Category Archives: Pieces to the Puzzle

Understanding Miami’s urban growth means getting to know Miami’s urban neighborhoods.

Radar Blip: Simpson Park Triangle Activity

This isolated corner of Brickell is tucked behind Simpson Park, hemmed in by the metro rail line to the east and the I-95 to the west, and is accessible by three roads.

I first noticed it in 2006 when several buildings started to go vertical. Prior to 2006, the area was completely off the development radar.  I called it Simpson Park Triangle, for lack of a better name. It’s emergence was one of the boom’s most interesting but little known surprises—representing the most far reaching example of Brickell westward infill to date. Continue reading

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Filed under Brickell Village, Emerging Neighborhoods

Pestana Opening First US Hotel in South Beach

Portugal-based Pestana Hotels and Resorts Group plans its first North American hotel in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District. Portugal’s largest “tourism and leisure” group and Europe’s 25th biggest hotel brand also boasts hotels in Africa and South America.

Pestana South Beach will be located at 1835 James Avenue— one block inland from from Collins Avenue (not far from the planned Lennox Hotel). The Portuguese hotelier does not seem to think its relatively off-the-beaten-track location will deter reservations.

South Beach’s interior has long remained aloof of commercialization but there seems to be a gradual paradigm shift taking form in the nook between the Convention Center and the Bass Museum of Art—where resides some of the island’s finest Spanish Revival and Art Deco architecture.

The selection of South Beach as the launchpad for Pestana’s  North American operations is yet another indication of its remarkable gravitational pull on foreign investment.

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Filed under BoB Articles, Commercial Developments, Emerging Neighborhoods, Miami Beach: South Beach

Bust Ghost bites Dust: Onyx2 eclipsed by Icon Bay

Anyone who’s tracked Miami’s development long enough knows that fancy renderings need be taken with a grain of salt. Onyx 2, sister of BAP designed Onyx (completed), never disturbed the ground.

Now, the Related Group intends on developing Icon Bay on the same site. To think that people were counting out Mr. Perez, back in 2008. Funny. Continue reading

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Filed under BoB Articles, Residential Developments, Scrapped, Uptown: Edgewater

H&M Progress and Forever 21 Goes Big on Lincoln Road

Past glory (left). Present plight (right).

Recently, I saw a line stretch around a block to get into the H&M preview store (first such store I’d ever seen).  The actual store will occupy the historic Lincoln Theatre. I figured this must be good so I passed by to see the progress and found the theatre to be Continue reading

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Filed under Biz Buzz, BoB Articles, Commercial Developments, Miami Beach: South Beach

Lennox Hotel is Tearing it Up in South Beach

Renderings from Kobikarp.com

Demolition activity is commencing at the planned Lennox Hotel (Peter Miller Hotel building) right across the street from the Setai. If completed, it will add to an increasingly impressive hospitality portfolio for architect Kobi KarpContinue reading

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Filed under BoB Articles, Commercial Developments, Emerging Neighborhoods, Miami Beach: South Beach

The Neighborhood Economy Barometer: Starbucks

Starbucks on 47 West Flagler, in the Central Business District, not surprisingly has the least working hours of all others in Miami

I’ll have a double espresso and a glance at the neighborhood economies, please. Starbucks can provide more than an array of caffeine rich products. It can tell us a bit about the vitality of neighborhood economies. How? Hours of operation.

Starbucks and the Hood

Starbucks is an indicator of neighborhood economic activity because its operating hours, more often than not, coincide with that of its neighbors. For example, in South Beach, Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road and Pennsylvania closes at 2AM on Saturdays, a half hour after Starbucks across the street. Nearby Van Dyke Cafe opens its doors one hour after Starbucks, daily. In Brickell, Publix (in Mary Brickell Village) opens its doors a little over an hour after the nearby Starbucks, and PF Changs, right around the corner, closes at the same time as Starbucks on Saturdays and just one hour later on the weekdays. The correlations repeat wherever you go.  Continue reading

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Filed under BoB Articles, Brickell Village, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, Economy, Uptown: Edgewater

(Park) Poor Brickell

The Infrastructuralist has a good article on the most notable urban parks in the world. It is a list of the vast green lungs on which great cities breathe–something our emerging City is starved of. There is no great urban park in Miami. There are bay-front lawns that are scantily used, poorly stewarded, and do little to bring the urban fold together. What Miami has, and is largely overlooked, is a lot of vacant urban land. Being that vacant land is a prerequisite for park space, these parcels, in and of themselves, while not much, together, represent true urban park potential.

Aerial view of vacant parcels in the Brickell Interior--reserved for the development of Brickell CitiCenter

Miami, unless it’s willing to imminent domain land on a 1960’s Overtown-devastating scale, cannot have an uber-large urban park the likes of what the Infrastructuralist mentions, and must instead seize smaller parcels and convert them to park use, a’ la Savannah (with its squares). This, if not done, will result in an urban environment devoid of green space to chill out, converse, converge, and depart from the daily grind.

Parks, aside from, among many other things, being meeting points and a boost to peripheral land values, can showcase local art. There is no better example than Gaudi’s famed Parc Guell in Barcelona. Commissions to create fountains and public art installations can give a much needed boost to local artists and do well to reflect Miami’s artistic depth, but this is not meaningfully discussed.

Aerial view of vacant land at the confluence of S. MIami Avenue and SE 1st Ave.

The parcel of land that shown in the image above was once going to be the site of a building known as the Flatiron–an allusion to its namesake in NYC. This project, like so many others, was scrapped, and what remains is a vacant lot used, at times, as a parking lot. If you put on your rose tinted urban glasses, you might see a park with a grand fountain surrounded by buildings. A canvas for local art. A fountain representative of our City’s soul, it’s place in the world, anything but another building. Let the City be a living room, a gathering place, a showcase for the people, and not just a narrow stomping ground for impatient pedestrians, a concrete and glass labyrinth.

Admittedly, Brickell has its share of parks. Let’s see: Simpson Park, which, in its fenced-in state, is not exactly welcoming; Southside Park, which is on the fringes of urbanism; and if you want to count the Miami Circle, the City’s very own, ancient who knows what the hell, then you have one more. Affluent Brickell is park poor and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime, ever.

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Filed under Brickell Village, Parks

Herald Land Sale Saga Over

Siffin's cancelled plans

With the acquisition of the Miami Herald property by Genting Malaysia, a several year old land sale saga is over. It began with Pedro Martin’s plans for CitiSquare, and when that fell through, Mark Siffin emerged with his own controversial plan, and when that fell through, it resulted in a lawsuit. Just when it was beginning to look like the whole back and forth was never going to end, Sacramento-based McClatchy is touting a new (and final) deal with Genting.

Coincidently, Genting, isn’t the only Asia-based conglomerate betting big on Miami. Swire, purportedly moving forward with its plans for Brickell Citi Center, which I have reservations about,  represents the other major private mixed-use project moving forward in Miami. Swire, mostly known for it’s activities on Brickell Key, has made forays into the mainland market before–most notably with Jade.

After a historic bust, it is doubtful that this news represents the advent of a recovery, much less a boom, but it is a reminder that Miami’s urban development remains premature and it potential for growth is BIG. These 14 acres of prime bay front property represent a potential spark of new development for Miami. Presumably, the lawsuit has been dropped, and hopefully, so will the jaws of passers-by when Genting changes the face of the City.

Post Script: God forbid Genting build anything as calamitous as this.

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Filed under BoB Articles, Uptown: Media & Entertainment (PAC) District

Collins Avenue Development Activity Expanding

Image: Formerly Fairwind Seafood Bar and Grill

On May 17, last year, I wrote a post on the Collins Avenue Shopping District’s relatively rapid emergence and unique attributes. I ended the post by stating:

“The shopping district currently ends at 10th street, but there is room for it to expand northward. Collins, between 10th and 15th streets represents an underutilized segment of the storied avenue.”

Since then, the area north of 10th street on Collins has begun to transform as the anticipated northward expansion of new retail and hotel activity takes place. Structures are getting bought, restored, or demolished to make way for new businesses.

South Beach as a neighborhood and international brand has continuously redefined itself. It’s in these subtle changes, the motifs within the theme, that you see the redefinition taking place, so that every time a New Yorker or Londoner visits SoBe they feel like the experience has improved. This adaptability, along with the endowments nature has granted the island, is the key to its continued success.

Let’s see what this expansion looks like on the ground:

Image: 1221-25 Collins (NY-based owners)

Image: Hotel Webster 1220 Collins

Image: Site of future retail on 12th and Collins

Image: Palmer House Apartments 1119 Collins

Image: Tudor Hotel 1111 Collins

Image: Courtyard adjacent to the Tudor Hotel

Image: formerly David’s Cafe 1058 Collins

Image: Fairwind Hotel 1000 Collins

Image: Stardust Apartments 910 Collins Avenue

Image: Coral House

Image: Franklin Hotel 860 Collins

Image: Close up of the Franklin Hotel

Map: Green line represents existing Collins Avenue shopping District and new retail. The Red line represents the area of northward expansion currently taking place.

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Filed under BoB Articles, Miami Beach: SoFi, Miami Beach: South Beach

Commercial Development: Brickell Village Outlook

The chart below is one of several I prepared that are based on the latest DDA Development Activity Breakdown Report. It represents office/retail development (built, under construction, and approved) from 2002 to mid-2007 in Brickell Village. In an effort to compare DDA data with with an alternative source (to get the best overall picture), I deferred to CBRE’s market outlook. Let’s look at the DDA derived chart first:

Chart Data Source: DDA

According to the DDA, there is currently 1.45 million square feet of office space under construction in Brickell Village. Let’s take a look at what CBRE reports:

The CBRE office construction sum (which doesn’t include office condo development) is +/- 1.4 million sq. ft. This coincides with the DDA figures. Since 2002, there has been a total of 461,000 square feet of new office space added to the Brickell market. The 2007 office construction figure constitutes a major increase in inventory compared to the last five years. There is an underlying concern that the demand for new office space is insufficient for a healthy rate of absorption, but falling vacancies and rising lease rates are contradicting this claim. Let’s take a look at Brickell’s vacancy history since 2004:

Chart Source: CBRE (Market Pulse)

In the second quarter of 2005, while the residential condo market was still hot, vacancies in the office market were at a dismal 16.9%. However, since then (in the third quarter of 2007), vacancies have gone down to 8.0%.

Let’s take a look at recent rental rate averages:

Chart source: CBRE (Market Pulse) [Firefox users, right click to view larger clearer image]

From when the vacancies were at their highest level in the second quarter of 2005 to their lowest point in the 3rd quarter this year, the average rental rate per square foot has gone up from $28.34 to $33.03–with one instance of an asking rate of $50.00 in a prestigious Class A office development (according to CBRE, a first for the Miami office market). Decreasing vacancies and increasing rental rates are healthy growth indicators but the 1.45 million sq. ft. of new space brings the market’s absorption rate into question. Let’s take a look at the rate of absorption for new construction in Brickell Village since 2004:


Chart Source: CBRE (Market Pulse) [Firefox users, right click to view larger clearer image]

As you can see above, there hasn’t been much new space added to the market since 2004 when 260,000 sq. ft. came online. Still, 247,982 sq. ft. was absorbed that same year compared to the 260k added–a pretty good absorption precedent, but minimal when considering the projected 1.4 million sq. ft. coming online during the next year or so.

2008 is going to be pivotal for Brickell Village’s office market. The addition of over 1.4 million square feet of new space will test the market’s vitality but a successful transition will increase the overall value of Brickell Village real estate, create new jobs, add to the commercial and residential allure of BV (which already has higher office rental rates than the CBD), and balance the scales of development more evenly with the heavy residential side. If all goes well in 2008 and into 2009, and growth is proven sustainable, then who knows, the office sector might see a significant construction surge.

NEXT: Commercial Development: Central Business District

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Filed under BoB Articles, Brickell Village, Commercial Developments, Economy