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Developers Envision Pedestrian Paradise From Wynwood To The Design District

Developers are working to build up Midtown as a natural connection between Wynwood and the Design District_Photo Credit Bisnow 1170x435

As the warehouses of Wynwood give way to high-end apartments, developers are spreading their tendrils beyond the dense retail core and into neighborhoods that were all but ignored less than a decade ago.

“It’s almost like there was a memo that went out to all developers across the country: Spend a lot of money in Wynwood and Midtown,” said Ryan Shear, managing partner at Property Markets Group.  “And it’s happening, you’re watching it happen before your eyes.” 

The rapid growth of Wynwood in the last five years is spilling northward into Midtown as developers look to connect the city’s creative core with its luxury retail center of the Design District, tying together distinct neighborhoods into a unified hub of activity.

Developers from outside of Florida are especially interested in starting projects in Wynwood, Amanda Hertzler, executive managing director at the architecture firm MKDA, said at a Bisnow event Tuesday held at the Hyatt Regency Miami on the future of Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District.

The out-of-state firms are “looking at Wynwood specifically, not just South Florida but Wynwood specifically, as where they want to put shovels in the ground not just for one, not just for two but for multiple projects,” she said.

The interest extends beyond the confines of Wynwood, where developers in recent years have worked to transform what had been a neighborhood of low-rise industrial buildings into a creative hub and hospitality destination.

Midtown, north of Wynwood, is also drawing significant attention from developers who are looking to create a natural connection between the nightlife and hospitality that dominates Wynwood and the high-end shopping that defines the Design District.

“Wynwood has really pushed a walkable area,” Hertzler said. “What’s challenging is the walkable area does kind of stop at some point. The idea is to really connect the Design District to Midtown to Wynwood in a really pedestrian-friendly way and get cars off the street.” 

The push into the 18 blocks that make up Midtown has been decades in the making and is being shepherded along by a master plan that encourages the development of walkable streets, speakers at the event said.

Two decades ago, the neighborhood was a largely undeveloped industrial expanse known as the Buena Vista railyards. Florida East Coast Railway sold the property to Miami developer Michael Samuel and Joe Cayre, the chairman of New York-based Midtown Equities, who in turn sold half the land to Cleveland-based Developers Diversified Realty, The New York Times reported in 2009.

The real estate investment trust built the 470K SF Shops at Midtown, creating a nominal link between Wynwood and the Design District that is now being supercharged by a wave of recent development.

“In 2005, I was with a different group and we financed the Cayre family to buy the land in Midtown Miami,” said Greg Newman, senior managing director at Bank OZK, one of the most active lenders on developments in Miami. “Everybody in Miami, most of my developer clients, thought we were nuts. But sometimes it takes somebody outside the town to see the vision.” 

Miami-based Rosso Development is building The Standard Residences, Midtown Miami in the neighborhood. The 120-story condo building had 80% of its 228 units pre-sold as of October, when Bank OZK provided a $45M construction loan for the project.

Carlos Rosso, the firm’s founder and a former minority partner at Related  Group, said the neighborhood was beginning to realize its full potential under its master plan.

Midtown has a “design intent in the whole neighborhood that I don’t think we have anywhere else in Miami,” he said.

Generous sidewalk requirements that extend up to 20 feet wide, a focus on substantial tree cover to shade pedestrians from the South Florida sun and requirements that the ground floors of new developments must be at least 80% glass all help to promote foot traffic and street-level activations, he said.

“Northeast First Avenue, where The Standard is, has been designed from day one as a natural connection between the Design District and Wynwood,” Rosso said. “The whole street doesn’t have one loading dock, one garage entrance, you don’t smell trash, you’re always walking on a sidewalk that is always the same material.” 

He pointed to the June purchase by Terra Group, led by David Martin, and Lion Development Group of a 1.7-acre site at 3501 NE First Ave. for a planned condo project as further proof that the neighborhood was rising to meet the moment.

“When the Cayres bought Midtown, I think they paid something like $30M for the whole neighborhood,” he said. “David Martin just paid $40M for 1 acre.”

The neighborhood is being boosted by the success of the Design District, which itself is reaching the culmination of a decade-long redevelopment.

Dacra, led by billionaire Craig Robins, had been repositioning the district since 1998 before partnering with L Catterton, the private equity arm of LVMH and its CEO, Bernard Arnault, in 2010 to bring the firm’s luxury brands to the district.

The pandemic boosted Florida’s profile among the wealthy elite, propelling the Design District into Miami’s premiere luxury retail destination.

“We are getting tenants from the Design District inquiring about our retail spaces at The Standard,” Rosso said. “They say the people that are in the Design District, guess where they live? They live in Midtown.”

The master planning that developers credit with Midtown’s success is also playing out in Wynwood, which passed its own regulations in 2020 to promote pedestrian traffic.

“The common thread between Midtown and the Design District is that they both have streetscape master plans that were very intentional,” said Raymond Fort, vice president at Arquitectonica. “Wynwood also has a streetscape master plan, but it’s not controlled by a single entity. It’s up to the responsibility of each individual developer to build out their frontage.” 

Developers have been diligent in the implementation of the new design standards, Fort said, adding that the neighborhood has plans to create pedestrian-only streets as more projects get built.

“It’s not just the building that’s going to create the neighborhood, but the streetscape and the landscape as well,” he said.  

Hertzler said the regulations went into effect just as developers began amassing larger assemblages to build denser projects in the neighborhood, helping to promote designs that will make the neighborhood more navigable to pedestrians.

Her firm designed PMG’s Society Wynwood, a 318-unit apartment building at 176 NW 25th St. that is expected to open next month. A primary feature of the development is its paseo, a pedestrian walkway that cuts through the property and helps connect the neighborhood’s long blocks.

PMG’s project was one of the first large assemblages to begin construction when it broke ground in 2021, she said, but other developers have followed suit to design projects that will add paths crisscrossing the neighborhood.

“It creates this shaded, really interesting, meandering path through Wynwood,” she said. 

As Wynwood sees a burst of residential development, neighborhood officials also moved in 2020 to tackle Miami’s housing affordability issue. The Wynwood Business Improvement District created the Wynwood Public Benefit Trust Fund, which is financed by developers who pay into it in exchange for additional square footage at their sites.

Those funds can then be disbursed to developers who include workforce housing inside their projects, a scheme that Miami-based developers Black Salmon and LD&D embraced at their Wynwood Haus project at 23 NE 17th Terrace.

The 224-unit luxury apartment building, also financed with a construction loan from Bank OZK, has units set aside for tenants making between 100% and 140% of the area median income. Part of the lost income from what the units could be leased for at market rates are rebated back to the developer by Miami’s Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, said Diego Bonet, managing partner at LD&D.

Wynwood Haus opened its doors less than a month ago and is now 17% leased by around 45 tenants, most of whom are occupying the workforce-priced apartments, he said.

“Those units have been flying off the shelves, as you’d expect them to,” Bonet said. “Just knowing that we’ll have a base of the building that’s always rented de-risks the project to a certain extent. To us, it was really a win-win solution.” 

As more large-scale projects fill into Wynwood, the quiet Wynwood Norte neighborhood just north of the core and west of Midtown is also attracting developers eyeing smaller-scale projects.

PMG and Lndmrk Development spent $20M on a 1.1-acre assemblage in the neighborhood in October. Plans haven’t been announced for the site, but Shear said Tuesday that PMG was preparing to launch a condo project in the neighborhood during the second quarter.

Wynwood Norte has separate zoning from the rest of Wynwood that encourages the development of lower-density projects. These will become attractive relocation options for the boutique retailers that are being pushed out of Wynwood’s core or tenants looking for a smaller scale than Midtown.

“Wynwood Norte is smack in the middle of both these neighborhoods,” Shear said. “It’s already becoming one of the anchor neighborhoods that will connect both of these places.” 

 

Source:  Bisnow

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Craig Robins’ Dacra Buys Miami Design District Portfolio For New Mixed-Use Dev

Craig Robins has expanded his Design District fiefdom in Miami, buying a large chunk of the neighborhood that he helped make famous, the development’s owning entity, Miami Design District Associates.

Robins’ firm Dacra, together with several partners, bought a 15-building portfolio along NE 39th Street for nearly $200 million in a deal that closed December 22, according to people familiar with the transaction.

The sellers, Miami Beach-based Comras Company and Apollo Global Management‘s real estate trust, had signed furniture store Restoration Hardware to a portion of the portfolio last year, but the deal resulted in a lawsuit a year later and a store never opened.

Apollo, which originally provided a $220 million loan for the acquisition of the property, will provide seller financing in the deal, sources said. Apollo took over the property from the original owners, RedSky and JZ Capital, last year.

During an earning call this November, Stuart Rothstein, CEO of Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance, said the trust was selling the portfolio, though he did not name the buyers.

The partners in the deal include Qatari firm Constellation Hotels Holding, developer Nadim Ashi’s Fort Partners, New York-based private equity firm Raycliff CapitalThe Real Deal first reported.

Most of the properties sit in an underdeveloped section of the neighborhood, located on the west end along Northeast 39th and 40th Streets from North Miami Avenue to Northeast First Avenue. The joint venture plans to build a mixed-use development that will be announced next year, said a spokesperson for Miami Design District Associates.

The deal gives Miami Design District Associates — a partnership between Craig Robins, L Catterton and Brookfield Properties — almost complete control of the district, which has become a mecca for luxury shopping in Miami, home to ChanelLouis Vuitton, and Gucci, among others.

 

Source:  Commercial Observer

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Aventura Mall And The Design District In Miami Are Flourishing Post-Pandemic

The first phase of retail reopenings following the coronavirus crisis in Miami-Dade County began on May 20, earlier than some other large American cities. Malls such as Aventura, and shopping neighborhoods like the Miami Design District continued to evolve with new store construction and expansions, which got a boost from Miami’s economy and new transplants who relocated there at the height of the pandemic.

“We’ve been actively signing leases and opening new tenants throughout the whole Covid-19 period,” said Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and CEO of Turnberry, which owns Aventura. “We have a lot of new stores, about 30 or so, some local, and some national. We’re different – I kind of like to treat the property as a town center. We’re a big part of the community.”

Gucci is expanding by adding men’s, and Ferragamo and Rolex are under construction, Soffer said. Mayor’s is opening a Bulgari boutique. Hermes is under construction, with a new store opening in September, and Balenciaga has signed a lease.

Soffer has been commissioning art for the shopping center for more than a decade and travels in an art world orbit with her husband, Craig Robins, who spearheaded the development of the Miami Design District. He’s the owner and principal of Miami Design District Associates, a partnership between Robins’ company, Dacra, and L Real Estate. He shows artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Gary Hume, while Aventura has a fountain created by the Haas Brothers and a giant experiential slide that’s a work of art by Carsten Holler.

During the pandemic, the 2.7 million-square-foot Aventura, pivoted with more restaurant seating outdoors. Its indoor farmer’s market moved outside with a drive-through format that helped local vendors to stay in business. Recently, Aventura expanded the market’s indoor footprint to feature more than 80 vendors every weekend. With temperatures rising, the market continues to expand with a goal of 100-plus vendors as visitors escape the heat inside the air-conditioned mall.

Aventura continues to evolve with the addition of chef-driven restaurants such as Michael Mina’s Estiatorio Ornos, Juan Chipoco’s Pollos & Jarras, and Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy! The Sugar Factory is set to open this summer and many of the more than 40 restaurants and Treats Food Hall are offering both indoor and outdoor seating.

The Design District is expanding on several fronts. In addition to the new stores and restaurants, Robins said a Class A office, club and hotel are part of the plan.

The 1 million-square-foot Design District had serious protocols in place during the pandemic. Robins estimated that stores do sales per square foot in the $2,000 range, adding that the area is attracting much younger customers than ever before. Sales during the pandemic were up 20% to 30%, and are now ahead 95%, he said.

 

Source:  Forbes

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Developers Move Fast To Meet Miami’s Growth Needs

As Miami continues to rebound from the pandemic, developers are making their mark by building new towers and infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of the city.

Rishi Kapoor, “Best of Miami: Leading Residential Comeback” nominee and founder and CEO of Location Ventures, said one leading developer worthy of recognizing is Terra Group, headed by CEO David Martin.

This past year, the group has hit a number of milestones, including breaking ground on mixed-income transit-oriented housing project Grove Central and securing a $64.8 million construction loan for the development of 27-acre multifamily development Natura Gardens. Two of the greatest achievements, Mr. Martin said, were the deliveries of condominium buildings Eighty Seven Park in North Beach and Park Grove in Coconut Grove, both of which promptly sold out.

Authenticity, Mr. Martin said, is key in development, and Terra wants to build projects that make neighborhoods better and give residents pride. In 2021, he said, a big goal for the group is to focus on market research centered on post-pandemic needs and trends that will inform later development decisions and innovations.

Having grown up in Miami, Mr. Martin said, he has a lot of pride in his community and tries to stay active in multiple ways by taking an interest in cultural, children’s and health issues. Currently, he said, he serves on the boards of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and The Bass.

“There’s a lot of organizations I’ve taken an advisory role in,” he said, “and also a lot that we support financially.” 

One issue Mr. Martin said he hopes Terra can help address is that of affordable housing in Miami-Dade. Roughly 90% of the built environment in the county, he said, is zoned for single-family housing. 

“A lot of people look to solve affordability by creating subsidies which, in our view, is not sustainable,” he said.

“My view,” he continued, “is that affordable housing should be sprinkled throughout our entire county, not only in certain pockets. And we have an idea on how to build affordable housing in a more cost-effective way without requiring subsidies.”

Jorge Pérez, chairman of The Related Group, philanthropist and champion of the arts, also said this is an issue developers and officials must consider as the county moves into the future.

“Miami should not and cannot become a city solely for the 1%,” he told Miami Today via email. “We are going through one of the most exciting times in the history of the city; however, we cannot forget there are still countless families and individuals in need of opportunity. Officials must leverage the lessons of the globe’s other major metropolitan areas to build a Miami everyone – no matter their background or socioeconomic circumstances – can feel proud of.”

Mr. Perez and The Related Group were cited by Ron Shuffield, president & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, for their accomplishments and contributions to the Miami-Dade community not just this year but over a handful of decades.

“It’s his mark that established the style of the “new Miami,” Mr. Shuffield said. “When you look at the architecture of our landscape, so much of that Jorge had a hand in. It was his vision that could see what would become a dynamic downtown area.”

“I founded Related in 1979 with the goal of building an even better Miami,” Mr. Perez said. “More than four decades later, Miami has been totally transformed and is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s great cities. Nevertheless, each one of our jobs continues to be built with that original goal in mind, no matter the price point or target demographic.”

From including museum-quality art in developments to building community green spaces, he said, Related is always trying to deliver on that mission and improve the neighborhoods it builds in. The Group has expanded since its founding decades ago, and now has over  $2 billion worth of inventory planned and under construction across the nation. 

Last fall Jon Paul Perez, son of Jorge Perez, took the reins as company president. Being able to pass the crown to a relative, Jorge Perez said, is a great achievement in itself.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to achieve a great deal over the course of my life and career,” he said, “but nothing beats building a family that shares my passion for making a positive difference.”

“Driving around the city and seeing just how far neighborhoods have evolved brings me great joy,” he continued. “But knowing that the next generation of the Perez family will continue my lifelong efforts is my ultimate legacy. I truly wish I could see the new heights Miami will reach and the role Related will play.”

The group’s focus, he said, is not just on development. 

“Through The Related Group Philanthropic Foundation,” he said, “we are providing support to a variety of causes, from health and wellness to social equity. We are also proud supporters of a variety of Miami-Dade organizations, including FIU, The National YoungArts Foundation and many more.”

As Miami-Dade continues to set its sights on becoming a tech and finance hub, Mr. Perez said he would work to support that goal. 

“I am committed to supporting elected officials and the private sector as they continue to attract national and international businesses to the city,” he said. “This influx of capital and talent goes far beyond real estate sales, it is about setting the city and region up for the next stage in its growth. From day one, I knew Miami/South Florida had the potential to be a hub for business, culture and lifestyle – and that vision is becoming more and more real with every day.”

Two other developers that deserve recognition for their work this year, Mr. Martin said, are Goldman Properties, which has developed a number of properties in Wynwood, and Dacra, headed by President and CEO Craig Robins.

 

Source:  Miami Today

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Miami Board Approves Design District Height Increase, Paving Way For Dacra’s Mixed-Use Tower

For the next phase of development in the Miami Design District, Craig Robins is aiming high.

The Miami Planning and Zoning Appeals Board voted 10-1 on Wednesday to approve zoning changes in the luxury retail and cultural district that will allow Robins’ Dacra to build a mixed-use project anchored by a 36-story tower.

The nearly 1.8-acre development site is on two vacant parcels at 3750 Biscayne Boulevard and 299 Northeast 39th Street, acting as a gateway into the Miami Design District. Most of the district is owned and developed by a partnership involving Dacra, luxury goods titan LVMH and private investment firm L Catterton. The proposed gateway site is also near the FEC train tracks and the proposed site of a commuter train station to be developed by Brightline.

The proposed zoning changes would grant Dacra a height increase from 20 stories to 36 stories and shift unused intensity and density from other commercial properties in the Design District to the proposed 36-story building, which would rise on the Biscayne Boulevard property.

The city commission still has to vote on the request for final approval.

At the planning board meeting, Robins and his attorney Neisen Kasdin said the entire project would not exceed 845,000 square feet, which is what is currently allowed for the Biscayne Boulevard property, according to the Design District Special Area Plan. The project could entail a mix of offices, residential and some retail, although Dacra has not provided detailed renderings. The planning board also added a car dealership as an allowed use to the SAP.

“We have the right to build every single square foot that we are asking you for today,” Robins told planning board members. “There is zero impact that our project causes from what we can do as a matter of right….We just want to be able to do something that is architecturally significant.”

Still, Paul Mann, the sole planning board member who voted against Dacra, and attorneys for Manhattan-based private investment firm MacArthur Capital Group, which owns a neighboring property, said the height increase and the transferring of unused intensity and density from other properties would set a bad precedent.

“Any special area plan — past, present and future — can take advantage of this new density and intensity transfer program,” Mann said. “It seems to me like it is dangerous. I don’t see anything beautiful about a 36-story building sticking up in the middle of nowhere.”

The nearest tall building to the proposed site is the 12-story Quadro condominium at 3900 Biscayne Boulevard.

Paul Savage, a lawyer for MacArthur, said Dacra’s proposed 36-story tower is unlike any other building in the Design District, which is largely made up of low-rise commercial retail buildings.

“It is certainly not appropriate or transitional to the area,” Savage said. “This has far-reaching implications, not to mention how the 36-story height will impact my client.”

Through an affiliate, MacArthur owns a one-story retail building with a surface parking lot at 3701 and 3737 Biscayne Boulevard, which is directly east of Dacra’s proposed project. According to city documents, MacArthur sought approvals in 2015 to change the zoning so the company could develop a four-story building consisting of two stories of parking and two stories of office space. At the time, Robins opposed MacArthur’s request which the company subsequently withdrew. He suggested that was the reason MacArthur wanted to object to Dacra’s plan.

“The MacArthur site is not developable because there is an alley that goes through it,” Robins said. “They have been pressuring me to support vacating the alley to build a massive high-rise….I will not be pressured or extorted into supporting something that will be bad for the community.”

 

Source:  The Real Deal

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Miami’s Design District Is Expanding West

The western edge of Miami’s ritzy Design District is being turned inside out — literally — to create a new wing for the luxury shopping and design neighborhood.

The Market at Miami Design District, a joint venture between the New York-based Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance and the Miami retail leasing and development firm The Comras Company of Florida, will take 16 existing commercial properties spanning nearly a full city block and convert them into an open-air marketplace, with paseos and corridors carved out of the existing structures and storefronts on multiple sides of the buildings to give the area the feel of a village.

“The idea is to do something a little more elevated than Wynwood, but not with the luxury vibe of the Design District,” said Michael Comras, president and CEO of The Comras Company, who is overseeing the leasing and redesign of the area. “I want to create something between those two and maybe attract people from Midtown.”

Comras said the first phase of development will consist of adaptive reuse and reconverting the vacant buildings for multiple purposes — food and beverage, showrooms, office spaces and pop-ups — with an emphasis on home furnishings. The new landscaping, lighting and conversion of existing buildings is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

“We want to create an identity over the next 3 to 5 years and attract people to the District,” he said.

The long-term master plan for the project could include as much as 600,000 square feet of residential, hotel and commercial. The project is also located inside an Opportunity Zone, which offers investors deferred taxes on their capital gains. A final budget for the entire development is not yet available.

Comras said the first tenants will get the sweetest deals — between $60-$80 per square foot in rent, considerably lower than the District’s current rate of $125-$150 per square foot.

“The new owners and I talk regularly,” said Craig Robins, CEO and president of Dacra development, which owns 900,000 square feet of land and one million square feet of buildings in the open-air Design District, along with rights to add another two million square feet. “They couldn’t have better timing, since our leasing post-pandemic has been more robust than any time in the last five years. I’m sure they’re going to be successful and it will be great for the District to have those properties activated.”

The Design District spans 18 square city blocks north of downtown Miami, from Northeast 38th to 42nd Streets between N.orth Miami Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard. The shopping haven is home to 211 luxury shops and boutiques and is famed for its upscale tenants — Gucci, Prada, Louis Vitton — and its architecture, including the 13,000-square-foot three-story flagship store for the French luxury fashion retailer Hermès. The District is also home to restaurants, ice cream parlors and two art museums.

The Market at Miami Design District stretches from Northeast 39th Street to Northeast 41st Street, between North Miami Avenue and Northeast First Avenue, nestled between the two existing Museum Garage and Parkview Garage parking garages. The Market already houses the home furnishings and decor store Nisi B Home and the German Kitchen Center, creator of customized kitchens of European design.

“I think what Michael is doing is so smart,” said Nisi Berryman, who opened Nisi B Home, located at 39 NE 39th St., at the southern edge of The Market 16 years ago. “He has a vision about this and it will enhance the appeal of the Design District. I’ve been waiting for five years for the former owners to say ‘This is your last month’ because they had a different plan with a big building. I just hung in here. But it’s been terrible because all the other buildings were left vacant since they wanted to proceed with their residential project.”

The assemblage of buildings that will comprise The Market was originally put together by the New York-based RedSky Capital and JZ Capital Partners firms at a total cost of $395 million in 2015. They leveraged the properties for a $220 million loan from Apollo Real Estate Financing in 2016, according to The Real Deal. Various projects were considered, including one large mixed-use development that would have included residential, office and retail.

But after defaulting on a loan for a project in Brooklyn, RedSky was forced to liquidate its assets. Apollo assumed ownership of the properties in April and brought on Comras, whose experience in retail includes large projects on Lincoln Road and the ongoing redevelopment of Sunset Place in South Miami, to conceptualize and lease out The Market.

The Market is expected to be a three- to five- year interim project before the final plan for the neighborhood is begun. But experts say the development ticks off all the boxes for the ongoing reinvention of retail around the country: Go smaller, pay less overhead and specialize.

“When you look at the Design District, you see a lot of downsized stores and ground-floor showroom boutiques,” said Zach Winkler, South Florida senior vice president retail lead for the commercial real estate firm JLL. “Back-channel logistics have gotten so much better that a retailer can have a smaller stock of their product onsite in the back of the store and replenish it quickly and easily.

“The great thing about the Design District is that it casts a much greater shadow than other neighborhoods do,” Winkler said. You have people from Coconut Grove and Brickell going there for a night out with friends. It draws tourists and day trippers. Because North Miami Avenue really is the western edge of the District — everything beyond that is residential — The Market will be as walkable as the rest of the District, which bodes well for its sustainability.”

 

Source:  Miami Herald

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