Monthly Archives: August 2007

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3rd Quarter 07′ Construction Tour: North Bay Village

Let’s take a tour through North Bay Village to take a look at the third quarter status of recently topped off buildings, ongoing construction, and recently started foundation work:

The Bridgewater (Completed)

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Oasis on the Bay (no activity)

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Aqua Vista (no activity)

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Prisma on the Bay (no activity)

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Cielo on the Bay (Construction)

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Eloquence on the Bay (construction)

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360 Condos (completed)

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Space01 (completed)

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Bay Treasure (no activity)

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Lexi (completed)

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Indigo Lofts (no activity)

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The Adagio (no activity)

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The Breeze Condo (completed)

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Post Script: Do you think this report missed something? If so, Contact BoB. Your input is appreciated.

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Island Gardens to Begin Rising in 08′

In a major update, the Daily Business Review has reported that Mehmet Bayraktar’s Flagstone Group is aggressively moving forward with plans for Island Gardens. The plan, which includes 11 acres of public land and 13 acres of submerged land, has ruffled quite a few feathers at the City of Miami Beach due to transportation issues, but the City of Miami seems intent on ensuring the project rise from under-utilized Watson Island.

Expected to be fully completed by 2010, the project entails only the second Shangri-La Hotel in the U.S. as well as a Westin Hotel. The project also includes a marina for super-yachts (100 ft. & over). According to the DBR article, Mehmed is not concerned with the stagnant condo market stating that Island Gardens includes no condo units. I see what the Turkish Billionaire is saying. He’s got two major anchors and a plan for the first major marina of its kind in the city. This is not to mention, of course, a lease on what is arguably the most iconic and conspicuous parcel of land in the entire city.

To summarize, Flagstone has:

  • Secured 35% of the funding needed
  • Signed term sheets with two major U.S. banking institutions (anticipating a closing by the end of this year)
  • Been negotiating with an alternate institutional investor group
  • Received its environmental permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, and Miami-Dade County

According to the DBR report, the “developer has permission to begin dredging the section of the bay south of the MacArthur Causeway” for the purpose of infilling the submerged land. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2008.

Island Gardens is a monumental development in that it will attract attention from all over the world. Miami, no stranger to publicity but in the midst of a housing slump, can use the positive attention. Although the project will probably be beneficial to the City in the long run, it will partially block the skyline’s view (from the MacArthur), create a traffic problem on the causeway, and only allocates 100 1000 feet of the public land for promenade use. Still, Island Gardens will further raise the bar in Miami’s luxury hotel market, add jobs to the economy, increase the City’s revenue, and lure obscenely wealthy visitors into Miami. Looks like Mr. Mehmed has become my favorite Turkish billionaire.

Map: City of Miami’s Watson Island Plans

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The Scales of Urban Development

Miami Just Doesn’t Compare

Let’s consider the composition of Miami’s construction boom. Since 2003 the level of construction activity has been staggering. As one might expect from an urban boom, many of the projects have been sleek high rises, but contrary to what is normal, they are, for the most part, residential. When I say “normal”, I’m thinking of the type of development that is to be expected within the framework of a typical urban core. Take, for example, Denver. Of the tallest fifty buildings in the Rocky Mountain metropolis’ urban core, only seven are residential–the tallest being the Brooks Tower at 420 ft. Let’s take it a bit farther west, the Pacific Northwest to be exact. In Seattle, there are also seven residential buildings among the tallest fifty towers. Could I be cherry picking my examples here? Let’s go east. In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, one-fifth of the tallest fifty towers in and around the urban core are residential. For all three of the aforementioned cities, office is the dominant use among the tallest fifty. Now, let’s consider the anomalous Magic City. Of Miami’s tallest fifty towers, twenty-seven of them are residential–this includes only occupied buildings not the numerous residential developments still under construction.

How the Scales Have Shifted

If there was a norm in the high density urban development realm and office was its name, it’s been crashed in Miami. Could there be balance in this type of development? If balance is measured relative to building-use, then Denver, Seattle, and Philadelphia are clearly tilted in favor of office in the development-use scale. Miami’s urban core, long overlooked by the city’s inhabitants as a hub of hectic, yet transient, day time activity, is evolving into a livable and expansive urban core. Let’s consider how it has changed.

During the 1970’s Miami’s downtown was not impressive. The hallmark of the skyline was One Biscayne Tower with the Sun Trust building running a close second. The skyline had only seven office/hotel towers that were over 90m in height:

Office/Hotel Development (1970’s)

  1. One Biscayne Tower (150m) 1973
  2. Sun Trust Tower (114m) 1973
  3. Courthouse Tower 1974
  4. 1401 Brickell Office Tower 1973
  5. Biscayne Bay Marriot 101m 1979
  6. Radisson Hotel Miami 90m 1978
  7. Doubletree Biscayne Bay 111m 1978

During roughly the same period of time there were six major residential high rises constructed.

High Density Residential Development (1970’s)

  1. Doubletree Biscayne Bay 111m 1978
  2. Plaza Venetia 101m 1979
  3. Brickell Bay Club 87m 1974
  4. Palm Bay Club Towers 85m 1972
  5. Brickell Place A, B, D 1975
  6. Brickell Harbor 1974

The aforementioned thirteen buildings were, at the time, Miami’s tallest. You can see that there is a relative balance between high density residential and office development.

Miami would have to grapple with social ailments of epic proportions during the 1980’s; a wave of refugees, unprecedented levels of drug trafficking, and a violent crime wave. Yet, the skyline transformed. Impressive office buildings sprung out of the social dilemma–and Brickell made a name for itself:

Office/Hotel development (1980’s)

  1. Wachovia Financial Center (233 m) 1984
  2. Bank of America Tower (191 m) 1986
  3. Stephen P. Clark Center (155m) 1985
  4. Miami Center (148m)1983
  5. 701 Brickell Avenue (137m) 1986
  6. Courthouse Center (123m) 1986
  7. Museum Tower (115m) 1986
  8. 1221 Brickell (111m) 1986
  9. One Brickell Square (100m) 1985
  10. Brickell Bayview Center (100m) 1986
  11. Colonial Bank Center 1982
  12. Banco Industrial de Venezuela 1985
  13. 800 Brickell Ave 1981
  14. Baypoint Office Tower 1981
  15. Hotel Intercontinental 112m 1982
  16. Clarion Hotel and Suites 1983

Brickell’s business district formed during this time. The CBD saw the emergence of the Wachovia (formerly First Union) and Bank of America (formerly Centrust) towers. They would, for almost two decades, serve as the hallmarks of Miami’s skyline. On the residential side of the coin, Brickell saw pronounced growth and there wasn’t a large gap between office and residential construction. Still, office development predominated.

The 1990’s would shift little weight to the office side of the development scale. Instead it ushered in a new era of truly tall residential towers with the Bristol and Santa Maria (courtesy of Ugo Colombo). The construction activity tended to be Brickell-centric.

High Density Residential Development (1990’s)

Santa Maria 159m 1997
2 Tequesta Point 125m 1999
Oakwood 116m 1998
Bristol 113m 1993
Fortune House 93m 1998
1 Tequesta Point 1995
Corviosier Courts 1997

The 21st Century and a Miami’s Urban Laboratory

Incredibly, after the 1990’s rise in residential construction and a stagnant office sector, one might have thought that the next surge would be office. Few could possibly have expected that the nineties would set the stage for a construction surge that would drastically tip the scales of development in favor of residential and make 21st Century Miami an experiment in urbanism.

To be continued…

Post Script: The sources used to compare Denver, Philly, and Seattle to Miami are Emporis and Skyscraperpage.

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Technical Difficulties

WordPress is having some sort of server malfunction that is affecting many of its blogs–including mine!!!–and because of this I can’t leave comments on my own blog, am unable to edit posts, and in some cases can’t even post. As a result, posting will be light to non-existent until WordPress sorts this crap out. I’m just glad to know I’m not alone in the mess. Thanks for your patience. Check back later for regular postings.

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Early Week Links

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True or False?

Babalu blog is reporting that Fidel Castro might be dead.

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Scooting Around Uptown

Image: Biscayne Boulevard cruisin’

At a ULI conference last May, a V.P. of Cushman Wakefield mentioned a bike and scooter shop in Uptown on 19th street and Biscayne Boulevard as being an indicator of urban progress. He said, “a few years ago I would never have imagined a bike shop in that area.”

Image: Scooter and Bike shop on N.E. 19th street (Uptown)

South Beach has long been a center of scooter activity. Myself, I find them somewhat annoying at times as they jostle for position on the streets, but recognize their value to those looking to traverse traffic more efficiently, cut down on gas, and make finding parking more painless–an ideal urban self-transport option. With condos having stringent parking restrictions and traffic expected to pick up with the growing occupancy wave, look to see more of these little traffic side-steppers in Uptown.

Image: View across the street from the scooter and bike

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Rethinking Brickell’s Interior (west side)

Image: (from left to right) Infinity, Axis, and Vue on South Miami Avenue

Envisioning Brickell During the Boom

Since the inception of the surge in construction activity that later became known as the boom, I have envisioned how the skyline would transform. As activity picked up, so many projects were being announced that I found it increasingly challenging to remember them all off the top of my head. Still, I would look at the skyline and consider the height and design of those projects that were anticipated to fill in the sky. Now that the boom has dissipated, it has become clear that many projects that were announced may never come to exist. Several examples of this can be readily found on South Miami Avenue. Let’s see what I mean on a map:

Map:

  1. Brickell CitiCentre
  2. Premiere Towers
  3. Beacon (it’s not officially scrapped, so let’s call it dormant)
  4. Brickell Flatiron
  5. Pointe at Brickell
  • A total of eight towers in five separate projects



Image: The site of Flatiron up for sale

Rethinking the Vision After the Boom

The section of South Miami Avenue between 12th and 7th street is filled with examples of what could have been. Even Mary Brickell Village, which is beginning to fill with tenants, had a tower component planned that has not, and may never, come to fruition. It’s not clear what has happened. The area has excellent access to rail, is relatively stable, runs parallel to Brickell Avenue, is near the bay and Miami River, and has a robust restaurant scene. For all intensive purposes, it’s excellently situated. However, one project after another was scrapped.

Image: The site for Pointe at Brickell up for sale

Brickell Village’s interior (west side) has and is still seeing major construction activity with Avenue, Axis, Brickell Station Lofts, Infinity, Capital at Brickell, 1450 Brickell, BOR I and II, Brickell Financial Center, 500 Brickell, Latitude I and II, Neo Vertika, One Broadway, and Vue. The area is a success story despite the presence of so many scrapped projects. Proposals and approvals don’t mean anything until the ground is disturbed and the cranes and workers take the project vertical. Today, reality has set in, and there is a much clearer understanding of how Brickell Village is transforming. The future remains impressive

Image: The site of Premiere Towers up for sale

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