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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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Real Estate News
Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2019


A New HomeWithout Moving

What if there was some way to get that lsquo;new homersquo; buzz without the hassle? Well, of course there is, and thatrsquo;s why people spend time and money updating their homes.

Here are five ways to get yourself a new homehellip; without moving

  • 1. Extend

  • A lot of people move home because their current house is becoming a bit of a squeeze. Maybe children have come along or you now work from home. If you have the garden space, it can make financial sense to build an extension rather than find a new property. The key thing is to do the sums up front, set a budget and stick to it.

    The joy of an extension is that you have a new rooms to plan and >

  • 2. Update the kitchen

  • The kitchen has become the heart of the home, with many properties now featuring a large living space based around the kitchen. Whether or not your house will allow for a big space for cooking, dining and just hanging out, replacing your kitchen is a great option. It will renovate your house, add value and give you that lsquo;new homersquo; pleasure.

    Work with a kitchen planner to create a perfect layout, but donrsquo;t be afraid to shop around to get the update done at a price you like. Itrsquo;s often cheaper to buy appliances independently rather than through the kitchen specialist.

  • 3. Blitz the bathroom

  • Lots of us love staying in hotels and luxury apartments because of their opulent bathrooms. If this is you, think about bringing a boutique bathroom to your home. A new bathroom suite costs less than you think and will revolutionise how you feel about your bathroom. You could focus on updating your shower-bath or creating a luxurious walk-in shower, and then adding new tiles and flooring to suit your personal >

  • 4. Change the layout

  • If extending isnrsquo;t an option for you, you might look to knock down an internal wall to create a more spacious room ndash; a larger living room or an extended kitchen space. If your floor plan doesnrsquo;t give you that option, think laterally about changes you could make. Could you move to a different bedroom? Swap a dining space with a living room? Add an en-suite to your room? All of these options will give your home a new lease of life.

  • 5. Open up your loft

  • Our attics and lofts are nearly always wasted ndash; theyrsquo;re just dark, dusty storage areas. Making better use of this space will give you access to a whole new room. A master bedroom, an office, a den for the childrenhellip; You can either formally convert the space with dormer windows, or renovate it yourself. There are lots of great ideas here.

    So, with a little imagination you can achieve that happy new home without all that house-hunting, packing and spending. Enjoy your new property


    > Full Story

    Six Creative Ways to Drum up Interest in Your Home

    Organize a block party

    If you live in a neighborhood where everyone knows each other, fantastic Get everyone together on the street and offer to serve drinks or dessert in your house so you can make sure everyone comes on in. If yoursquo;re not super friendly with them, a block party is a great way to get to know the neighbors yoursquo;ll soon be leavingmdash;and maybe uncover someone whorsquo;s interesting in finding a new place in the same neighborhood.

    Have an estate sale

    A garage sale may attract mainly ultra-bargain shoppers, but an estate salehellip;thatrsquo;s another story. Not only do you have an opportunity to sell some of the items you donrsquo;t intend to take with you to your next home, but you may find a potential buyer, too. If you donrsquo;t have enough items to sell, enlist a few neighbors. They might be more than willing to haul over their old sideboard and china set for a chance to get it sold with minimal effort.

    Show off the goods

    Have a newly renovated kitchen you want to show off? Ninenbsp;out of 10 property purchases are decided by women, so invite the neighborhood moms over for wine and hors drsquo;oeuvres. You never know who will fall in love with your kitchen island and decide they need to move.

    Let your neighbors know on Nextdoor

    Depending on how your neighborhood Nextdoor is run, your post may be flagged and taken down. But, before that happens, you just might be able to zero in on a prospect or twomdash;before you even list your home for sale

    Rent a gaming truck

    For a couple hundred bucks, you can rent a gaming truck to park in your neighborhood. Invite all the moms to hang out inside with you, where they can ooh and ahh over your home while the kids are occupied and having fun in the truck.

    Ask your neighbors to put the word out

    Turning your neighbors into an extension of your real estate agentrsquo;s marketing team is easy. After all, they care about who their future neighbor will be, right?


    > Full Story

    10 Tips for Creating a Calmer, More Peaceful Home

    Add some greenery

    Studies have shown that plants can make your home feel calmer and ease anxiety. Plants like jasmine and English ivy can improve sleep, lavender and rosemary can lower stress, and several other plants have been shown to improve air quality so you breathe easier.

    Hide the electronics

    ldquo;Nobody wants to stare at a tangle of cords,rdquo; said Houzz. ldquo;Thankfully, we have more options than ever for keeping our tech devices hidden away. When possible, choose smaller, wi>

    Get a dog

    Or a cat, a bird, or a turtle, for that matter. Yes, having a pet can mean more noise and more mess. But, there are all kinds of studies that show that having a pet lowers stress. ldquo;Researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets,rdquo; said AnimalSmart.org. ldquo;Another study showsnbsp;that pet owners may also have increased odds of surviving for at least a year after having a heart attack.rdquo;

    Clear the clutter

    Going all Marie Kondo on your home can have surprising effects on your mental state. ldquo;Clutternbsp;can playnbsp;a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves,rdquo; said psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter innbsp;Psychology Today. ldquo;Messy homes andnbsp;work spacesnbsp;leave us feelingnbsp;anxious,nbsp;helpless, and overwhelmed.rdquo;

    Tone down the harsh colors

    Therersquo;s something to be said for going bold, but soft colors can bring on a calming feeling. If you want a deeper color, consider shades of blues and greensmdash;two colors that are known to be more serene than, say bright yellow, orange, or red.

    Clean up your entryway

    Itrsquo;s the first place guests see, and while you probably donrsquo;t pass by or through your front entry all that often if you park in the garage, it may not feel as welcoming as yoursquo;d like when you do.

    Soften the lighting

    Harsh overhead lighting can make you feel like yoursquo;re being interrogated, and can also be hard on your eyes. If you need to keep it because the space will be too dark otherwise, a dimmer can at least give you some control over just how bright it is, and allow you to create a mood with lower lighting as needed.

    Limit the patterns

    ldquo;Opt for solids and subtle patterns,rdquo; said Houzz.nbsp;ldquo;Busy patterns have their place, but if yoursquo;re aiming for calm, then solid fabrics are your friends. Donrsquo;t be afraid to include subtle patterns, though: herringbone, tone-on-tone stripes, and tiny dots can add textural interest without competing for attention.rdquo;

    Buy some fresh flowers

    According to a study by Rutgers, ldquo;The presence of flowers trigger happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behavior in a positive way far beyond what was originally believed.rdquo;

    Make your master bedroom a zen zone

    Getting good rest is key, and there are several ways you can create a soothing space. Keeping the colors serene is key, and so is a good mattress. Loading the bed up with soft textures can also help. ldquo;The sensation of touch is often overlooked, but a powerful way to unwind,rdquo; said Mass.gov.


    > Full Story



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