Several leases to be announced at former Burger King site
By Samantha Joseph
The developer of 80 acres in the fledgling Village of Palmetto Bay plans to announce several leases by mid-January and will hire a traffic engineer to address concerns about congestion stemming from new commercial activity.
In the two months since it contracted to buy the site, Grouper Financial Inc. reportedly has signed two leases for the Palmetto Bay Village Center, formerly Burger King's world headquarters. Leasing agents, who would not name the tenants, said six other companies are reviewing rental agreements for executive suites in the 300,000-square-foot space.
Grouper is marketing to companies looking to relocate to the southern end of Miami-Dade County. But for the 23,000 residents of the year-old city, the concern lies in the need to balance the potential strain on the community with the economic benefits that could come from the property with an assessed tax value of $25 million.
Project Director Margaret Marshall said the fear is that heavy traffic from the major development will disrupt the town's tranquility and destroy the scenery along Old Cutler Road, which flanks the property. Residents worry that the reopened site will mean a return to the high-traffic days when 2,000 employees traveled daily to the Burger King site, she said.
Their fear is coupled with the anticipated increase in traffic from a 505-home development set to open mid-January 2005 just outside the city limits. The development by Shoma Homes, with executive estates and mansions priced from $407,990 to $824,990, falls well within Grouper's target market.
"Traffic is definitely a concern," said Village Manager Charles Scurr.
Grouper invited city administrators and residents to participate in planning sessions, called charrettes, to discuss development of the property. Apart from its commercial uses, suggestions include parks and recreational spaces, senior living, an elementary school and a permanent home for the city hall.
The Village Center charrettes organized last week by Grouper included residents and city administrators and were the first step in an 18-month process of creating a community development master plan, Mr. Scurr said. Similar meetings to determine zoning and population density are due in coming months.
"We want to be open to ideas and try to find a solution that works for the community and the developer," he said.
Grouper Financial will hire a traffic engineer, said developer Scott Silver, adding that the company's "guiding principle" was a plan to create a development that residents would welcome. Grouper is to present the findings of its Dec. 8-11 charrettes to village administrators Jan. 5.
Meanwhile, the property's leasing agent, Abood Wood-Fay real Estate Group, began a pre-marketing campaign targeting residents of the South Gables, South Miami and Pinecrest. The group focused its initial mailing efforts on 12,000 residents, companies and businesses in what they identified as a "natural market" of potential tenants interested in shorter work commutes.
"Our intention was to blitz the community into awareness of the existence of Palmetto Bay," said senior commercial associate Pamela Smith.
Abood Wood-Fay is also focusing some efforts on companies considering moving to Dadeland Mall-area developments.
"We think that market is going to become very congested," said commercial associate Mia Stierheim. "We think we could offer a lot of people a nice change of pace."
Mr. Silver agrees, saying that the development would also offer alternatives to Miami's bustling commercial real estate sector.
"There are no other Class A buildings south of [the Dadeland area]," he said. "I'd rather be leasing space in the Kendall market, where there is a six percent vacancy rate."
The real estate agent also is in talks with law firms, financial services providers, home health care companies; residential real estate brokers; marketers, insurers, technology firms and CEOs in the market for private offices.
Grouper purchased the Palmetto Bay Village Center for $18.5 million this year. Abood Wood-Fay will provide on-site property management.