55-acre Miami storage yard under contract for housing, retail projects
By Paola Iuspa
A developer planning to build housing and retail is reported to have a contract to buy 55 contiguous acres near Miami's Design District, now used primarily to store shipping containers.
The redevelopment of the Wynwood site is expected to transform neighboring areas, including the Biscayne Boulevard corridor from interstates 195 to 395, said Bernard Zyscovich, an architect specializing in urban design and hired by Florida International University's Metropolitan Center to study 1,400 acres between the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport.
"The Buena Vista yard is like a hole in a doughnut," he said, referring to the land owned by Florida East Coast Industries. "It is so non-urbanistic and disconnected that it creates a center of non-use in the middle of the city, affecting surrounding neighborhoods."
City of Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, whose district includes the Buena Vista Yard, said he was aware of the contract to purchase the site. Also a partner in WynCo Realty in Miami, the commissioner said Florida East Coast Industries, or FEC, was asking $36 million for the tract.
Neisen Kasdin, a real estate lawyer with Gunster Yoakley representing the seller, said he could not comment on the deal.
Real estate broker Edie Laquer, who is representing both the seller and buyer, said she had signed a confidentiality agreement on the deal and could not share information on the transaction. But, she said, an announcement regarding the land could be made next week.
Commissioner Winton said the buyer seems interested in converting the blighted property into an urban district, with residential, office and retail components mixed in the same buildings.
Husein Cumber, FEC spokesman, said he could not comment on the status of the property but his group has been "actively marketing" the site for sale or lease for the past year, when it became surplus land.
The yard is south of Northwest 36th Street and north of 29th Street, west of the FEC Rail Way and Northeast Second Avenue, and east of North Miami Avenue.
No streets run through the 55 acres, partially covered with pale red and blue containers and partially vacant. The Port of Miami has been leasing a "significant part" of the parcel on a month-to-month basis since 1992, Mr. Cumber said.
Trenae Floyd, port spokeswoman, said most of the containers stored there now belong to Seaboard Marine, an ocean transportation company operating from the port. If the land is sold, Seaboard would be responsible for finding new storage sites, she said.
While the area's current zoning is industrial, the Miami City Commission voted last week to change it to mixed-use.
Commissioners followed recommendations from a recent study targeting neglected neighborhoods along the railroad tracks. The $375,000 report proposed mixing commercial, residential, light manufacturing and loft space in the yard's northern 35 acres.
The remaining 20 acres in the south would be ideal for a box retail such as Home Depot and Costco, said Bob Schwarzreich, city economic planner. He said housing in the north would help with the rebirth of the Miami Design District while retail in the south would create employment for Wynwood residents.