Developer to offer office condos in northern Gables project
By Paola Iuspa
Residential and office condominiums are being proposed for a site now home to a half-dozen two-story rental buildings at the northern tip of downtown Coral Gables.
Alhambra Grand Plaza, 2000 Douglas Road, would be one of the few buildings with offices for sale rather than for lease.
"This is a pretty new concept for Coral Gables," said Sonia Kateb Blair, whose real estate firm helped assemble the 1.5 acres owned by two different owners. One of them, Ms. Blair said, "was a former president of Panama, who (will be selling) his last piece of land in the Gables."
Francisco Espinosa, heading The BEC Group of Miami, the developer in the joint venture with Southern Properties of Pittsburgh, said he learned there was a tremendous potential for office condos in the Gables. After advertising the future office space in newspapers for a few days, he said this week his phone has not stopped ringing.
The $30 million project is planned to have 130 residential condos, from one to three bedrooms, in 157,000 square feet of the space. There also would be 30,000 square feet of office condos and 17,000 for ground retail, Ms. Blair said.
The J-shaped, eight-story complex would also include parking for 368 cars.
Having developed many commercial and residential projects in the area in the past 30 years, Mr. Espinosa said, he was aware of a "couple of small office condominiums in Coral Gables," that seemed to be successful.
"There are some 15,000-square-foot, occupant-owned office buildings here," he said.
"Usually owners occupy a portion of their offices and sublease the other half," Mr. Espinosa said, recouping part of their investment.
Other local properties developed by The BEC Group include the 162,000-square-foot Atrium at Coral Gables, the 600,000-square-foot Royal Trust Tower, the 60,000-square-foot Merrick Plaza and the 188,000-square-foot Alhambra Center.
Office space at the proposed project will be about $180 per square foot. Each office would include a kitchenette and private bathroom, Ms. Blair said. Residential space would sell for $240 per square foot. Each side of the building, a block west of the Hyatt Regency Hotel Coral Gables and across from the Columbus Center in One Alhambra, would have separate elevators and restricted access, she said.
After rezoning the site from residential to mixed-use, the partners, still waiting to close on the $80-per-square-foot deal, hope to start the permitting process in early 2002, Ms. Blair said. The 15-month construction schedule would begin a year later, she said. Mr. Espinosa said he hopes to get the building permit by May.
A market analysis by Craig A. Werley & Associates commissioned by the developer said there are four rental projects under construction in the area totaling 680 units. It also showed three of eight planned residential condominiums are in Miami abutting Coral Gables and five are in the Gables, together adding 522 condo units to the market. According to the report, 70% of those units are sold.
Condo prices in the residential area of the Gables range from $250,000 to $1.2 million, excluding penthouses. Condo units in the surrounding Miami area range from $100,000 to $200,000, the report showed.
Cathy Swanson, city development director for Coral Gables, said the area was strong in residential condos, and some developers were introducing rentals to the market. She said about 90% of the Gables' residential area is made up of single-family homes. Although few sites are available for development, she said, there are many underdeveloped tracts.
Ms. Swanson said it is becoming a trend for developers to marry commercial, retail and residential into one project.
"This is a trend that will continue," she said.