Developers working to give Civic Center workers places to call home
By Shannon Pettypiece
Residential developers are starting to penetrate the Civic Center region in northwest Miami - home to some of the county's largest employers but few places for employees to live.
Bounded by Northwest 20th Street on the north, the Miami River on the south, Northwest Seventh Avenue on the east and Northwest 12th Avenue to the west, the Civic Center employs more than 30,000, one of every 28 employees in South Florida - from doctors to blue-collar workers.
Major employers in the area are Jackson Memorial Hospital, Cedars Medical Center, the University of Miami School of Medicine, Waste Management Inc., the Veterans Administration Medical Center, the State Attorney's Office and the Metro Justice Building.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for December for Miami Riverhouse Condominiums, a 199-unit residential development at 1170 NW 11th St. expected to open in summer 2006. The structure will replace a Travel Inn on the lot, owned by developers Sam and Judah Burstyn.
Miami Riverhouse will have views of the river but no direct access to it. A two-story apartment building sits between the river and the site.
The Burstyns bought the property 10 years ago for $2 million and have been operating the hotel, Judah Burstyn said. The brothers, who began their real estate careers doing condo conversions in Miami Beach, also own two lots next door that they plan to develop into townhouses or low-rise lofts.
"We spoke to some of the head doctors there and they said they need us, and they are asking us to provide these residential units," Judah Burstyn said. "There are 40,000 people that need this, and one of the biggest problems for hospital employees is the traffic."
The frequently congested State Road 836 is the main artery from Miami-Dade County's residential neighborhoods to the Civic Center.
Several blocks from the Travel Inn are two more residential projects, Seybold Pointe and Wagner Square, under development by Urban Development Group.
Seybold, 816 NW 11th St., is expected to open in September, said co-developer Albert Milo. He said all but two of the project's 96 units are already sold.
Wagner Square, 1700 NW 14th St., is in the permitting process, he said. Mr. Milo said it will have 198 units starting at $130,000 and should be complete by July 2006.
Related Group of Florida opened a 209-unit development last fall next to the Santa Clara Metrorail Station and Jackson Memorial Hospital at Northwest 13th Avenue and 20th Street. Related is planning a 204-unit project next door.
Prices for units at the projects range from $120,000 to $300,000, and the developers said targeted buyers have an annual household income of $35,000 to $75,000.
"We have a lot of intern doctors and nurses and a lot of downtown workers, too," Mr. Milo said.
The projects are surrounded by older single-family homes and limited retail stores that include a Winn-Dixie supermarket and several fast-food chain restaurants.
Despite the large employers and the convenience to mass transit and downtown, the Civic Center area met with little interest from residential developers until recently.
Mr. Milo, who broke ground on his first Civic Center project in 2003, attributed that to poor leadership in previous city administrations.
"It was in part because of the political instability in the City of Miami," he said, "and I think it is a credit to Mayor Manny Diaz that he has had the vision to get people to the table."
Miami Riverhouse is to include 8,856 square feet of retail space and 12,900 square feet of office space.
The city announced a partnership recently with the University of Miami to work to create more jobs in the area - the first step in the city's master plan for the area, developed by a 14-person team of graduate students last year during a two-week workshop.
Other improvements in the plan include:
nRestoration of green spaces along Wagner Creek to connect different clusters in the area via trails.
nConstruction of an entertainment complex with a cinema, a gymnasium, restaurants, retail stores and an amphitheater along Northwest 11th Street.
nConstruction of housing on Northwest 11th Street as well as retail stores and hotels on Northwest 14th Street near the medical center.
nEstablishment of an outdoor marketplace where people can get coffee and fresh produce and enjoy entertainment.
nImprovements to the Medical Campus Metrorail Station, including the addition of public artwork and signs to give the station an identity.
nCreation of a diverse mix of housing for students, senior citizens and families.