OB land value, future use remains unknown
By Eric Kalis
The prospect of a baseball stadium replacing the Orange Bowl is not enough in today's cooling real estate market to ignite a frenzy of commercial investment in property near the stadium, real estate experts say, or interest in the site itself.
Much uncertainty remains, experts say, about the value of the City of Miami-owned 40-acre Orange Bowl site at 1501 NW 3rd St. and surrounding properties in the wake of the University of Miami's decision to move the university's football games to Dolphin Stadium beginning next year.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said last week baseball, city and Miami-Dade County officials are "on the same page" regarding a deal for a new $500 million baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins. The commissioner declined, however, to comment on the prospects of the Orange Bowl site as the new home for the Marlins.
If a state-of-the-art retractable roof baseball stadium is built in Miami, said real estate analyst Michael Cannon, the Orange Bowl site would be the only feasible option due to the scarcity of land downtown and throughout Miami-Dade. The city "does not have any more land," he said. "I don't think there is any other [possible site]. Major League Baseball may be behind this thing. If so, they have the strength to do it. Stadiums are so political and require the willpower of politicians to get done."
Mr. Cannon took part in a Codina Group study funded by the Marlins that looked at parcels surrounding the Orange Bowl.
City facilities director Lori Bilberry said the city has not done an appraisal of the Orange Bowl site.
Any commercial development on properties surrounding the Orange Bowl site would require extensive coordination with city officials and neighboring property owners to ensure harmony with city zoning requirements, Mr. Cannon said. "The city would have to do a charette with the neighborhood to see what is compatible and then analyze the various uses that would benefit the city, community and whoever the private sector [entity] is," he said. "It could take multiple" charettes.
Kohn Commercial Real Estate sold parcels within a quarter-mile of the Orange Bowl for $80 per square foot during the peak of Miami's real estate boom two years ago, said company Principal Ronald Kohn. With the residential bubble bursting, Mr. Kohn said, asking prices for most local land is $40 to $50 per square foot, but commercial investors probably would not pay more than $25 per square foot for land around the stadium.
"My own sense is that the market is somewhere around $2 million an acre, but I don't think land is selling," Mr. Kohn said. "I don't know other than some public use what else could be [viable for the stadium and nearby land]. A land banker won't pay" more than $25 per square foot.
Parcels along Northwest 17th Avenue and Seventh Street, however, could be ripe for retail development to serve the nearby residential community, Mr. Kohn said. "I see a nice mixed-use community of garden-style apartments in keeping with what is around it," he said. "I see retail, but not anything else at this point. Maybe two stories of retail with office space above" would be viable.
A shopping center or other commercial use on the Orange Bowl site or surrounding a baseball stadium would face the same transportation problems opponents of building a Marlins stadium on the site have emphasized, said Neil Rollnick, partner and chair of the real estate department at law firm Adorno & Yoss. "It is still a difficult site to get to," he said. "The area is not serviced by mass transportation and then you have the issue of what commercial site to put there."
The city could be stuck with a non-producing asset similar to the Miami Arena site downtown if no deal is reached for a baseball stadium, Mr. Rollnick said. Little activity has occurred at the arena since owner Glenn Straub bought the property from the city for $28 million in 2004.
"I would say [the Miami Arena site] is reasonably as good site-for-site as the Orange Bowl," Mr. Rollnick said. "How long has that lain dormant? There's commercial activity all around [the site], but nothing of any significance has taken place. The mere fact that the Hurricanes have elected to go to Dolphin Stadium does not make the site either available or attractive."
Despite the paucity of available land in Miami, Mr. Kohn said, commercial speculators would not necessarily rush to gobble up parcels surrounding the Orange Bowl — with or without a baseball stadium on the site.
"I think the appetite for speculation is kind of over right now," he said. "If a stadium goes there and [an investor] wants to buy Northwest Seventh Street parcels, the prices today would not reflect what they would have to pay."
To ensure that any development on the Orange Bowl site benefits the local community, a local non-profit organization, South Florida Jobs with Justice, was to host a gathering of nearby residents and business owners Saturday at the stadium before the University of Miami's season football opener.