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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: Saturday, October 31, 2020


The Home Improvement Decisions that You will Never Regret

What to Avoid

While some home remodeling options may look trendy on the surface, they may not be ideal for a long term engagement.nbsp; For instance, one of the trends you would not want to get involved in is specialty finishes on hardware. While most homeowners find specialty finishes on the bathroom or kitchen trendy, their >

In most cases, homeowners would try to do all they can to improve the overall outlook of their bathroom. However, some of these additions may be unnecessary. For instance, while adding a veined marble wall to your bathroom is a beautiful endeavor, going overboard can prove overwhelming since, in a few years, it will look outdated. The same applies to graphic tiling that seems trendy at the moment. At this age, Pinterest and Instagram, soon everybody will be going for it, and it will not be desirable in a few years to come.

What to Focus on in Home Remodeling

So you have everything figured out and are set up to make your investment in home renovation. Before starting your renovation project, make sure to budget all your expenses. With a detailed budget, you will know, whether is it better to consider a personal loan for home improvement or to use your savings and pay with cash.nbsp;

Where do you start? With funds ready, you ought to go for priority aspects of your home remodeling. The following are some of the notable areas to lay your emphasis.

Storage

Come to think of it; a building is essentially meant for storage apart from being home. This fact explains why one will go to great lengths to create several rooms of various storage purposes.nbsp; Over time, we accumulate a lot of stuff, and it only makes sense to create enough space for the same. Consider both your current and future storage needs when creating these spaces. This applies to both the interior and exterior storage.

Infrastructure

Apart from location, the homes infrastructure can become a make or break point for your home remodeling design. By building a custom home, you have the autonomy to decide where each of the main features will be located. This is in addition to the assurance that whatever is used under the floor and behind the walls is high quality. Some of the notable infrastructural considerations in home remodeling include electrical systems, cooling systems, siding, plumbing, insulation, and windows. Work hand in hand with your architect or designer to ensure each of these works to improve the overall performance

The Kitchen

Kitchen remodeling is a worthy endeavor, but this comes at a price. However, there are changes you can make that will not only cost you less but also stand the test of time. For instance, you may see the need to stick to white in your kitchen. Apart from reflecting light, white makes small kitchen spaces seem larger. For flooring, hardwood takes the day. This is because hardwood can blend well with any kitchen >

Lighting

Lighting is often overlooked when it comes to home renovation in place of other design aspects. It shouldnt be the case as lighting makes a strong statement about the overall look of your property. This is especially so for interior design, as it affects every detail in the room. In this case, take your time to study each room in terms of its components and how best to accentuate them. Use accent lighting to highlight some of the aesthetically pleasing fixtures in the room. While at it, consider the need to have sufficient sources of natural light into space.

Home remodeling doesnt have to be a complicated process; the simpler, the better. The rule of thumb, in this case, is to go for options that stand the test of time. You do not want to incorporate features that will lose value or appeal in a few years.

nbsp;


My name is Lidia Staron.nbsp;Im a passionate creative writer and marketing manager atnbsp;OpenLoans.com.nbsp;As a financial advisor and certified financial planner, I know that life is full of major events and crossroads. Im enjoying to help people navigate through important financial decisions while avoiding common mistakes.nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;


> Full Story

October Real Estate Roundup

Freddie Macs results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that "The record low mortgage rate environment is providing tangible support to the economy at a critical time, as housing continues to propel growth. Strong purchase demand is helping to lift the construction, manufacturing and transportation industries that build new homes and it is also leading to more consumer spending for owners, who are selling or improving their homes. On the refinance front, many consumers are smartly taking advantage of the ability to lower their monthly payment, which means they can spend, save or pay down debt more so than they have in the past."

30-year fixed-rate mortgage FRM averaged 2.81 percent with an average 0.7 points for the week ending October 29, 2020, down from last month when it averaged 2.90 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.78 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 2.32 percent with an average 0.6 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.40 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.19 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage ARM averaged 2.88 percent this week with an average 0.3 points, down from last month when it averaged 2.90 percent. A year ago, at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.43 percent.


> Full Story

What’s the Process to Buy a Foreclosure?

Some analysts are predicting the number of foreclosures will go up as we near the end of 2020. While the housing market is strong, coronavirus shutdowns have significantly impacted the economy, and unemployment remains high.

If youre waiting to see if you can find a deal in the form of a foreclosure, its important to be prepared for the process. Many of the elements of buying a foreclosure are similar to buying any other home, but if youre clear on what to expect, you can streamline the process.

Types of Foreclosures

There are two general types of foreclosed homes. There are bank-owned homes and real estate-owned properties REO. The lender owns the homes in both scenarios. The primary difference between the two is the stage of the foreclosure.

Bank-owned homes are in the midst of foreclosure, so the homeowner has quit making payments, and their lender is taking steps to remove them from the home. Foreclosed homes are bank-owned properties that go to auction. If the home doesnt sell at auction, its still owned by the bank, but its an REO. REO properties have been in an auction and still arent sold. The lender will often try to sell through them REO agents.

Foreclosures tend to be cheaper and sometimes significantly less expensive than similar properties in the area. Many foreclosures are sold well below market value. You might also get other benefits of buying a foreclosed home, such as lower interest rates, reduced down payments, and you may avoid appraisal fees and some closing costs.

There are situations where you can find a deal on a distressed property, but its not bank-owned.

For example, theres the pre-foreclosure phase. This means the lender has let the borrower know they are in default, but if the homeowner can sell the property, they might avoid foreclosure proceedings. Short sales are when a lender takes less for a property than whats owed on a mortgage. You dont have to be in default for a lender to approve a short sale.

There are also government-owned properties. When a property bought with a government-backed loan goes into default, the federal government owns it.

Buying a Foreclosed Home

If you want to buy a foreclosure, the following are the steps to expect:

Mortgage Preapproval

Its a good idea to have a preapproval for a mortgage from a lender before you start looking for foreclosed properties. Preapprovals will show youre serious about buying, and it will guide your search.

Find an Agent Experienced in Foreclosures

Its important to have an agent on your side whos experienced in dealing with foreclosures. If you dont have a specific property in mind, they can help you find options in your area.

Make a Competitive Offer

Just because youve found a property in foreclosure doesnt necessarily mean you dont have to be competitive in your offer. Youre probably already going to be getting a substantial deal, but if you make an offer too low it can be rejected.

Get an Inspection

You buy foreclosed homes as-is. Whoever is on the seller side isnt going to make any repairs. Whatever is needed becomes your responsibility if you buy the property. That means you need to know what youre heading into when you make an offer. If you do an inspection and the problems are too much for you, you should pass on the property. The inspection is only to help you make a decisionwhatevers found isnt going to be much in the way of a negotiation tool.

If you buy a home at auction, you dont have the opportunity to do an inspection.

Usually, if you buy a home at an auction, you cant even go inside beforehand.

The Risk for Buyers

There are a lot of risks that come with buying a foreclosed home. There are often problems and hidden costs that you may not even discover in inspection. Its also a slow process.

Theres a lot of paperwork when buying a foreclosure. Banks tend to be slow on their response times with these properties, and if a bank has a backlog of foreclosures, it can take months for them to respond to an offer.

None of this automatically means buying a foreclosure isnt a good option for you. It just means that you need to prepare yourself for these hurdles.


> Full Story



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