Daily Archives: June 19, 2007

Outside of the Box: The Vertical Farm Project

In order to reduce dependence on outside agriculture sources, as well as pollution caused by trucking agricultural goods across the country, Professor Dickson Despommier, Columbia University, has come up with the vertical farm. From BBC News:

“The idea is simple enough. Imagine a 30-story building with glass walls, topped off with a huge solar panel. On each floor there would be giant planting beds, indoor fields in effect. There would be a sophisticated irrigation system. And so crops of all kinds and small livestock could all be grown in a controlled environment in the most urban of settings.”

Some of the advantages:

  • Year round crop production in a controlled environment
  • All produce would be organic as there would be no exposure to wild parasites and bugs
  • Elimination of environmentally damaging agricultural runoff
  • Food being produced locally to where it is consumed

Sounds pretty friggin great except who’s going to pay for such a project? Putting aside how much it would take to build, the proposed plans allow for an admirable level of self-sustainability:

“Energy would come from a giant solar panel but there would also be incinerators which use the farm’s waste products for fuel. All of the water in the entire complex would be recycled.”

I love the idea. If this is proven to be an effective method for harvesting quality crops, skylines will house farmlands. It just may take half a century.


Filed under BoB Articles, Outside of the Box

A Closer Look: South Beach (West Avenue Corridor)


Cyclists, crowded outdoor cafes, restaurants, people walking dogs, cabs, and plenty of pedestrian activity is what the West Ave. Corridor is all about. The neighborhood is a calm haven for local life in touristy South Beach. As mentioned in the introductory post, the MDPL does not designate the neighborhood as a historic district, but that doesn’t mean it lacks aesthetic gusto. There is no neighborhood association, that I could find, registered with the municipality, and on the neighborhoods map, the City of Miami Beach addresses it as West Avenue, but there is much more to it than that.

Images: Side walk cafes in the Corridor

The narrow neighborhood straddles the south west coast of the Billion Dollar Sandbar. It’s located between Biscayne Bay and Alton Road (on the east and west) with Dade Blvd. and 5th Street making up its north and south boundaries. It’s bordered by the quiet Flamingo Park District to the east, popular Lincoln Road to the north east, Sunset Harbor and Bayshore to the north, and SoFi to the south. From the bay line, the world famous Star, Palm, and Hibiscus Islands are a glance away.

Image: Site of Vitri (foreground) and Bentley on the Bay (background)

Residential Activity

Beginning in the south and moving north, the Corridor gets off to an exciting start:

  • Bentley on the Bay, which was hampered by financial issues during construction and later suffered damage from Hurricane Wilma, greets visitors to the neighborhood. Through adversity the glassy twin towers have risen to grace the skyline with their wavy curves.
  • Vitri, located across from the Bentley, will close the development gap in the south with high end loft homes set amid a stunning design. The project is being spearheaded by NYC-based Shaya Boymelgreen as Lev Leviev has reportedly pulled away from most of his Miami interests.
  • North of the Bentley, the Floridian Condo Tower, built in 1997, resembles the Yacht Club at Portofino in SoFi.

Image: Rendering of Vitri

  • On the west side of the Corridor from 8th to 13th street there are seven (7) condos and apartment complexes built, on average, around 1965:
  1. South Bay Club Condo (1966)
  2. South Gate Apartments (1958)
  3. Mirador North (1965)
  4. Mirador South (1968)
  5. The site for the Mondrian (1964)
  6. Bayview Terrace (1971)
  7. Bay Garden Manor (1964)
  • The South Gate Apartment complex on 9th street, which spans almost 200,000 square feet of land is owned by a single entity. The Mondrian development might result in a conversion precedent that can be followed on this highly lucrative spot, which isn’t likely to remain an under utilized apartment complex for long.

Image: View of the Corridor from the Bay line

  • The Morgans Hotel Group’s plans for the Mondrian South Beach on 11th street is a definite positive push for this segment of the neighborhood. The company’s second project with the same name, NY-based MHG is planning a third in Chicago.
  • The Mirador complexes and the other older condo buildings represent a development barrier. Since they are high density and aged, they aren’t likely to be acquired and redeveloped any time soon. The funkiness of the 1960’s and early 1970’s architecture adds a vintage element to the Corridor that adds a bit of pizazz.

Image: Rendering of Twelfth on West

  • The Twelfth on West loft project planned for 12th street will represent an extremely high end and intricately thought out loft development—possibly the most distinguished in the district. Currently, there is little in the way of activity on the site.

North of 13th street there are a few notable developments:

  • Before getting to 13th, one comes across Monad Terrace—an odd little strip of small low income apartment complexes that, in comparison to the surroundings, stands out like a sore thumb. There is no activity on the strip and the Waverly looms conspicuously overhead
  • The Waverly, built in 2001, and designed by renowned Arquitectonica, is a 358ft tall 36 floor high end condominium. It’s one of the more easily identifiable developments in the area—the vertical sides of the building light up in yellow and blue at night.
  • Across the street from the Waverly, to the north, on 14th street, is the Sails Condo, which was built in 1999. The condo association seems to be lax because people have clothing hanging all over the balconies and cable wires hang messily over the roof. This level of sloppiness makes an otherwise nice building look bad.

Image: Waverly

  • 14th street connects with Bay Road which leads directly to the massive Zyscovich-designed Flamingo Condo conversion, owned by MCZ/Centrum. The expansive project has several wings with nicely designed street level lofts and a sleek cylindrical tower with a marked crown that illuminates in blue at night.
  • The east end of 14th terrace on West Avenue has a standout loft project, The Alliage, which features exceptionally high ceilings and deep terraces. There is construction on the site to the south of the Alliage but it isn’t clear what will go up there—probably another loft development. Adjacent to the construction site is 1400 West Avenue, which is up for sale and handled by Majestic.

  • A short walk away from the Alliage, 1577 Bay Road is a refreshingly designed newly constructed loft project called SoBe Bay. The design seems like a tiny condensed version of Ten Museum Park with horizontal-slit glass windows and an elevated cube-frame crown. In my view, there is no doubt that this is the area most well designed loft development. For more information go to Josh Stein’s site.

Image: Capri under construction

  • Off of Bay Road on 16th street is a new construction project called Capri designed by Kobi Karp. The development is high end and immediately north of the Flamingo. The four unit complex on the east of the site is up for sale. Prices start at the 600’s. The road leading up to the development is in worse than poor shape.
  • Farther up Bay Road, the Bayview Plaza Condo on 1621 Bay Road, built in 1997, represents a good quality condo development.
  • The building on the north east corner of Lincoln and Bay Road is up for sale.

Image: SoBe Bay Lofts
Retail/Commercial activity:

  • 929 West Avenue represents the most vital retail hub in the neighborhood. It houses several outdoor cafes including a Starbucks, a video store, a spa, and offices. The complex has ample sidewalks with benches and plenty of shade. It’s lined with people lounging in tables under the cover of colorful umbrellas—reminiscent of Lincoln Road.
  • On 11th street stands 1125 West Avenue, a mixed use condo with office space that includes Zyscovich offices. Built in 2004, the project’s design is an aesthetic asset to the neighborhood.

Image: Rendering Lincoln Square

  • Lincoln Square Miami is planned for the north end of West Avenue on Hank Meyer Blvd. (near Dade Blvd). The project will add retail and residential to the neighborhood’s north side. It’s situated within a short walking distance from Lincoln Road.
  • The vacant land across from the site of Lincoln Square is up for sale and has 30,350 square feet.
  • The ambitiously planned Shops at Fifth and Alton, developed as a JV between the Berkowitz Group and the Potamkin Family, although not inside the parameters of the West Avenue corridor, is near enough to boost traffic and visitor flow in the area. Once built, the project will be the neighborhood’s most important retail anchor.
  • Alton Road, which serves as the east boundary for the neighborhood, has a slew of retail. Although not the main interior thoroughfare in the WAC it is an integral part of makes the Corridor attractive. On Alton you can find anything from physics to coffee and donuts, Italian food, Colombian food, Liquor, flowers, and just about anything one needs.

Image: Flamingo Lofts (foreground) and Tower (background)
Last Glance
The West Avenue Corridor is a work in progress. Parts of it are heavily under utilized (i.e.: Monad Terrace) while there are sections that have projects that are symbols of the high life (Bentley, Vitri, Waverly, Sobe Bay, Alliage, Capri, Mondrian, etc).

The neighborhood is not as quiet and shady as the Flamingo Park District but has more retail and feels more edgy. There are several well situated sites for sale that are ripe for new development, and also an existing massive complex in South Gate Apartments, which if acquired could be redeveloped in magnificent fashion. The Mondrian could be a precedent for such an outcome. Other older condos like the Mirador, are likely to remain untouched by change but are seeing aesthetic renovations that have added value and desirability.

It is difficult to imagine a community better situated than the West Avenue Corridor. It’s flanked by world class neighborhoods and Biscayne Bay. Still, inexplicably, it lacks recognition, but not from BoB.

For more information regarding property value appreciation trends in this neighborhood use:




Filed under BoB Articles, BoB Series: A Closer Look, Miami Beach: South Beach

Boom or Bust in Miami Today

Recently I engaged in a brief interchange with Miami Today’s Risa Polansky (via – Nikki Konefsky) regarding the market viability of transit-oriented mixed use developments. The subject of the discussion was a new project going up on 27th Avenue and US-1 that is being developed by Carlos Rua. The pros of a transit-oriented development were discussed as well as the inherent challenges that often accompany mixed-use developments. The article is featured on this week’s Miami Today the Residential Real Estate edition.

Post Script: I’m quoted as Xavier Zayas-Bazan in the article.

Image: Partial article clip


Filed under BoB Articles

Scrapped: 1390 Brickell Bay

I remember walking into the sales center of 1390 Brickell Bay and thinking that the model kitchen looked like it belonged in a space station during the 1970’s (do space stations even have kitchens?). The sales rep barely spoke English, and the unimpressively laid out units were being sold as time shares. I was in and out in 5 wasteful minutes.

1390 Brickell Bay fizzled because it was a bad idea. The site is boxed in. The design and lifestyle concept wasn’t fresh enough to compensate. Timeshares don’t sell well here. The interior design element seemed to target cosmonauts, and the developer had zero experience. This project fizzled before the downturn. Why? Crap gets scrapped.


Filed under BoB Articles, Brickell Village, Scrapped