Miami's 56-acre Buena Vista rail yard to yield 3,000 homes; retail stores to follow
By Paola Iuspa
When Michael Samuel develops the 56 acres he and his partner purchased last week between Miami's Wynwood and Little Haiti, thousands of moderately priced homes will hit the market.
A combination of loft condominiums and traditional rental apartments is planned for portions of the 18 city blocks in the Buena Vista Yard, a massive chunk of land north of downtown used to store hundreds of cargo containers from ocean shipping liners.
Mr. Samuel, with a Boca Raton address, and New York partner Dan Pfeffer, president of Midtown Equities, hope to start marketing some of the 3,000 planned units in four months, Mr. Samuel said Tuesday. Loft condos would sell from $150,000 to $275,000 and would spread out in 17 buildings, he said. Planned for land south of Northwest 36th Street, north of Northeast 29th Street, west of Northeast Second Avenue and the Florida East Coast Railway and east of North Miami Avenue, the mixed-use development is projected to cost about $600 million, Mr. Samuel said.
"The majority of the units for sale are going to be lofts," he said. "Residents will be able to work, live and play there. It will be a quality product."
Considered an eyesore and formerly a property of the FEC line, the $34.5 million yard would be transformed into a city of its own, with a commercial center possible featuring retailers such as Publix, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Home Depot and others, Mr. Pfeffer said. Retail would occupy about 21 acres and in many cases retailers would be able to buy land from the partners to build their own stores, said Mr. Samuel, who is seeking boutiques as well as national chains.
Before construction begins in late 2003, there is a lot of planning to be accomplished. Developers want to divide the parcels into chessboard-like pieces and reconnect the fenced-off, free-standing tract to the city through new roads, a water and sewer system and other basic infrastructure, said Bernard Zyscovich, the architect designing the project.
He said conversion of the whole yard would take years.
"It is the development of a part of the city, not of a building," he said. "We are building 18 blocks."
The partnership between Mr. Samuel and Mr. Pfeffer has already transformed other blighted areas in major cities. For example, they purchased and rehabilitated 140 acres occupied by a 1.5-million-square-foot manufacturing plant in New Jersey, divided the land into parcels and built housing, a living-assisted facility for the elder and a town center with box retailers, Mr. Pfeffer said.
They want to repeat that experience in Miami.
"We love the area," he said. "We see so much potential here. We want to start building as soon as possible. We don't want to sit on the property."
While the partners try to get the necessary zoning changes, come up with architectural plans and plan the neighborhood, they agreed to lease 15 acres for a year to the shipping companies to store the port containers until they can find a new place.