Miami real estate developers' plans getting more creative
By Scott Blake
If the real estate bust was good for anything, it might be that it's forcing developers to get more creative.
Try high-rise condos with elevators for cars that allow you to park next to your living room — even if it's on the 20th floor.
Or a shopping center adorned with artwork, and a parking garage that lets you pull up to the retailer of your choice.
Or try turning a former landfill into a mixed-use development.
Those were among the plans discussed Friday during a developer roundtable organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez also stopped by.
To have developers gearing up for projects, "it means there's light at the end of the tunnel," Mayor Gimenez told about 100 people at the lunch hosted by law firm Bilzin Sumberg at 1450 Brickell Ave.
"It's good to have these workshops because it means there's work," the mayor said, adding that his administration will streamline the permitting process. "We'll do everything in our power to make it easier for you to build and create, and to continue to create this beautiful city."
Developers on the panel talked about how much of today's tight post-crash real estate market is about finding a niche, whether that's offering unconventional luxuries to stand out to wealthy foreign buyers or simply scouting for previously overlooked sites to get the most land for the money.
Local developer Gil Dezer is getting creative with help from Germany-based Porsche Design Group in a project catering to wealthy buyers, particularly from abroad.
"We've come up with the car elevator," Mr. Dezer said.
Dezer Development and Porsche are partnering on the Porsche Design Tower, where elevators are to lift cars into the sky to high-rise condos, each with its own parking space in a glass-walled showroom.
The 57-foor, 132-unit tower is planned for Sunny Isles Beach. Mr. Dezer said the building would have the world's first elevators with their own fire-suppression system. The units are expected to be priced up to several million dollars each.
"We'll be charging for the parking space as part of the units, instead of giving it away free in a garage," Mr. Dezer said. The high-rise parking "offers more security, which is important to a lot of our South American customers."
Another project catering to well-heeled foreign buyers is the 49-unit Apogee Beach in Hollywood Beach. Developer Carlos Rosso, president of Related Condominium Division, said units are selling for about $1 million on average, with the company requiring buyers to pay at least 80% of the price before completion.
Mr. Rosso said about 95% of buyers at Apogee Beach come from Latin America.
"The more we go to feeder markets" outside the US, "the more we find that the cash is in South America," he said, adding that Miami has the potential to become "the New York of Latin America."
Brett Dill, president of the Swerdlow Group, described a somewhat different approach. Instead of buying relatively little land and building vertically, his group is planning a mixed-use development on a 180-acre site off Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami that was once a landfill.
Named Biscayne Landing, the project will feature about 800,000 square feet of retail and plenty of open space, and eventually could include up to 3,500 housing units, Mr. Dill said.
"We're actually underutilizing the land, but there's such an abundance of it," he added. "There's almost an unlimited capacity for development [there] in the next 10 years."
Jeff Berkowitz, president of Berkowitz Development Group, said his firm has been waiting for several months for permits from the City of Coral Gables for the proposed Gables Station. The project would feature four levels of upscale retail — about 333,000 square feet in total — divided by a 1,450-space parking garage. The project also will feature nearly $1 million worth of art on public display, Mr. Berkowitz said.
"The garage will be done so cars can go to the front doors of retailers they like to visit," he added. "This will be a trophy project. We hope to get the permits in the next two months. Then we hope to get enough leasing done that lenders will give us enough money to go forward."
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