Rebuilding Flagler Was A Mess. Officials Think This Policy Will Help Future Projects.

Almost a year after a painfully disruptive and often delayed makeover of Flagler Street concluded, politicians and Florida’s transportation agency are sending a message to wary merchants, neighbors and commuters: It won’t happen that way again.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has changed its philosophy on how to mount street reconstruction projects in dense urban settings without causing the kind of grief that came with the 2 1/2-year Flagler redo. Some merchants went out of business when customers had trouble getting to their doors after parking spaces were replaced by piles of dirt and debris. Torn-up roads created hazards for pedestrians, especially seniors.

Florida Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, met with officials from the state agency and Miami-Dade Commissioner Eileen Higgins this week to discuss the new policy and how to best approach any improvements to state-owned roads, including potential upgrades to Southwest Eighth Street, the thoroughfare better known as Calle Ocho.

Kevin J. Thibault, Florida’s secretary of transportation, told the South Florida politicians that his department plans to limit construction zones to minimize their impact on small businesses and the parking spaces they depend on. Under the new policy, the state will require contractors to finish one limited phase of a project before starting the next one.

“We would only take out of service one block at a time,” Thibault said during the meeting.

On the heels of the Flagler project that scarred Little Havana proprietors, Rodríguez sent FDOT a letter in March asking for a new policy. Thibault, who was appointed secretary in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis, made the new statewide policy effective June 2. The guidelines are intended to help small businesses survive construction outside their front doors and people who walk around the neighborhood.

Contractors will also have to ensure pedestrians can safely navigate construction zones during the work, a requirement that will be factored into the project’s design. Engineers would also need to do a better job identifying what utility lines may be underground during the design phase so when the road is ripped apart, there are fewer surprises that delay the work.

“We cannot forget the Flagler construction nightmare nor afford to repeat it, and a new policy FDOT developed at my request aims to prevent that,” said Rodríguez, after the meeting. “Pedestrians, small businesses, neighbors and vulnerable road users need to be a priority during road construction.”

A makeover of Miami’s famous Calle Ocho could be on the horizon, but Rodríguez and Higgins said Little Havana property owners are worried in the wake of the problems that plagued Flagler. Higgins was a vocal FDOT critic during the Flagler project, which was completed by Russell Engineering and overseen by consultant Pinnacle Consulting.

Higgins, who took to regularly inspecting the Flagler construction site herself to pressure contractors, remained skeptical after the meeting. She was encouraged by the new policy, but she, along with Rodríguez, said FDOT needs to do better outreach to property owners to identify what they want out of road improvements well before final designs are cemented, from door-to-door visits and one-on-one meetings to community-wide gatherings.

“You have to know what people need for their street,” she said.

Even still, Higgins said FDOT has a lot of work to do to win the trust of Calle Ocho property owners, merchants and neighbors after the Flagler nightmare.

“I don’t think there is an appetite for another construction project right now,” she said.


Source:  Miami Herald

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Does Wynwood Really Need More Office And Retal Space? This Developer Thinks So.

Foot traffic is booming on Wynwood’s busy Northwest 24th Street. Now, developers are eyeing the Northwest 28th Street corridor as the next neighborhood hot spot.

The Wynwood-based development firm Fortis Design + Build told the Miami Herald it has two projects planned for the strip: a 15,000-square-foot office/retail center and a 50,000-square-foot commercial space whose use has not yet been finalized.

“We feel that 28th Street is the next 24th Street. That’s why we are so interested in this area,” said David Polinsky, Ph.D. and partner of Fortis Design + Build. “It’ll look like a complete neighborhood within three years.”

The smaller, two-story building, at 2734 NW First Ave., is expected to open in 2020 and cost under $6 million. It will offer 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, 5,000 square feet of office space on the second floor and 5,000 square feet of entertainment or amenity space on the roof top. Each floor will have 22-foot ceilings should a tenant want to expand and add a mezzanine.

Jason Chandler, chair of Florida International University’s architecture department, is designing the exterior and interiors. The City of Miami hired ArquitectonicaGEO to design a one-way road and pedestrian-friendly street adjacent to the project.

“You get a Lincoln Road-style experience but in Wynwood,” Polinsky said.

Fortis has submitted for permits, said Polinsky, and should break ground by late January. The building may have a single office tenant and three retail tenants or a single tenant that leases the entire building. “We’ll make our decision on who the tenant or tenants will be once we break ground,” Polinsky said.

The larger, 8-story building at 82 NW 28th St. is still in the design phase, said Polinsky. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2021.

Wynwood has experienced a boom in office space since 2018, part of Miami’s overall office construction boom that is the largest since 2009.

A growing customer base is driving more developers to Wynwood, Jonathan Rosen, senior associate at JLL, said.

“The key demand is the customer base from tourists and new residents.”

And it’s not over.

“If you compare Wynwood to other submarkets like Brickell,” Rosen said, “Wynwood still has room to grow.”


Source:  Miami Herald

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Miami Retail Is Healthy, Thanks To Its Increasingly Urban Landscape

Miami’s commercial real estate market is exceedingly healthy across all asset classes and — despite what some headlines will tell you — retail is no exception. Market fundamentals and demand balance point to continued growth, with limited downside in sight.

Miami is a unique market in that it is a major national metropolitan statistical area (MSA) that benefits from year-round tourism while also possessing a substantial “shadow population,” both domestic and international, which contributes significantly to the local economy. At the national level, discount, convenience and service-oriented retailers are among the strongest; in Miami, retailers across the board are performing well, from Dollar Tree to Tiffany & Co.

This overall health, however, doesn’t mean Miami’s retail market isn’t experiencing some changes. As the local landscape evolves, retailers are adapting to meet ever-changing consumer needs and expectations.

As Miami grows, the region is facing new challenges related primarily to transportation, a lack of available land for new retail development and the changing demography of the area. In the next five years, 136,000 new residents will move to Miami-Dade County, and that figure only accounts for permanent residents. With the projected population increases, the need for additional infrastructure improvements to accommodate growth will impact the retail environment. For Miami-Dade to support current and future population needs, the city’s retail landscape and the way people navigate access to it will change.

To combat transportation challenges, consumers will make a lifestyle choice to live closer to where they work. We can expect an emergence of self-contained nodes, or micro-markets, that contain a critical mass of office, housing and retail space. These “villages” will give the consumer the ability to live, work, recreate and shop all within all within immediate proximity and without spending hours a day in the car. Many neighborhoods are already headed in this direction: Brickell, Downtown, Wynwood, Aventura, Merrick Park and South Miami.

Retailers are evolving to meet this new model of “hyperlocalism” by opening more locations that are smaller than traditional stores in order to serve a higher number of densely populated areas. This model also supports Miami’s diminishing availability of developable land, as most existing neighborhoods are already built-up and cannot support typical suburban retail construction. Almost all of the new retail premises developed in Miami are being delivered as part of mixed-use projects, which may have ground-floor retail with office, multifamily or hospitality above.

While many large metros across the country are seeing store closures, Miami continues to see net positive openings. Historically, retailers have found that as they build out their footprint in Miami, they end up with more units than originally projected. While this is certainly true among smaller-size operators, we continue to see this among “big-box” retailers as well.

New deliveries of big-box stores are evolving to have smaller floor plates and structured parking. Stores like Target, Walmart and Publix are all building smaller-sized units where shoppers are likely to use a basket instead of a shopping cart. We will continue to see flexibility on the part of the big-box users as they are required to adapt store size to the envelopes available to them.

In summary, Miami’s retail environment remains extremely vibrant and healthy. Increased density and verticality will continue to drive new unit opportunities for retailers as the consumer chooses to live a more urban lifestyle.


▪ Total shopping center inventory: 56,942,914 square feet.

▪ Total vacancy: 3.5% (That means almost 97 percent of all “doors” are occupied.)

▪ Deliveries in the past 12 months, in square feet: 147,582

▪ No. of square feet under construction: 1,594,938

▪ Net absorption in the past 12 months (space that was vacant that’s now occupied): 60,017 square feet.

▪ Average asking rent (net-net-net, or NNN): $31.64 per square foot


Source:  Miami Herald

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A Trend Is Breathing New Life Into Big, Empty Department Stores

Turning abandoned mall space such as the closed Sears store in the RedBird development in Dallas into medical offices and clinics is a new use for tired shopping centers that has already found success in other cities.

RedBird owner Peter Brodsky just announced that UT Southwestern and Parkland Hospital are taking over vacant retail space at the former Red Bird MallUT Southwestern will open offices in a 150,000-square-foot Sears store that closed earlier this year. About 43,000 square feet of a Dillard’s store that closed in 2008 is already being retrofitted for Parkland.

Dallas developer Frank Mihalopoulos, who has been working with Brodsky since 2015 on the RedBird project, has already successfully adding university-affiliated medical offices to aging malls in Nashville; York, Pa.; and Atlanta.

 “Selling the RedBird development to local health care companies became a priority as community needs and wishes matched up with trends in the mall redevelopment business,” Brodsky said.

“Health care companies want to reach underserved populations and are trying to find ways to serve more people with the least amount of cost,” Mihalopoulos said. “Repurposing mall space can keep costs down. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for example, has opened occupational therapy clinics and back offices in 22,000 square feet of the West Manchester Mall in York, Pennsylvania It’s lowered their overall cost of occupancy, and then the university medical center is able to rent its space that can fetch higher rents to others.”

In AtlantaEmory Healthcare agreed in October to lease 224,000 square feet of a former Sears store at Northlake Mall to house offices for 1,600 administrative staff. That also adds daytime traffic to the mall, which is anchored by J.C. Penney and Macy’s. Northlake and the mall in Pennsylvania are owned by ATR Corinth, a partnership of Mihalopoulos and Dallas real estate investor Tony Ruggeri formed 15 years ago to redevelop ailing malls.

“Mall locations have a lot of what medical clinics and offices need,” Mihalopoulos said. “There’s parking, good real estate with good exposure to freeway locations. Old department stores have high ceilings that office tenants are looking for these days and those new office workers can shop and eat without leaving the property.”

ATR Corinth’s first big success was in Nashville, where Vanderbilt University Medical Center put administrative offices and medical clinics in One Hundred Oaks Mall.

“That project began in 2008, and within five years of the redevelopment, the stores in the center had experienced sales increases of as much as 100%,” Mihalopoulos said.

While they were considering the RedBird development, UT Southwestern officials visited that project. They also visited the Jackson Medical Mall in Mississippi, which was converted from a shopping mall in 1996 after it lost customers and stores to a newer mall in Jackson.

At that point, Red Bird Mall was also well into its decline. The former mall at the intersection of Highway 67 and Interstate 20 in Dallas was one of the early shopping center casualties. Several Dallas mayors and out-of-town owners tried to fix the center as the mall continued to lose traffic. There are 800 vacant anchor spots at the 1,300 malls and outlet centers in the U.S., according to an updated mall report from Green Street. In addition to health care uses, malls have been turned into call centers and even Amazon warehouses. When Brodsky first purchased the mall, Sears and Macy’s were still open.

“But it became apparent that anchor stores would have to be filled with other sorts of activities to draw people to the property,” Brodsky said. “The shopping center still has about 60 tenants, from Burlington Coat Factory to small mom-and-pop businesses that are doing well. A Foot Locker is under construction in a new green space being built on the Camp Wisdom side where Starbucks opened last year. I’m new to the real estate industry and I give Frank a lot of credit for his track record of converting malls into highly productive office space.”


Source: Dallas News


Eco-Friendly Wynwood Hotel Planned For Art by God Site

A new eco-friendly hotel is expected to break ground on the site of the Art by God store in Wynwood.

Miami Beach-based Lucky Shepherd, co-founded by Christine Menedis and Naveen Trehan, will develop Shepherd Eco Wynwood at 60 Northeast 27th Street, joining a number of other hotels that have been proposed in the neighborhood. Hoar Program Management is the contractor on the project.

Touzet Studio is designing the 150-key hotel and Gensler is designing the interiors. In addition to hotel rooms, Shepherd Eco Wynwood will also have up to 48 residential units, according to a press release. The building will feature an outdoor amenity deck with a treehouse, a spa and wellness center, art gallery, rooftop pool and bar, speakeasy, and farm-to-table restaurant called Shepherd Farms.

Construction will begin in the summer. The hotel is expected to open in late 2022.


Source:  The Real Deal

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After 72 Years On Flagler Street, Kirk Jewelers Is Moving Out

After 72 years of selling diamonds, watches and rings from its historic jewelry district location, Kirk Jewelers is saying goodbye to Flagler Street and moving to Brickell.

The luxury jewelry retailer is closing its location at 142 E. Flagler St. due to a decline in foot traffic over the past 10 years. It will reopen at Brickell City Centre at 701 S. Miami Ave. by late December.

The store will occupy a smaller space, and pay ‘significantly more’ in rent, according to co-president of Kirk Jewelers Allison Newbauer Strongin.

But, Newbauer Strongin said, she expects to see more customers than on Flagler Street.

“There’s a lot of energy right now happening across the river,” she said.

The store currently spans 4,000 square feet, with a showroom of 1,500 square feet. Kirk Jewelers’ new home will cover a total of 3,000 square feet, with a 2,000-square-foot showroom.

Newbauer Strongin did not disclose rent information. But, according to the Miami-Dade County Retail Third Quarter 2019 Colliers International Report, the average direct asking rate for Downtown Miami is $46.01 per square foot and $63.44 per square foot in Brickell.

“You need to ink out the showroom to make up for the rents,” she said.

The move will draw Kirk Jewelers closer to the store’s customer base, with the majority already coming from Brickell. It will also allow the team to sell to more tourists, Newbauer Strongin said, a customer base that she’s seen decline on Flagler Street.

“Brickell City Centre has seen an increase with South Americans and Europeans,” she said. “Brickell City Centre will allow us to tap into both the locals and tourists, especially the Brazilian market.”

The hours at the mall also encouraged the move. The store on Flagler is currently open six days a week during regular business hours. It closes by 5:30 p.m., because Newbauer Strongin said “it doesn’t make sense to be open more than that on Flagler.”

But at Brickell City Centre, Kirk Jewelers will run daily from morning until 7 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., depending on the day.

“We calculated that with longer store hours we’d be open to an equivalent of three to four months more,” Newbauer Strongin said.

Kirk Jewelers was established in 1947 by Newbauer Strongin’s grandfather Julian Sr., a wholesale businessman from New York City. Four generations later, Newbauer Strongin runs the business alongside her brother Jeff Newbauer.

The Downtown Development Authority is prioritizing filling vacancies, especially in the historic jewelry district, with services catering to a growing residential population, said the Downtown Development Authority Deputy Director Christina Crespi.

Greater Downtown — which includes Brickell, the Central Business District, and Arts & Entertainment — has 92,000 residents today, Crespi said. By 2021, the DDA expects 110,000 residents to live in the area.

“Our priority is quality of life, that’s part of an evolving economy,” Crespi said. “For Flagler, our recruitment focus has been tech companies, cafes, bars and restaurants.”

The streetscape improvement plans starting in Flagler in 2020 are part of the quality-of-life enhancements. The plans, in the works since 2011, will include widened sidewalks, extra lighting and greenery.

“The city has over the last few years had a renewed interest in our historic districts,” Carlos R. Lago, a member of the Land Development practice in Greenberg Traurig’s Miami office. “In general, there’s a bit of growing pains with street improvements but everyone is happy at the end.”

The addition of pedestrian-friendly streets is likely to attract more foot traffic and more retail businesses back to Flagler in the future.


Source:  Miami Herald

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Multifamily Investors Are Spending More Capital in Secondary, Tertiary Markets

Multifamily investors are now more likely to spend their money on properties in secondary and tertiary markets rather than in primary markets.

“In secondary and tertiary markets… the number of offers that we are generating is much higher than what it was,” says John Sebree, Midwest-based first vice president and national director of the national multi housing group with brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap. “The level of sophistication of those buyers is much higher.”

After the more than a decade of expansion, investors are running out of attractive places to invest their capital. In secondary and tertiary markets, the yields are often only slightly higher than in primary markets; however, the local economies are strong enough to keep attracting more investors.

“We have had economic growth for so long, that every market has been affected,” says Sebree. “Investors are hard-pressed to find that city that no one else has discovered.”

More than half (55 percent) of the apartment properties bought so far in 2019 were located in secondary and tertiary markets, according to Marcus & Millichap data. That’s up from 43 percent a decade ago.

“The heightened investor interest in secondary markets is illustrated by both robust construction pipelines and increasing capital flows,” says Shawn Lambert, senior analyst with real estate services firm JLL. The amount of money that investors spent to buy apartments in secondary markets more than doubled (showing an increase of 141.0 percent) between the peak year of the last year estate cycle and this one, according to JLL data.

Strong, consistent demand for apartments has helped make multifamily investors feel secure enough to spend most of their money on properties in smaller cities and towns.

“The fundamentals of multifamily are so strong right now,” says Sebree. “Even if there is a downturn in the next couple of years, the multifamily market is not going to suffer much from that.”

Apartment vacancy rate in prime markets has shrunk to just 3.4 percent in 2019—down from 5.4 percent in 2010. But the change has been even more pronounced in secondary markets, where the vacancy rate fell to 3.8 percent from 6.6 percent. And it was most dramatic in tertiary markets, where the vacancy rate fell to 4.8 percent from 7.2 percent, according to Marcus & Millichap.

“When the economy starts to expand it is going to expand in the major markets first, then in secondary and tertiary markets,” says Sebree. “In a lot of the tertiary markets, the economies are doing extremely well, including household growth and job growth.”

In addition, many smaller markets have become millennial magnets, according to Lambert. These secondary markets often have ample job opportunities and the cost of housing is relatively affordable.

When investors buy properties in tertiary markets, the cap rates average 7.0 percent, according to Marcus & Millichap’s tabulation of 2019 apartment deals. That’s significantly higher than the 5.3 percent average achieved in secondary markets and the 4.1 percent average cap rate in primary markets.

However, the risk of investing in smaller markets is still higher in a few ways.

“There is a little risk when you go into a small market that if a couple of new construction projects come up out of the ground, that can have more of an effect,” says Sebree. “It is a small enough market that there is going to be some competition.”


Source:  NREI

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Medical Office Building Investors Will Be Chasing Deals In 2020

As we prepare to swing into the new year, the outlook for the medical office sector is good…largely.

Underpinning the market, as it always has, is the continual aging of the population and the increased medical services that come along with it.

But, despite this sure-bet demand, the sector is not without its challenges, as Al Pontius, SVP and national director of Marcus & Millichap’s Office and Industrial divisions, makes clear. Those concerns arise as a result of the massive industry trend toward consolidation and the move on the part of many formerly independent care providers to saddle up with national care brands.

The firm’s second-half Medical Office Buildings Report defines the growth of the merger movement:

“Hospital and health-system merger activity continues to transform the medical office sector, driving a reduction in physician-owned practices in recent years. In 2012, nearly half of locations were physician-owned practices, but in 2018, just 31 percent were owned by doctors.”

And therein lie the concerns for the existing stock of medical office buildings (MOB).

“There’s a lot of older-vintage product that’s not located where the health systems want to be,” says Pontius. “Some assets may not accommodate the desired configuration of services that the major health systems see as appropriate, modern enough or technologically supportive enough. Consequently, there are a number of buildings that will under-perform relative to newer properties in the sector as well as other asset classes.”

But while there might be assets that sit on the sidelines as healthcare needs grow, few investors, be they institutional or private, are doing the same.

“The consolidation has supported investor sentiment as major providers create efficiencies and broaden service coverage,” says the report. “A sizable pipeline of new space and major expansions by high-credit tenants will sustain elevated investment activity through the end of this year.”


Source: GlobeSt.

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Developers Push The Art Basel Crowd Toward A New Miami Neighborhood

Miami Art Week’s center of gravity moves every couple of years—pulled at one moment by the gritty muraled walls of Wynwood, at another by the gleaming shops of the Design District.

But during this year festivities, a new neighborhood that’s been overlooked by the artistic glitterati is seeing a flurry of activity.

Allapattah, nestled just west of Wynwood and north of Little Havana along the Miami River, is known for its Dominican community and grain warehouses. It’s now the home of two major art complexes—the 100,000-square-foot Rubell Museum that opened on Dec. 4 and the new El Espacio 23 experimental art center developed by billionaire real estate magnate Jorge Pérez to exhibit his private collection and to develop artists in residency.

The Rubell Museum, set along abandoned rail tracks, houses 40 galleries in six former industrial buildings less than a mile from the original Wynwood home outgrown by what was previously known as the Rubell Family Collection. An empty parking lot was transformed into a garden filled with rare and threatened plants native to the Everglades and Florida Keys. Inside, the vast rooms are connected with a long artery of a hallway that culminates with Keith Haring’s painting of a heart.

Works acquired by the Rubells very early in artists’ careers, including Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still (#21) (1978) and Jeff Koons’s New Hoover Convertible (1980), feature prominently in the inaugural exposition, as does an immersive work by Yayoi Kusama called INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM — LET’S SURVIVE FOREVER (2017).

The warehouse was purchased for $4 million in April 2015, according to property records.

“Art transforms neighborhoods” says Mera Rubell, a former teacher and the matriarch of the family clan that collects art and invests in real estate. “There are always frontiers. You just have to go there.”

Just several blocks west in Allapattah, El Espacio 23 is a 28,000-square-foot arts center designed to serve artists, curators, and the general public with regular exhibitions. Its inaugural exhibit—“Time for Change: Art and Social Unrest in the Jorge M. Pérez Collection”—features more than 100 works curated by Bogota-based Jose Roca and explores themes that include identity, public unrest, and marginalized peoples.

“I could not do this in Wynwood; it would be twice the cost, at least,“ he says, noting that Allapattah was located centrally in terms of employment opportunities and industry. “Wynwood is already changed. You couldn’t be showing this,’’ he adds, sitting just a few steps from Estudiante, a David-sized statue by Spanish artist Fernando Sanchez Castillo. It depicts a student being searched and humiliated by police. “There’s just too much traffic of another type. I needed to find a place that was affordable and central.”

A Changing Neighborhood

As Allapattah emerges to attract galleries and artists, Pérez says he is aware of many of the issues that can emerge as neighborhoods change and says the area could be important for the development of affordable housing. He’ll be bidding on 18 acres the city will put up for sale; although he doesn’t say what he eventually wants to do with the area, affordable housing is on his mind.

The Rubells bought the warehouse that makes up their museum for roughly $53 per square foot five years ago. Today, asking prices for industrial warehouses in the area range from $200 to $350 per square foot, according to Diego V. Tejera, a commercial real estate consultant specializing in Allapattah.

“Now you have prices that are really high and there are no buyers willing to pay them,” he said. “All this past year very little transacted. People were waiting to see how all this pans out. With the grand openings of both of these venues, you are going to see more interest in the area.”

“The affordable rental market is extremely strong,” he explains. “If I could build any amount of rental building at rents that people can afford, they would be 100% occupied all the time. The problem is that we’re building a lot of rentals that people can’t afford because of land prices.”

Plus, Pérez acknowledges, profit plays a factor. “Developers make more money the more expensive the product they build, so there’s been a tendency to build towards the more expensive product, and I think the needs are in the lower-price product,” he explains. “We have to rebalance, and we’re doing that.”

Experts in affordable housing are wary of the addition of glamorous arts spaces to the area. “There is absolutely a cost, and the cost is people being forced out of their neighborhoods, and the sort of ethnic and cultural vibe of a neighborhood gets completely transformed,” says Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement at the University of Miami. “Even just looking at Allapattah, there’s been a tremendous increase in the average home value in the last five years.”

Most residents of Allapattah don’t own their homes or businesses, Bachin says, and the number of LLCs that own parcels in the area dramatically rose in the past two years.

The Effect of Higher Property Values

“It’s actually beneficial for an absentee landlord to not invest in the property, because if they think that they can actually sell the property, then the gain will be that much greater. It’s really detrimental to the residents who live there, who don’t own their property, as well as to the business owners, the mom-and-pop stores who most likely don’t own their building.

“There’s a great deal of concern of the impacts that that kind of massive development has on these working class communities of color—in the case of Little Haiti, obviously, a large Haitian-American community, and in the of Allapattah, a large Central American community,” she explains. “We know, for example, historically in cities across the country, that when art spaces, studios, and galleries move into a neighborhood because it has cheaper rent, that is a harbinger of gentrification.”

Pérez’s Related Group is involved with the redevelopment of Miami’s Liberty Square, which is the largest redevelopment of public housing in the southern United States. While his art spaces will undoubtedly make real estate in the Allapattah neighborhood pricier, Pérez says he wants to use them to confront the issue of home prices head-on.

“Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues that we have, in order for there not to be a complete displacement as neighborhoods change,” he says. “There are many things that the private sector and the public sector can do, and exhibitions like this, I hope, will make everybody think about it.”


Source:  Bloomberg

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Miami May Be Closer To Banning Special Area Plans

In Miami, property owners who control more than 9 acres of land can apply for a wide array of zoning changes. They’re called Special Area Plans, or SAPs, and the legislation has allowed for massive, planned projects like Brickell City Centre, River Landing Shops & Residences, the redevelopment of the Miami Design District, and the expansion of the Miami Jewish Home. It has also allowed for future mega-projects like the Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti, Miami Produce Center in Allapattah, and Mana Wynwood.

On Jan. 15, the city of Miami’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board will discuss proposed legislation that could do away with SAPs altogether.

The board voted Wednesday to discuss a rule at its Jan. 15 meeting that would recommend that the city remove SAPs from the Miami 21 zoning code. In the 8 to 1 vote, board member Chris Collins was the lone dissenter.

The ultimate decision on whether to keep SAPs rests with the Miami City Commission. But even if the resolution isn’t approved, board members hope that it will tell elected leaders that SAPs are not beneficial to Miami’s existing neighborhoods and residents.

“I don’t want to send them a weak message,” said the resolution’s proposer, board member Alex Dominguez. “Either get rid of the damn thing … or let us move on.”

Several residents and community activists said SAPs are threatening neighborhoods, clogging roads with additional traffic, and speeding up gentrification. At the very least, community activists want a moratorium on future SAPs until regulations are put in place that govern development and require that affordable housing be offered in exchange for zoning.

“When I sell my home, I will have to leave because I will not be able to afford to live here,” said Jordan Levin, who lives in a house in Buena Vista East that she bought 20 years ago. “Please put a moratorium on these things. They’re the Godzillas of development. Development should not just be for the developers. Development should be for the city.”

Sue Trone, the city’s chief of community planning, argued that SAPs can help parts of Miami move away from the “segregated” uses advocated in the city’s 1959 comprehensive plan into a more mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environment. And while reforms are needed, Trone argued that SAPs can “do a lot of good for the city.” Land use attorney Neisen Kasdin also begged the board not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and to instead pursue reforms.

Dominguez, though, said it was best if the city rid itself of SAPs as soon as possible.

“Time is our biggest enemy. The more time we spend kicking things down the road and having meetings, the more developers are going to develop [SAPs] and we’ll have more traffic and we’ll see more people getting displaced,” he said.

Board member Melody Torrens said stopping future SAPs is “starting to make a lot of sense.” Still, she said the commission might not accept the idea, and while reforms are being debated, developers will continue to push SAPs. “If we’re not going to stop them completely, then we definitely need a moratorium while we go through [the legislation],” Torrens said.

Board chairman Charles Garavaglia agreed with Dominguez that passing a rule ending SAPs would make a stronger impact with politicians.

“I just think we should stop SAPs and send that message,” Garavaglia said, “and, ultimately, the commission will do what they want.”


Source:  The Real Deal

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