban food.”

The best cocktails? “The Anderson— hands-down.”

With so much passion for so much of what Miami has to offer, what advice can she share with other gay women who want to visit— or maybe stay and work?

“Come, absolutely! There’s so much creativity, talent and opportunity. The world is here, and all eyes are on us— they know we’re special. It’s authentic and feels authentic. Maybe that’s why so many gay people like it here—they’re authentic, can be authentic, and can live their truths. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

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