Mark Soyka founded the News Café on Ocean Drive in 1988, and the Van Dyke Café on Lincoln Road in 1994. Both restaurants helped to spark the stunning revitalization of South Beach.
Mark is a longtime resident of Morningside, Miami’s oldest historic neighborhood, located east of U.S. 1 (Biscayne Boulevard), and is a vintage-car enthusiast. In the late 1990s, he needed a home for his extensive automobile collection. As he was commuting back and forth to South Beach, a particular building kept calling out to him.
Built in 1938, the building at 5556 NE 4th Court, where Biscayne Boulevard makes a sharp bend, was operating as an office supply warehouse. It was far from attractive. Over the years, the structure had taken a beating, but Mark saw its potential. So he purchased it.
He began ripping off shingles, acoustical tiles, and carpeting over the original terrazzo floors. Gutting the building revealed an architectural gem, complete with vaulted ceilings and massive wooden beams.
The renovated building was used as a showroom for Mark’s car collection for about a year, when he decided to host a Christmas party for his management staff. The party was such a success that he affirmed the same evening he would convert the space into his next restaurant.
In 1999 he opened his namesake restaurant, Soyka. At about the same time, he purchased the buildings along NE 4th Court: 5400 (a funeral home built in 1940), 5580 (a Ford’s Food Center supermarket built in 1948), and 5582 (a transmission repair shop built in 1982), plus their associated parking lots. Today the four refurbished buildings house restaurants, retail stores, offices, a gym, and at the heart of the complex, a lush courtyard (created from a parking lot) that serves The News Lounge.
In addition to these projects, his eye wandered across NE 4th Court to an historic structure built in 1954 for General Tire and designed by noted architect Robert Law Weed. Sitting at 5600 Biscayne Boulevard, it was already home to Leo’s Car Wash. Mark repositioned Leo’s, making room for his landmark pizza restaurant, Andiamo.
To unite all the properties and brand the complex, Mark settled on the name 55th Street Station. The inspiration came from New York City’s Grand Central Station, hub for the transit systems that run under Manhattan’s skyscrapers; and from Miami’s own (nonfunctioning) railroad tracks that run adjacent to his newly acquired properties. Mark envisioned a time when there might be a commuter train transporting the public from downtown Miami to upstate Florida, a vision that is actually in the planning stages today.
Fifteen years later, 55th Street Station is a very successful, mixed-use commercial complex unique in the nation. It has served as a catalyst for redevelopment of Miami’s Upper Eastside, one of the city’s oldest communities.