On the far eastern edge of Miami’s Little Havana, beyond a tall black gate, sit four century-old wooden buildings made of strong Dade County pine, arranged around a courtyard with a pool. Letters on the frontmost building’s pale yellow facade identify it as the Miami River Inn. One of the city’s very first hotels, it was built in 1908 to house transient laborers working on the docks, back when Miami was still a frontier outpost of barely 5,000 people. Locals have long harbored a belief that the bottom floor of one house is haunted.
At the time of the inn’s construction, the surrounding area was known as Riverside; like the rest of the city, it became a hotbed of real estate speculation over the coming decades. As a new residential neighborhood grew around it, the inn remained a holdout from another era. In the ’80s, its rent was $100 a week, and the buildings were crumbling. Then, in 1990, a preservationist bought the property and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast, and in 2015, it was flipped again to a hip hotel group. Two years ago, the buildings were leased by a start-up that intended to return them to their original use, housing itinerant workers — albeit a very different kind.
That company is called Roam, and since its founding in 2015, it has constructed an international housing network for so-called digital nomads, a growing demographic of people who travel the world while working remotely over the internet. Roam operates complexes of furnished, single-occupancy residences in four cities (Miami, Tokyo, London and Ubud, in Bali), with three more on the way (in New York, Berlin and San Francisco). The idea is that you never have to leave the system: Roam is everywhere you want to be. Residents pay rent starting at $500 a week to comfortably live and work, two activities that quickly become indistinguishable within Roam’s confines.