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Monday, June 11, 2007

High-rises, high hopes

High-rises, high hopes

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI AND MATTHEW HAGGMAN

aviglucci@herald.com

 

COURTESY OF THE TERRA GROUP

BIG PLANS: In 2005, this rendering of the condo tower was envisioned for the area behind the historic Freedom Tower.

In downtown, from Brickell Avenue north to the Edgewater neighborhood, up the Miami River and down historic Coral Way, great chunks of Old Miami are fast disappearing in a cloud of dust. In its place, the New Miami -- a dense, steel-and-glass forest of condo towers -- is rising from the rubble.

 

The scope, scale and speed of the transformation are breathtaking. More than 114 major projects, most of them high-rise condos, are under construction or in the planning stages in the urban core along Biscayne Bay.

 

Citywide, developers are proposing more than 61,000 new condominium units -- eight times the number built during the past decade.

 

The projects encompass the tallest skyscraper in Florida, a 74-story spire higher than any residential building south of Manhattan, almost four million square feet of new retail space (nearly as much as two Aventura Malls) and parking for more than 100,000 cars.

 

''You have a wave of development underway here in Miami that is unprecedented, bigger than anything, bigger than Hong Kong in the boom years of development,'' said former Portland, Ore., councilman Charles Hales, a transportation consultant working on a plan for a Miami streetcar line.

 

Not since the post-World War II housing boom that multiplied Miami-Dade County's population fivefold, to more than one million people, has the region experienced anything comparable. But that took almost 20 years.

 

''We are building an instant city; what should take 15 years will take three,'' said Michael Cannon, a Miami real-estate analyst. The boom struck suddenly, unexpectedly, first a trickle of projects, then a torrent. Cash has poured in from Latin America, New York and, increasingly, Europe, the result of converging market forces -- slashed interest rates, a cheap dollar -- and a worldwide infatuation with Miami among the chic and moneyed.

 

It all amounts to a multibillion-dollar gamble, outdoing in risk and bravado the 1920s boom that made Miami a modern city: That given waterfront location, a sunny climate and a hip, international culture, intensive downtown residential development can catapult Miami into the first rank of world cities.

 

Elected officials, in particular Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, are counting on the boom to reverse downtown's long decline, to turn its seedy blocks and outlying neighborhoods into a scintillating, working urban hub with a vibrant street life.

 

''Just five years ago we were broke; we had zero development,'' Winton said. ``I'm going to bet you that when we're done -- I don't know when that will be -- historians will identify this as the most significant and rapid transformation of an American city.''

 

What precisely will the boom deliver? It's too soon to tell, experts say.

 

But this convulsion of development is already remaking not just Miami's skyline, but its streets and neighborhoods and likely its population, too.

 

If it stays on track, the boom promises a fundamentally different Miami -- more urban and congested, but also more cosmopolitan and, given the high prices the condos command, probably wealthier.

 

It also raises serious concerns. In the absence of a ready plan, how will the city cope with thousands of expected new residents and the traffic they will generate, given antiquated infrastructure, limited public transit and a shortage of parks and open space? Will Miami residents, among the nation's poorest urban dwellers, be displaced or priced out of new housing?

 

That is, if the planned condos actually get built, sold and occupied.

 

As the boom takes on the feel of a gold rush, real estate analysts, bankers and even some developers fear it's a mirage, a bubble fueled by speculators looking to resell condo units for a quick profit, and not by true buyer demand.

 

If developers build too much, and speculators can't find buyers for resale, the boom could bust, leaving Miami littered with vacant and bankrupted buildings or, worse, unfinished towers and bare lots.

 

SIGNS OF FUROR

 

For now, though, signs of the furor are everywhere.

 

Sales centers for multimillion-dollar condos that tout the merits of high-rise living sprout up across the city. Brokers push Miami condos in farflung locales, from Caracas and Bogotá to New York and France's Cte d'Azur. Lavish condo parties are thrown by developers several times a week, and advertisements for the high-rises fill the pages of local magazines and newspapers, including The Herald.

 

Downtown Miami is a thicket of construction cranes. Much of the landward side of Biscayne Boulevard has been razed, and the footings and columns of what will soon be a wall of six colossal condos, each more than 50 stories, are becoming visible.

 

''Where else are you near the water, 10 minutes from Miami Beach, 15 minutes from the airport and have access to public transportation?'' said Daniel Kodsi, chief executive of Boca Raton-based Royal Palm Communities, which plans a high-rise condo called Paramount Park across from AmericanAirlines Arena.

 

There is so much building that developers are struggling to find qualified contractors and subcontractors.

 

Sales and resales in the mid-six figures, and well beyond, have become commonplace. Towers of 300 units sell out in a day, with buyers coming in the main not from Miami, but from other parts of the country and the world.

 

''Miami, New York and Los Angeles have become the three cities in the U.S. where people want to be,'' said Joe Cayre, chairman of Midtown Group, which is building eight condo towers on the site of the old Florida East Coast Railroad yards in Wynwood.

 

They are people like Sal Loduca, who plans to leave Manhattan and his family's Long Island food business to open a brick-oven pizzeria at Cayre's Midtown Miami.

 

''Everyone's making the move to Miami. How could you not? It's a great opportunity. Miami's full of life,'' Loduca said.

 

`CRITICAL COMBUSTION'

 

Real estate broker Philip Spiegelman calls the confluence of factors propelling this boom a ``critical combustion.''

 

Among them:

 

• Across the country, young people and so-called ''empty-nesters'' have been returning to urban centers, in part because of long, wearing commutes from outlying suburbs. At the same time, a dwindling supply of easily developable land in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties has prompted developers to look eastward.

 

• A shortage of waterfront property elsewhere led developers to Miami's acres and acres of vacant bayfront land.

 

• Low interest rates have fueled record home-buying, while aging baby boomers are increasingly seeking second homes in sunny or exotic places.

 

• A cleaner local government has made Miami attractive to lenders and investors who once thought the city too risky, unsafe or corrupt.

 

• The weak dollar has made Miami an alluring bargain for Europeans and Latin Americans. And compared to other urban centers like New York City, Miami remains cheap.

 

Then there is the other factor, anecdotal and unquantifiable: the speculator.

 

''As much as 85 percent of all condominium sales in [downtown Miami] are accounted for by investors and speculators,'' housing analysts at investment firm Raymond James warned in a March report.

 

Banks have started to back off lending on condo projects, or have instituted new rules to avoid giving mortgages to investors.

 

Spiegelman sold the condo units in the Marina Blue condo going up on Biscayne Boulevard.

 

''One hundred percent of the buyers were investors and speculators,'' he said. ``Anyone who tells you their projects are different are deluding themselves.''

 

ZONING-CODE OVERHAUL

 

The pace of development is so furious that it has overtaken the city's planning efforts.

 

Only now is the city getting around to a long-promised overhaul of its outdated zoning code, a complete rewrite meant to ensure that new development produces lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and respects open spaces and established neighborhoods, while weaving it all together into a cogent urban fabric. The rewrite, dubbed Miami 21, will be phased in over two years.

 

Yet more than 100 large-scale projects, most of them in and around downtown, have already been approved or are under construction.

 

Public-transit improvements like Metrorail extensions, a light-rail line to Miami Beach and the contemplated city streetcar are years away, raising fears of gridlock.

 

Quipped Cannon, the real estate analyst: ``Maybe we need to give every buyer of a condo in the urban core a Segway.''

 

There are other worries.

 

Some skeptics, noting the high condo prices and the out-of-town provenance of buyers, fear that instead of the diverse, working 24-hour downtown that city leaders envision, the boom will instead create a seasonal playground for the rich, a Monte Carlo on Biscayne Bay.

 

''I bet those buildings are going to be empty a lot of the time,'' said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian and consultant who has written about the rise of what he calls ''ephemeral cities'' -- places like San Francisco, Berlin and parts of New York that increasingly cater to the rich, the childless young and tourists.

 

''Maybe this is Miami's karma, to be this kind of place, a temporary, hip, cool, nomadic population serviced by a poor population,'' said Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History. But, he added: ``History shows a city has to maintain some sense of a middle-class character if it wants to thrive.''

 

`MISSING LINK'

 

Yet there's relatively little in the new downtown priced for working families. ''The missing link here is in creating housing that the middle class can afford,'' said Rafael Kapustin, a longtime downtown property owner who pioneered the conversion of old downtown offices and hotels into modestly priced condos and apartments.

 

In partnership with a big developer, the Related Group, Kapustin developed two affordable loft condos, with units averaging around $150,000, now under construction in the inner core of downtown. But their Loft II project may be the last of its kind because of the surging cost of land and construction, he said.

 

City leaders are sanguine. They say it will take years for all the planned condos to be built and occupied, allowing time to absorb new residents, build public amenities and improve transit.

 

While few city residents can afford waterfront condos, thousands of moderately priced condos and rental apartments are being built by private developers in adjacent Overtown and neighborhoods like Little Havana and Allapattah, many with direct city subsidies, according to a recent report from Miami Mayor Diaz.

 

`SELF-REINFORCING CYCLE'

 

And gradually, as new residents move into downtown, businesses, shops, restaurants, neighborhood retailers and services will follow, said Neisen Kasdin, a land-use lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor.

 

''It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle,'' Kasdin said. ``Yes, there will be a large segment of temporary residents, but as the city continues to grow as an international business city, it leads to the continued growth of a permanent community.''

 

Meanwhile, the city has instituted measures that strengthen the planners' hand in shaping an attractive, livable downtown: hiding parking garages inside buildings; lining sidewalks with shops, offices, dwellings and restaurants; and keeping garage and service entrances off Biscayne Boulevard and other main arteries.

 

'We used to sit here and say, `Someday,' '' said Miami Planning Director Ana Gelabert-Sánchez, alluding to the city's long-frustrated hopes for a downtown revival. ``Well, someday is here.''

 

Herald staff writer Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report. 

 
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Updated: Friday, March 22, 2019


Septic or Sewer: Whats the Difference?

All of these functions >

1. Sewer system

2. Septic system

Sewer systems are different than a septic system because one >

Why Many Homeowners >

A sewer system requires no maintenance, but youll need to pay monthly fees for using the system. Local governments allow the homeowner to hook up the local sewer system, which will ensure all of your waste is gone forever.

Youll pay monthly, but you never have to worry about septic system costs and repairs.

Sewers can become clogged and they may backup over-time. This happens when neighbors and others in the community are flushing wet wipes or pouring grease down their drains. When major blockages occur, everyone is impacted.

You may not pay for the unclogging upfront, but your fees may rise to cover the expenditures.

Why Homeowners are Moving Back to Septic Systems

A septic system is your own system, and this is a tank system thats often able to hold 1,000 gallons of water. The three-layer system connects to the home, and the system is placed in the ground on the homes property.

Often seen as an eco-friendly option, you wont pay monthly fees to use your septic system.

Clogging of the system is also your fault. If the system becomes clogged, this is due to your actions: i.e. youre flushing items that cannot breakdown in the system.

Septic systems can be costly to install, and all of the maintenance and repair fees must be paid by the homeowner.

But "sewer betterment" fees are often imposed on homeowners, with some fees being in the 10,000 range. This may include fees for installation and repairs. When these fees are considered, this is often higher than the cost to install a septic system on the land.

Septic systems do need to be pumped, and this can cost 200 - 300 every 3 ndash; 5 years.

Concrete tanks can last 40 years with proper maintenance, while steel tanks have a lifespan of 15 ndash; 20 years.

"Septic systems should be inspected and pumped a minimum of once every three to four years. You may not be experiencing any problems now, but a full septic tank may allow unwanted solids to flow into the drain field, which is the part of the system that consists of a distribution box and a series of connected pipe," explains Apollo Drain.

Septic systems also offer the benefit of being able to build a home in a remote area, which may not have a sewer system connection close by. But when sewer systems are close to the home, theyre often chosen because they can handle large amounts of waste at a time. During storm periods where heavy rains occur, sewer systems are able to handle the water with much greater ease than a septic system.

nbsp;


> Full Story

How to DIY Abstract Art

Yes, you can scour the internet for abstract art in every color, shape, and size, and yoursquo;ll pay a pretty penny for a lot of it. Or, you can D-I-Y your A-R-T. Itrsquo;s easier than you think to create something that looks like you dropped some serious cash to dress up your walls, and you might even have a good time while yoursquo;re at it. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.

Create dimension

Ever see those abstract paintings that have texture and dimension and wonder how they got such a layered look? This tutorial uses a clever trick to approximate the look of ldquo;elevated brush or painting-knife strokesrdquo;: tissue paper Who ever thought an item you use to blow your nose could be so beautifully useful.

Get the right tools

Yoursquo;ll need a canvas, some paint, and at least one paintbrush, obviously, to make your art. But incorporating some other tools can give it a unique, professional look. Drywall spatulas give this painting nbsp;its textural flair without the brush strokes. Varying the usage and pressure of the spatulas and paint brush allow you to create as muchmdash;or as littlemdash;texture as you want.

Pass the alcohol

The alcohol inks, to be exact. If you havenrsquo;t heard of this before, itrsquo;s about to become your favorite craft item. ldquo;Alcohol inks are an acid-free, highly-pigmented, and fast drying medium to be used on non-porous surfaces,rdquo; said Create for Less.

While the finished product of this abstract art looks complicated, itrsquo;s actually a simply process, and one that creates cool-looking art that can be done and hung in a matter of minutes. Watch the tutorial to see how easy it is, but beware: Yoursquo;re dealing with fire here, so, if yoursquo;re accident prone, you might want a chaperone.

And more alcohol

Using rubbing alcohol to blur the lines helps create the ldquo;splash effectrdquo; on this painting. It looks like fluffy clouds to us. One thing is for sure: No one will ever know you did this yourself

Go all Jackson Pollock

Your masterpiece may not end up in the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, but itrsquo;ll sure become the centerpiece of your space Get your splatter on and create a piece yoursquo;ll love.nbsp;This tutorial shows you how. It also shows you how to create your own canvas, but, unless yoursquo;re super keen on this part of the DIY experience, you can save yourself some time and hassle, and maybe even an injury, by picking up a finished, framed canvas at a store like JOANNs, Michaels, or Hobby Lobby.

Dont restrict yourself to just paint

Canrsquo;t find the perfect shade for your art? Tint it yourself This dreamy abstract painting is part paint, part food coloring

Think outside the lines

Animal print is the inspiration for this spotted art. Black and gray paint on a white background keeps it neutral, and the gold-sprayed framed provide a pop. Do like the artist and use watercolors to ldquo;vary the depth of the spots to make it look more natural.rdquo;

Make it fancy

A little touch of metallic takes this art to the next level. This cool painting uses golf leaf, but you can also experiment with metallic paint if yoursquo;d rather.


> Full Story

Kitchen Cabinets: Paint em Yourself or Pay the Big Bucks?

Preparation is key when painting your cabinets, and the number of steps yoursquo;ll need to follow to achieve a quality finish can seem impossible. Yoursquo;ll want to remove the doors, drawer fronts, and hardware. Fill in any holes and smooth out any gouges. Degrease, sand, vacuum, wipe, sand some more, vacuum some more, wipe some more. And maybe then yoursquo;ll finally be ready for primingmdash;but not painting on the actual color, because that comes after priming.

Frankly, every step is important, and if you miss one, you could end up with a result yoursquo;re unhappy with, or a finish that doesnrsquo;t hold up. If yoursquo;re the type who isnrsquo;t likely to finish what yoursquo;ve started, perhaps you shouldnrsquo;t embark on this paint-your-own adventure. Your old, dated cabinets are still better than half-old-and-dated, half-done cabinets. But if you still want to go for it, at least be prepared for a few realities:

Yoursquo;re never going to get a look as good as the professionals

You may come close, and you may fool your friends, but therersquo;s a reason you pay professionals a couple to several thousand dollars for something verging on perfection.

Your arms will hate you

Which is not such a bad thing, really. You can skip a few ldquo;arm daysrdquo; at the gym if you really put your effort into it.

Yoursquo;ll never want to look at another piece of sandpaper again

Get ready for hand cramps. Thatrsquo;s how you know yoursquo;re doing it right. Sanding is critical to achieving the look you want and making sure the paint sticks.

ldquo;Sand all surfaces with the grain using 100-grit paper. To make sure no bits of dust mar the finish, vacuum the cabinets inside and out, then rub them down with a tack cloth to catch any debris that the vacuum misses,rdquo; said painting contractor John Dee on This Old House. ldquo;Hand sanding is the best technique on oak because you can push the paper into the open grain, which a power sander or sanding block will miss."

The dust is NEVER-ENDING

Refer back to all that sanding. Seriously. This is not a job for any old vacuum. You can rent an industrial vacuum at Home Depot, and itrsquo;s a good idea to also have a smaller vacuum with crevice tools and more rags for wiping and cleanup than you ever imagined needing for anything.

You need a system for keeping track of every door, drawer, and piece of hardware

Sounds easy, but one mistake and yoursquo;re in a world of hurt. If you donrsquo;t label every single door and drawer correctly, theyrsquo;ll get mixed up and they wonrsquo;t fit correctly. While yoursquo;re at it, donrsquo;t forget to label your hinges and handles, too.

ldquo;I read a dozen blogs that said to label my hinges so that they would all go back in the same places,rdquo; said Cori George of Hey, Letrsquo;s Make Stuff. ldquo;But I figured all the hinges were the same, so why spend the time? Huge mistake. The hinges had worn in specific ways in the last two decades and a half, so that after they were painted and I was putting the bathroom back together, none of the hinges worked quite right. I ended up sort of forcing everything into place, and while the doors work, they donrsquo;t work as well as they would have if Irsquo;d labeled them.rdquo;

There will be smudges. And maybe even an errant hair.

Yeah, it happens. Just remember to breathe as yoursquo;re redoing the same cabinet door for the fourth time.

The fumes are horrible

Speaking of breathinghellip;it wonrsquo;t be easy, depending on what kind of product you use.

When someone else is doing your cabinets, you can escape the fumes by gathering the family in a different part of the house for the couple of days of painting, or, even better, check into a hotel and take a little staycation. The DIY version means yoursquo;re all up in those fumes for however long it takes to get your cabinets done, which is likely longer than what the pros can accomplish. The degreaser yoursquo;ll likely need to use to get your cabinets cleaned up before applying any primer or paint is stinky, and certain kinds of paint are no better.

ldquo;In truth, oil primer and paint adhere the best and give the longest-lasting results on cabinets, but because of VOCs, oil is outlawed in many states,rdquo; said Albert Ridge of Ridge Painting in NYC on Remodelista. ldquo;A good alternative is water-soluble waterborne paint, such as Benjamin Moorersquo;s Advance, which is something like a latex-oil combo. But note that it dries quickly, so itrsquo;s wise to add an extender that allows you to the time to get a nice finish without brush marks. And if yoursquo;re painting something plasticky or otherwise hard to paint, Stix is a good primer to know about.rdquo;

The good tools are a worthwhile splurge

Professional painters typically want to spray cabinets because the finish comes out so smooth, although some do prefer the control a brush can bring. No matter which option you go with, you want the best tools you can afford. Paint Sprayer magazine tested a number of options, and the top-ranked sprayer is only 129mdash;a small price to pay for a smooth finish. You do want to make sure you practice ahead of time if yoursquo;re going this route. Poor spraying technique could result in an uneven finish or lots of drips.


> Full Story



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