The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.

Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, detailed the strategy used by the state’s largest utilities to create and finance Amendment 1 at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2.

Nuzzo called the amendment, which has received more than $21 million in utility industry financing, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald/Times.

Nuzzo offered others a recommendation: “As you guys look at policy in your state, or constitutional ballot initiatives in your state, remember this: Solar polls very well,” he said. “To the degree that we can use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu and take what they’re kind of pinning us on and use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation or in constitutional referendums — if that’s the direction you want to take — use the language of promoting solar, and kind of, kind of put in these protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop.”

The comments underscore the claims made by opponents to Amendment 1 on the November ballot that the utility-backed political committee, Consumers for Smart Solar, was formed to undercut attempts to allow third-party sales of rooftop solar by leaving voters with the impression that their rival amendment will expand solar generation in Florida.

Spokeperson for Consumers for Smart Solar, Sarah Bascom, however, contradicted Nuzzo’s claims and told the Herald/Times late Tuesday that “Consumers for Smart Solar did not engage or hire or ask JMI to do research regarding the effort.”

Robert McClure, executive director of the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, responded to this report and said Nuzzo “misspoke” when he characterized the effort as a strategy to deceive voters into thinking the plan was a pro-solar amendment.

“At an event with an unfamiliar, national audience, Mr. Nuzzo generalized his commentary and misspoke in reference to JMI partnering with Consumers for Smart Solar in any capacity,” McClure said in a statement. “JMI has never worked with or received funding from Consumers for Smart Solar,” McClure said in a statement. “We have released policy positions on both solar amendments and have publicly spoken on the pros and cons of each.”

The solar industry-backed group, Floridians for Solar Choice, wants to encourage a broad-scale solar market in the Sunshine State by using the state Constitution to remove the ban on third-party sales and require lawmakers to allow customers to lease their solar generation to neighbors or building tenants. But the effort failed to get enough signatures to appear on the November ballot. It is expected to return in 2018.

Threat To Utilities

Utility investors, like Warren Buffett, and the industry’s trade group have warned that distributed energy from solar and wind are long-term threats to the monopoly economics model of the investor-owned utilities. Floridians for Solar Choice claim that the amendment attempts to convince voters that it is pro-solar when it “paves the way for barriers that would penalize solar customers” and adds to the state Constitution “the false assumption that solar customers are ‘subsidized’ by non-solar customers.”

Nuzzo confirmed that he made the comments while on a panel for the conference. He disagreed that the strategy was deceptive and instead claimed that the opponents of Amendment 1 “have been rather deceptive about the degree to which solar is already incentivized and already propped up and subject to more crony carve-outs than anything else.”

In mailers and television ads for Amendment 1, the utility industry says it will allow customers to “strengthen your right to generate your own solar energy … protect consumers, particularly our seniors, from scam artists … and protect consumers who don’t choose solar from having to pay higher monthly electric bills.”

The Florida Supreme Court approved the amendment language in a 4-3 vote, concluding the proposal was not misleading but did enshrine into the Constitution protections consumers already had. Justice Barbara Pariente, in her dissenting opinion, called the language “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” because it would allow utilities to raise fees on solar customers and was “masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative.”

In the hour long audio recording acquired by the left-leaning Center for Media and Democracy and the Energy and Policy Institute, Nuzzo told the group that the utility-backed amendment was motivated in part by the popularity of the solar industry’s proposal and their ability to win the support of free-market advocates.

“They actually leveraged some of the less savvy, less informed, tea party groups and formed what is now called the Green Tea Movement — God help us, we’re dead and destroyed,” Nuzzo said. “So they come in and they merge and they start a constitutional ballot initiative. They go out and sell a ballot initiative saying if you put solar on our rooftop, shouldn’t you have ability to sell to your neighbor? Yes, that’s free-market … that’s exactly what they were marketing as a free market principle and the tea party got behind this.”

Who Pays For Grid?

He said JMI, a free-market research and policy organization that has ties to the Florida utility industry, saw it differently. Nuzzo explained that they believe that solar users are being subsidized by non-solar users because they don’t pay for the fixed costs of maintaining the electricity grid.

“So here’s the James Madison Institute, this right-wing think tank, the Koch Brothers-funded group, part of the vast right-wing conspiracy going ‘please stop!’ ” he said. “They wouldn’t stop, so the idea was that they were completely and vehemently opposed to any grid maintenance cost being spread out.”

Nuzzo said that his reference to the Koch brothers was “in jest” but that they had given money to JMI. Nuzzo would not say how much. According to federal tax documents, JMI has received more than $120,000 from the Charles Koch Institute and Charles Koch Foundation, and Stan Connally, the CEO of Gulf Power, sits on JMI’s board of directors. Gulf Power and its affiliates have contributed more than $2.3 million to the utility-backed amendment, which also has received funding from Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co., and non-profit groups primarily funded by Exxon and the Koch brothers.

Adding to the utility industry’s dilemma, Nuzzo told the panel, was the fact that the solar-industry-backed amendment “was actually polling in the 70s.”

“Why? Because the tea party was behind it,” Nuzzo said. “We even saw some folks that we would normally play pretty well with — the chambers of commerce locally, the business community — was kind of galvanizing behind it. Why? Because if you’re not a utility generating organization, this kind of helps you because it makes it a little bit easier for you to go that route and sell it. The other problem with the pro-solar amendment is that the language of the ballot initiative is mandating in the Florida Constitution that solar is the preferred energy source in the state of Florida. It directed in the Constitution that the Legislature create policy to advance solar interests in the state. So the utility industry came to JMI and said you guys are the adults in the room, you’re the ones that have access to the research, to the scholarship … to a lot of the national organizations. We need some help.”

‘Savvy Maneuver

Nuzzo said that the utilities also created a political committee, Consumers for Smart Solar, that not only funded the JMI research but then “also, in what I would consider an incredibly savvy maneuver, they put forth their own constitutional ballot initiative.

“That ballot initiative also gathered the 700,000 signatures, but what it said was individuals have the right to own solar equipment, they have the right to install solar equipment and lease it, they have the right to generate as much electricity as they can.”

Nuzzo said JMI partnered with the conservative Heartland Institute and a free-market researcher from Florida State University’s Devoe Moore Center to conduct the research requested by the utility industry. Consumers for Smart Solar said did not clarify whether or not the organization reached out to these groups for the research assistance.

Together they “built a model” and, in a report released in December, concluded that over 10 years if the solar industry-backed amendment was approved, the cost of maintaining the electricity grid would be shifted from solar customers to non-solar customers — a $1 billion cost shift “from wealthy solar consumers on to the folks who were not able to install and to the rest of the ratepayers.”

It’s an argument solar promoters vigorously disagree with. They argue that instead of costing non-solar customers more, solar energy brings more value to the electricity distribution system than it takes away. Floridians for Solar Choice argues that instead of protecting customers, Amendment 1 imposes barriers to solar expansion in Florida that will cost customers more money in utility bills.

They point to a Brookings Institution study in May that concluded that when solar customers sell their power back to the electric utility through a billing system known as net metering, it helps non-solar customers by reducing the need to build new power plants to meet peak demand, reduces the need for costly grid maintenance, reduces reliance on oil and gas power generation, lowers utility rates, increases energy security and saves customers money.

“The economic benefits of net metering actually outweigh the costs and impose no significant cost increase for non-solar customers,” the Brookings report concluded. “Far from a net cost, net metering is in most cases a net benefit — for the utility and for non-solar rate-payers.” The report also cited several state-based studies that offered similar conclusions.

Nuzzo acknowledged Tuesday that the JMI research looked only at the hypothetical impact of the solar industry-backed proposal and did not take into consideration the net metering studies done by governments in many other states, including those that allow third-party leasing. He said he considers Florida’s current net metering law, which pays customers retail rates for the excess energy they sell back to utilities “absolutely the subsidization of solar.”

Also at the Oct. 2 meeting, Todd Wynn, director of external affairs at Edison Electric Institute, the trade association for investor-owned utilities, detailed the threat net metering poses to the industry. None of the presenters made any mention of the Brookings report or the reports from several states that have studied the impact of net metering on customer bills.

“If a homeowner had a large enough solar power system, they could essentially zero out their bill,” Wynn said, arguing that the cost of maintaining the electrical grid would then be borne by the non-solar customers.

He suggested two solutions are to charge all customers to access the grid, and the other is to reduce the net metering rate so that the utility will not have to pay retail rates for the excess energy. When asked about what impact Amendment 1 would have to any pro-solar amendment in the future, Nuzzo told the Energy Summit that it is likely to severely limit the Solar Choice amendment in 2018.

“If Amendment 1 passes, in my opinion and the opinion of people far smarter than me, it would completely negate the ability of the Green Tea movement folks to make a ballot initiative that would include subsidization and a cost shift on it,” he said. “It would cancel — it would attempt to cancel — that one out.”

David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, one of the groups that obtained the tape, said the audio reveals that the groups behind Amendment 1 “were very clear about the utilities’ plan when they thought the public wasn’t listening: They’re trying to confuse voters into believing their utility-backed ballot initiative is pro-solar.

“It’s a dirty trick, and Floridians should show them that they’re too smart to let them get away with it.”

 

Source: Miami Herald

Whether it’s Wynwood, downtown Miami or Miami Beach, commercial developers and brokers are starting to look toward one demographic above all others for how they market and sell their projects: millennials.

So said a panel of industry heavyweights during “Commerical Outlook: Examining the flurry of activity across South Florida’s retail, hospitality and office markets,” at recent The Real Deal’s South Florida Showcase & Forum.

From left: Stuart Elliott, Steven Kamali, Lyle Stern, Keith Menin, Donna Abood and Tony Cho

From left: Stuart Elliott, Steven Kamali, Lyle Stern, Keith Menin, Donna Abood and Tony Cho

Panelists included Donna Abood, principal of Avison Young’s Miami branch; Keith Menin, principal of Menin Hospitality; Tony Cho, president of Metro 1; Lyle Stern, president of the Koniver Stern Group; and Steven Kamali, founder of Hospitality House. TRD‘s Editor-in-Chief Stuart Elliott was the moderator.

“The millennial way of thinking has already started filtering into Miami’s evolving office market,” Abood said. “All Aboard Florida is building more than 800 market-rate rentals right next to its Class A offices as part of the MiamiCentral development in the downtown area. The project also has a built-in transit hub — a detail that helped convince global media company Cisneros to lease 30,000 square feet of office space before the project even opened. They’re speaking millennial languages. These guys don’t want to own cars, they don’t want to own homes.”

Abood added that the overall office market in Miami has been starved of supply, leaving brokers frustrated as potential tenants leave Miami-Dade County for greener pastures.

“We are tight on office space to the extreme,” Abood said. “Condo developers took prime sites that were really meant for offices. Since there’s been a dearth of new construction, the trend has been for investors to scoop up Class C or Class B office buildings and renovate them. Co-working operators like WeWork have also proliferated as smaller businesses and startups seek affordable office space.”

That’s been the case in Wynwood more-so than anywhere else in Miami, where companies have transformed a swath of the neighborhood’s aging warehouses into hip workspaces and shops.

“There’s still a big gap to fill for development in Wynwood. Top-shelf retail space in the neighborhood is pushing $100 per square foot and land prices are rising as a result,” Cho said.

His firm recently brokered the $53.5 million sale of nearly an acre to the Gindi family, which is planning to build a new two-story retail project.

“It won’t be long before Wynwood starts seeing hotel projects,” Cho said. “Wynwood is underserved in terms of hospitality leaving room for one or even several new hotels. Metro 1 is already in talks with several operators.

Outside of Wynwood, Cho said he’s also working on a dual-branded hotel in Brickell that’s geared toward the middle market instead of luxury.

“The first developer is a little bit scared,” Cho said. “But once the first person does it, everybody’s going to follow.”

One major point of fear: Zika, the mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects, which made landfall in Wynwood earlier this year and wreaked havoc on local businesses as tourists avoided the neighborhood. Cho said the situation was overblown in the media, and that Wynwood’s retail market quickly bounced back once Gov. Rick Scott declared the neighborhood a Zika-free zone in September.

Menin conceded his hospitality firm hunkered down for the Zika fallout amid an already slow summer season, cutting costs as much as possible, paying staff quarterly and offering incentives to guests and events ahead of any drops in occupancy. “For us, we really just watch every dollar and every cent,” he said.

Stern was also keeping his fingers crossed, hoping a cold winter in the Northeast would keep business flowing to South Florida. “Usually around Yom Kippur, we start praying for icebergs in the Hudson,” he said. “That’s not always going to be the case.” He added that though business may be slowing in Miami’s already well-established neighborhoods, Miami River and especially Allapattah are seeing a boom in property sales — and development will likely follow soon.

Stern said two major investors have scooped up almost 20 acres of industrial properties in Allapattah over the past several years, totaling some $40 million in transactions. And with a swath of new national retailers coming to Brickell City Centre and Miami Worldcenter, the surrounding neighborhoods are poised to see a wave of hip street retail and restaurant concepts fill in the gaps.

“If you drew an arc from New York to Chicago to Las Vegas, there’s not another city in that entire arc that has the number of restaurants doing over $8, $10, $12 and $15 million dollars in business that we do in the Miami market,” said Stern.

 

Source: The Real Deal

The commercial real estate market outlook for Miami-Dade: Sunny, as long as more mass transit is on the horizon, said industry experts at the Building Owners and Managers Association of Miami-Dade’s 2017 Commercial Real Estate Outlook event.

In the office market, rents are at an all-time high in certain sub-markets, said Brian Gale, Cushman & Wakefield’s vice chairman of Brokerage Services who represents nearly 5 million square feet of office space in South Florida.

On Brickell, office space is hitting around $60 a square foot for Class A space; back in 2008 the high was in the upper $40s, said Gale, during the panel discussion at the East Miami in Brickell. Downtown Miami is just behind it, and Aventura and Airport West have also hit all-time highs, too, he said. Coral Gables presents a different story, he said. In 2007-08, rent in the trophy buildings was $46-$48 a square foot; today it’s the low $40s.

“For many years, Coral Gables was the darling of the office market. I would say it has a temporary black eye with less demand and blocks of spaces still existing. But Coral Gables also has the most to gain,” Gale said.

Gale sees the South Miami market as vaulting too, once new mass transit options fully kick in for the area.

“The traffic on Useless 1 is not getting any better. … Miami Beach needs to figure out a way to get light rail over there.” Gale said. “Rental rates will continue to increase in 2017. Looking further out, being a gateway city … there is no reason to believe we couldn’t be a $70 rental market in 2022.”

Growth in shared office spaces has exploded — for instance, WeWork recently leased 65,000 feet at Brickell City Centre and there are now more than 20 shared workspace centers in downtown Miami alone. Sometimes these shared office centers can act as an incubator for a building; when the companies grow out of the co-working space they take space on other floors, Gale said. In the broader office market, expect more smaller offices, with more open spaces and cubicle areas on the outside of the floor with the glass-walled offices in the center, he added.

In the industrial sector, with job growth projected to slow in 2017 and 2018, is that a concern with 1.8 million square feet coming online in 2017 and 1.4 million in 2018?

“That’s actually less than half of what we have seen in 2015 and 2016.” said JLL Managing Director Brian Smith, who led the team representing NBC Universal/Telemundo Enterprises in the record breaking lease of over 550,000 square feet for a world headquarters broadcast center in western Miami-Dade.

He said he looks more closely at population growth. In both the office and industrial markets, new-to-market tenants are pushing the records. The last three years have brought more than 700,000 square feet of new-to-market office tenants. But that’s more than the previous 15 years combined, Gale said.

The last two years saw 300,00 square feet of new-to-market industrial tenants, but this year it will be 2 million and perhaps 3 million square feet.

“John Deere, new names. We have quickly become one of the most important industrial markets on the globe,” said Smith. “Three large deals in the works may be the biggest ever, in addition to the NBCUniversal deal.”

To be sure, urbanization has transformed the retail landscape, with Miami’s downtown population now approaching 90,0000 people, a 30 percent increase since 2010, with an incredibly affluent demographic, said David Moret, president of Highline Real Estate Capital, which acquires and redevelops office and retail properties with capital partners.

Retail rents are in the stratosphere on Lincoln Road, surpassing $300 a square foot. They are hitting $200 in the Design District and Coconut Grove and Wynwood are flirting with $100 a foot, Moret said. How far will they go?

“I think we have gotten ahead of ourselves,” Moret said. “ I think there will be a reset. … We are already seeing resistance. We are seeing leasing volume way down on Lincoln Road.”

He sees the biggest impact coming from millennials, a group that will have the most spending power by 2017. This means tenant mix is more important than ever.

“Successful centers are going to be about creating experiences, to give people a reason to go there instead of click on their phone,” said Moret.

 

Source: Miami Herald

Primary-election voters approved the expansion of a renewable-energy tax break that backers say will help businesses and spark the expanded use of solar energy in Florida.

But while the measure had support from an array of groups, they are divided on an unrelated solar amendment on the November general-election ballot that could lead to a major political fight.

The proposed constitutional amendment approved Tuesday was known as Amendment 4 and was placed on the ballot by the Legislature. It is designed to extend a residential renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties.

Shortly after the polls closed, the measure was more than 10 percentage points above the required 60 percent threshold needed for approval of constitutional amendments. The preliminary results indicated that the measure, which backers say will spur growth in solar and renewable energy, was supported in almost every county.

“The strong showing of support for Amendment 4 sends a clear message to elected officials at all levels of government that Florida voters want more diversity in our energy market,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who sponsored the proposal during the 2016 legislative session.

Though approved by voters, the measure still needs the Legislature to enact the changes. The measure, sponsored in the House by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, will exempt for 20 years the assessed value of solar and renewable-energy devices installed on businesses and industrial properties.

“Eliminating high tax barriers will unleash the potential of the ‘Sunshine State’ to become a leader in solar energy production,” Rodrigues said in a statement.

“The election results allow Florida to enter a new era where renewable energy can be accessible for all, and clean energy jobs can be at the forefront of Florida’s economy,” Berman said.

Voters approved a similar exemption for residential property owners in 2008, with the measure taking effect in 2014.

The new proposal also has an element to help residential property owners, as it would exempt all renewable-energy equipment from state tangible personal property taxes.

Support for the measure came from a wide range of organizations such as the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, the Florida AFL-CIO, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club of Florida and Surfrider Foundation.

A poll released last week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed 70 percent of Floridians supported the proposal, with 14 percent opposed. Yet on Friday Mason-Dixon Polling & Research released findings that indicated the measure was having serious trouble with Republicans and independent voters.

Some late opposition to the measure came from groups such as the Orlando-based political action committees Stop Playing Favorites and the Advocacy, Action & Accountability Alliance, which claimed the amendment would provide “millions in tax breaks to big corporations” at the expense of money that would otherwise flow into minority communities.

Backers of the measure also had to overcome some confusion that the proposal was linked to a separate utility-backed solar proposal on the November ballot.

With Tuesday’s victory, supporters of Amendment 4 are now expected to divide up on what is known as Amendment 1 in November.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said his group is ready to immediately “pivot” from having supported Amendment 4 to vocally opposing Amendment 1.

“What Amendment 1 does not have is the support of a broad, very diverse, grassroots coalition,” Smith said. “It is exactly what it is, a utility-backed, utility-funded, self-promoting approach to try to keep a monopoly control on their terms.”

The November “Consumers for Smart Solar” initiative would generally maintain the status quo in allowing Floridians with solar equipment on their property to sell energy to power companies.

More than $15 million has already been spent promoting the November amendment.

 

Source: Daily Business Review

Miami is a city that seems to reinvent itself every ten years or so.

Change is a constant. Neighborhoods are always reinventing themselves. Cranes and jackhammers are always busy erecting new buildings.  We’re so used to it, sometimes we don’t even notice when it happens.

In fact, looking back just 10 years ago, some areas of the city are nearly unrecognizable. So Miami New Times decided to take a tour back in time thanks to Google Map’s street views and compared ten neighborhoods to what they looked like less than a decade ago.

WYNWOOD

Then: A warehouse district that had a couple of art galleries moving in.

 Now: A pedestrian-friendly, “art-themed” tourist destination and creative business district with a few art galleries still hanging around.

Ten years ago artists space and galleries had already started moving into the neighborhood, but the only time people actually went was during the Second Saturday art walk. (Of course, at that time you could actually see lots of good art  —and drink lots of free booze.) Now, many of the galleries have moved out. The best art is painted on the buildings, and the former warehouse spaces are now lined with boutiques, cafés, and office space

27th Street

27th Street

27th Street

27th Street

Wynwood Building Before and After

Wynwood Building

N.W. 2nd Avenue

N.W. 2nd Avenue

N.W. 2nd Avenue

N.W. 2nd Avenue

N.W. 2nd Avenue

N.W. 2nd Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DESIGN DISTRICT

Then: A shopping district focused on all your interior design needs.

Now: A shopping district focused on all your designer clothing needs.

The Design District pulled off a neat trick in which it completely changed what it is without having to change its very specific name. A decade ago the area was where rich people sent their interior designer to shop for furniture. Then developer Craig Robins came in and turned it into an area where rich people shop for clothes.

N.E. 39th Street

N.E. 39th Street

N.E. 39th Street

N.E. 39th Street

N.E. 39th Street

N.E. 39th Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUNSET HARBOUR

Then: A place tourists only went because their car was towed.

Now: A place tourists go because they read about a cute café on Yelp.

Sunset Harbour used to be where South Beach hid its blight. Now the area is home to some of Miami Beach’s best restaurants, two brand new grocery stores, and more construction to come.

Bay Road

Bay Road

Bay Road

Bay Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

COCONUT GROVE

Then: Losing its soul.

Now: Finding a new soul.

Once Miami’s “hippie” neighborhood back in the day, Coconut Grove served as a warning of what can happen to a neighborhood when it allows chain stores and restaurants to come in and take over. At least ten years ago, Coconut Grove still had its reputation as college kid’s go-to drinking spot, but a 2008 ordinance pushedlast call up to 3 a.m., taking much of the remaining fun out of the area.

Now Coconut Grove is finally trying to get its groove back.

Main Highway

Main Highway

Main Highway

Main Highway

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDGEWATER

Then: Cheap neighborhood with old homes in a good location.

Now: Expensive neighborhood with new luxury high-rises in a good location.

It seems one Russian billionaire or another buys up a plot of land with plans to turn it into an exclusive luxury high-rise in this neighborhood every other week.

N.E. 28th Street

N.E. 28th Street

NE 28th Street

NE 28th Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRICKELL

Then: High-rises

Now: Lots, lots, and lots more high-rises.

Brickell’s character hasn’t actually changed that much, there’s just a lot, lot more of it nowadays.

U.S. 41

U.S. 41

S. Miami Avenue

S. Miami Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINCOLN ROAD

Then: Quirky shopping district

Now: Miami’s fast-fashion capital

Lincoln Road’s renaissance began in the late ’80s, and by the 2000s the pedestrian mall had taken on a unique, quirky flavor. Sure, there was a Gap and Johnny Rockets, but there were also theaters, gay clubs, jazz hangouts, and New Age crystal shops. Now it’s completed its metamorphosis into a home for shopping mall stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Lululemon. At least there’s a really cool parking garage now.

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Theater

Lincoln Theater

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPPER EASTSIDE

Then: Abandoned motels and blight

Now: Boutique motels and charm

The Upper Eastside’s MiMo architecture was always charming, but locals seemed to have forgotten for a while. Now, developers have restored some of those old motels, and with them, the character of the neighborhood.

73rd Street

73rd Street

MiamiNeighhoods- Upper Eastside - ne_73rd_st_- 2

73rd Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOUTH OF FIFTH (SoFi)

Then: South Beach’s quiet neighborhood

Now: South Beach’s neighborhood full of jackhammer noise.

With the revitalization of South Pointe Park, scores of new nightclubs and restaurants, and new construction, the South of Fifth area isn’t quite as quiet as it used to be.

Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

MID-BEACH

Then: Destination for New York grandmothers

Now: Destination for New York hipsters

Ten years ago, the area was the beach’s forgotten district. Now it’s booming with boutique hotels, craft cocktails bars, private clubs, and some of the city’s hottest night spots.

Collins Avenue

Collins Avenue

Collins Avenue

Collins Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Miami New Times

The metamorphosis that’s already taken Wynwood’s industrial district from urban blight to urban paragon in record time seems poised for a dose of development Muscle Milk that could pump up the scale of construction along a broad, mostly vacant swath of the neighborhood to new, and somewhat controversial, heights.

The two biggest players in Wynwood’s snowballing transformation, at odds for months over a massive redevelopment proposal that some fear could overwhelm the human scale and funky vibe that define the district, have reached an agreement that softens its impact on the neighborhood fabric of spiffed-up warehouses, and likely clears the way for its preliminary approval by the Miami City Commission.

WynwoodProposal

That would mean that Wynwood’s largest landowner — moving-company and arts entrepreneur Moishe Mana — can move ahead with an ambitious 30-year blueprint for what amounts to a miniature city containing nine million square feet of space on some 24 acres of mostly vacant land stretching from the neighborhood’s main street, Northwest Second Avenue, to its western edge at Interstate 95. The contemplated Mana district, centered around a green public central square, or “commons,” that would cut diagonally through the development, is aimed at luring tech companies, commercial trade and arts and cultural institutions to Wynwood.

The board of Wynwood’s Business Improvement District, a city-chartered agency that represents most property owners in the rest of the former industrial zone, voted Wednesday to support the Mana Special Area Plan after winning a series of concessions aimed at making sure the developer’s new buildings mesh with the surrounding fabric of simple industrial buildings, many of which have been transformed into art galleries, offices, shops and dining and drinking spots.

“There was a lot of reasonable anxiety that you would have this district-within-the district that would be out of scale and out of character with the area,” said Albert Garcia, a member of the BID’s board and its planning committee, which negotiated the deal with Mana. “Over the last six months we’ve made a lot of progress in dialing that back so that it doesn’t suck the life out of Wynwood, which is the nightmare scenario. It’s a much better plan. I believe Mr. Mana understands our vision and it’s now a shared vision. We like to do things on a community basis and seek consensus. That’s the DNA of Wynwood. Wynwood is a special place. It’s not a race to the sky.”

Mana’s architect and planner, Bernard Zyscovich, said the developer and his team are happy with the revised plan. Though it’s now scheduled for the first of two commission votes on Thursday, Zyscovich said Mana will likely ask for a two-week postponement to address issues brought up by residents of neighboring Overtown and Commissioner Keon Hardemon, whose district includes both neighborhoods. Those concerns include how the new development would affect adjacent residential areas in Overtown as well as the availability of jobs for residents.

“It’s all positive,” Zyscovich said. “I think we have a great plan, a plan that’s going to create a whole neighborhood that’s exciting and beneficial to our neighbors.”

The BID also had to relent on some issues. Mana would not budge on plan provisions that would allow him to build residential towers of up to 24 stories. But Mana’s team agreed to push those off Second Avenue to the western portions of his property along Northwest Fifth Avenue and I-95, and to conform to current, lower zoning where new buildings would face the existing neighborhood.

Mana’s proposal, unveiled at the end of 2015, riled BID leaders and neighboring property owners. After more than a year of planning, they had just won city approval for special zoning rules designed to control development by increasing allowed heights in most of the old Wynwood industrial district but capping them at eight or 12 stories, depending on location. The goal of the Neighborhood Revitalization District, as the new zoning plan was dubbed, is to foster development of relatively inexpensive housing and new office and retail space while preserving the neighborhood’s modest scale and pedestrian-friendly ambiance.

To take advantage of the increase, developers must pay into a special fund to help finance parking garages, affordable housing, creation of public green space and landscaping and improvement of streets and sidewalks, but Mana wanted to be exempted from the fees. He has now also agreed to participate in funding the programs.

Other changes to Mana’s initial plan aim to ensure his district is closely connected with the surrounding neighborhood. The rules would now require “active uses” like shops and restaurants at sidewalk level along principal facades and pedestrian passageways to break up large structures and encourage walking.

“If you’re a pedestrian crossing the street or you are driving down the street, it’s going to feel continuous and harmonious,” Garcia said. “We didn’t want those jarring transitions where you might have eight-story buildings on one side of the street and 24 stories on the other.”

New rules also allow Mana to begin building his taller residential structures only after he has completed defined percentages of the promised commercial and cultural buildings and public amenities, including meeting space and the central commons. That’s to ensure that those elements, which BID leaders and other neighborhood supporters say are critical to Wynwood’s evolution and comprise the most significant pieces of the Mana plan, don’t get lost or left for last, they said.

“What will make Wynwood an interesting place in 10 years from now and 20 years from now is if that art school and the cultural institutions and tech set up permanent camp here,” said David Polinsky, a developer who is a BID board member and chair of the planning committee. “Not everybody’s happy with the scale [of the Mana plans]. But the board feels reasonable compromises were made. There are still lots of good things that can come out of the [project] if it’s executed well.”

Those good things, Zyscovich said, will include buildings with large, flexible floorplates that can accommodate everything from showrooms and meeting rooms to offices, art exhibition galleries and “maker spaces.” Mana is now working on a plan to create an international trade center on site to link buyers and suppliers of products in Asia and Latin America, he said. Mana also plans to replicate elements of his Mana Contemporary art center, a converted tobacco warehouse in Jersey City, New Jersey, that combines artist studios and exhibition galleries with services such as fine-art storage, transportation and conservation, Zyscovich said. The plan also includes hotels, but the potential residential buildings, Zyscovich stressed, are secondary.

“Our main idea is not to create more residential, which everyone is doing,” Zyscovich said. “We’re looking for a job creation strategy. Showrooms, office infrastructure, entrepreneurial spaces — all that is very much the idea.”

There are some unsettled matters. Mana, whose holdings are centered around the former Wynwood Free Trade Zone complex, which he purchased in 2010, has been using the facility and adjacent vacant land for large special events under a temporary permit, including a reggae performance that recently drew a reported 60,000 people.

BID leaders want those events curbed because they say they’re disruptive and detract from Wynwood’s particular ethos. Mana has in principle agreed to abide by normal city rules for such events. They also want Mana to support a proposed expansion of the boundaries of the BID — a special taxing district that levies a fee on property owners to support special services like security and trash cleanup.

Some Mana properties now sit outside the BID boundary, but the expansion would mean all of Mana’s holdings would be subject to the levy. Mana — whose failure to vote on any of his properties contributed to a defeat last year of a previous effort to expand the BID — has agreed to support the expansion. But he has not committed to paying the additional levy. If the city commission approves Mana’s development plan on first reading, the BID agreed it would negotiate the terms of his participation before the second reading.

The BID board made it clear last week that they would rescind support for Mana’s plan if he doesn’t follow through on his promise to support the expansion. Because the plan is conceptual and doesn’t bind Mana to building as promised, there is still substantial concern in Wynwood over the proposal and its potential impact on the neighborhood renaissance, Garcia said. But if Mana does follow through on his promises, he added, Wynwood stands to benefit significantly.

“On the plus side, if it’s developed as planned and does bring the economic stimulation it promises, it’s a win for Wynwood and for Miami,” Garcia said.

 

Source: Miami Herald

Rising Sea Levels

Parts of Miami Beach could be inundated with flood waters in as little as 15 years, and property values may slide amid the rising tide, according to nearly two dozen university heads and climate change experts who were on hand to answer questions on the effects of sea-level rise on South Florida during a Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce event at the W Hotel.

Flooding in Miami Beach

Flooding in Miami Beach

The purpose of the recent event, organized by land use and environmental attorney Wayne Pathman, was to warn business owners, developers, and contractors that the effects of sea-level rise will be impacting the property values fairly soon. Already, media around the globe are publicizing the fact that South Florida is “ground zero” for the adverse economic impact of sea-level rise, Pathman argued. Unfortunately, the region is still behind in preparing its infrastructure for the future.

“All eyes are upon us and South Florida isn’t ready,” said Pathman, co-founder of the Downtown Miami-based law firm of Pathman Lewis LLP and future chairman of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to a slowing gulfstream, warming oceans, and ice flows submerging beneath the ocean from Greenland and Antarctica, the oceans are rising faster than ever, said Keren Bolter, research coordinator for Florida Atlantic University Center for the Environmental Studies. This has caused an increase in flooding events in recent years and it will only get worse. By 2100, the oceans are projected to increase by seven feet, Bolter added. At that level, The Keys, along with large chunks of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, will be inundated with sea water at high tide, destroying fresh water reserves, compromising underground sewage lines and septic tanks, and creating a host of other problems.

But you don’t have to wait 84-years to see the adverse effects of sea-level rise. Bolter said that in as little as 15 years, flooding in Belle Isle will grow much worse, especially at Island Terrace, a 16-story condo built in 1967. “It’s coming up not just at the sides,” she said while showing Lidar maps depicting future sea-level rise at Island Terrace and Belle Isle.

“It comes up from underground. That’s partly because the limestone that South Florida land is predominately made of us is extremely porous. Because of this, not even sea walls will stop the flow of water,” Bolter said.  “By 2060 the oceans are projected to rise by two feet. At that level, “the western half of Miami Beach is under water.”

“As the oceans rise, the cost of insurance will skyrocket,” Pathman said.  “Meanwhile, in an attempt to cope with the new reality, community leaders will raise taxes while property taxes are declining. As for the infrastructure of future residential and commercial projects, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado recently declared on a radio show that the financial burden will fall on developers. However, at least some of the negative impacts of sea level rise can be mitigated if the business community takes a leadership role now. Many places around the world have already started adapting.”

Among the invited guests at the chamber event were Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg, Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly, and University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Dean Roni Avissar. They argued that their respective colleges are already training scientists and engineers who are not only studying the future effects of climate change, but also figuring out solutions on how communities like South Florida can adapt.

“We are very fortunate that we have a strong university system and a strong system of public education,” argued Matthew Welker, principal of MAST Academy at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus. “That’s a very valuable resource.”

Josh Sawislak, global director of resilience for the Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM, said Miami could even replace Amsterdam as the true innovator of anti-flooding solutions.

“The brand can be, ‘This is a resilient city… Don’t go to Amsterdam to see how to prevent from being cut off by the sea, although they’ve got tasty cheeses. Come to Miami and see how to live with water,’” Sawislak declared.

One innovative idea has already been hatched in Miami. Rather than fight sea level rise, Bolter of FAU pointed out that “one student from the University of Miami” came up with the idea of simply making western Miami Beach “floodable” with the creation of new bays and living shorelines along with new boardwalks and flood-adapted buildings. (The UM student in question who developed that plan is Isaac Stein, who now works for the urban planning and landscape firm West 8.)

Besides speeches from experts, the event included an hour-long breakout session where business leaders sat at tables and asked questions to the assembled experts, some of whom flew in from other parts of the country to be there. The media, however, was ushered away from the session. Upon hearing that reporters were even present at the event, Donald Kipnis, founder and CEO of Brickell-based Development Service Solutions, walked out. Dozens of other chamber members left before the session even ended.

Harold Wanless, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami, didn’t think the breakout session was long enough. Experts barely had 10 minutes to answer business leaders’ questions or lay out what needs to be done.

“We need to be planning, that is the bottom line,” said Wanless, who has long studied past sea-level rise events in Florida.

Following the breakout session, Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, applauded the panel’s efforts. She also urged some restraint. Showing slides that show Miami Beach being submerged is what “gets picked up by the news.”

“We have to be very… strategic about how we discuss the reality of sea level rise,” Goldman said.

Pathman said the purpose of the event was just to “whet everyone’s appetite.” On September 14, the chamber plans to hold a roundtable discussion with “leading political and civic leaders about current and future strategies for sea level rise in South Florida” at a location to be announced.

 

Source: The Real Deal

LessonsLearned
Beth Azor, principal, Azor Advisory Services; Aly-khan Merali, CFO and chief investment officer, Turnberry Associates; Jack Lowell, executive VP, Colliers International South Florida; Avra Jain, principal, Vagabond Group; and Chris Weilminster, executive VP, Federal Realty at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce real estate summit

Beth Azor, principal, Azor Advisory Services; Aly-khan Merali, CFO and chief investment officer, Turnberry Associates; Jack Lowell, executive VP, Colliers International South Florida; Avra Jain, principal, Vagabond Group; and Chris Weilminster, executive VP, Federal Realty at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce real estate summit

The experts gathered for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s South Florida Real Estate Summit stressed that the market is not headed for a downturn, even though growth has slowed.

About 450 people gathered at Miami’s Jungle Island on Thursday for the event, which featured two panels and various speakers. Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez told attendees that 2015 saw the highest volume ever for the city’s building department, with 174 permits issued and $2.4 billion in ongoing construction. “That is why you are waiting so long in the building department,” he said.

Here are five highlights from the panels:

Retail Carries Great Potential, At A Moderate Pace

South Florida has about 6 million square feet of retail proposed or under construction, with a handful of new malls planned and four malls set to expand, said Beth Azor, principal of Azor Advisory Services.

“That is a little crazy,” Beth Azor said. “I am not sure how much will be built. SoLe Mia and American Dream Miami will probably happen, but four or five other projects we hope are not built because limited supply keeps our market healthier.”

Azor is looking to sign tenants at a new retail center at Northwest 79th Street and Northwest 32nd Avenue.

“Retail leasing is going well at SoLe Mia in North Miami, and rents there are better than on nearby Biscayne Boulevard,” said Aly-khan Merali, CFO and chief investment officer of Turnberry Associates, the co-developer of the project. “It’s focused on signing tenants that will be relevant in three or five years,” he said.

For two years the major players in Wynwood, Miami’s hippest, hottest emerging neighborhood, have been working on plans to jack the old industrial district up to the next level — only to now find themselves sharply at odds over exactly what that means, with the district’s future hanging in the balance.

Even as one group of property owners and developers publicly worked up a plan to control development to maintain Wynwood’s creative vibe and human scale while drawing in more housing, shops and businesses, the area’s biggest landowner, New York moving-company mogul, developer and arts patron Moishe Mana, privately sketched out a blueprint that embraces the same broad ideas — but on a dramatically different scale.

No sooner was the ink dry on the Miami City Commission’s approval of the Wynwood Neighborhood Revitalization District — special zoning rules that limit heights to eight to 12 stories and extract payments from developers to improve streets and create parking garages and public open space — than Mana applied for his own plan.

Mana’s proposed Special Area Plan, which would supersede the new zoning rules on 24 acres of his property, calls for a massive nine million square feet of new development, including towers up to 24 stories, while exempting the developer from the public-benefit programs in the NRD plan, as well as payments to the local business improvement district. In lieu of that, Mana has proposed to build an expansive public plaza and a city fire station and bury obtrusive FPL electrical lines that run through his properties at his own expense.

WynwoodSplit

The Mana plan has provoked some serious balking from a good portion of his fellow Wynwood property owners, including Goldman Properties, the firm credited with launching the neighborhood’s transformation from derelict warehouse district to hipster mecca and a key backer of the NRD plan.

Those Wynwood owners and entrepreneurs say they’re concerned Mana’s mammoth project could overwhelm its modestly scaled neighbors while providing insufficient public benefits and little help in mitigating its impact on traffic, parking, policing and other public services — in effect, they contend, passing on the public burden of his upzoning to other local property owners who agreed to cap development.

“Everything we’ve done is to try to develop a comprehensive strategy to create a great place,” said Goldman Properties managing director Joe Furst, complaining the Mana blueprint is so vague in places there’s no gauging its precise effects on the rest of Wynwood. “There’s too many question marks.”

Mana’s representatives have noted it was no secret that he was working on a big plan for his Wynwood properties, centered around the former Wynwood Free Trade Zone complex, which he purchased in 2010, and that he never objected to the NRD plan. But Furst and others note Mana held details close to the vest and did not brief anyone else in the neighborhood until he filed his application with the city in November.

Everything we’ve done is to try to develop a comprehensive strategy to create a great place.

Mana’s planner and architect, Bernard Zyscovich, called his client’s promised public benefits “very, very significant,” saying their cost will run into the tens of millions of dollars. And he said Mana has also agreed to mesh the zoning along the edge of his property on Northwest Second Avenue, Wynwood’s main drag, with the NRD zoning, creating a consistent urban street front.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount to collaborate and make sure we’re integrated with the rest of Wynwood,” Zyscovich said. “We also have our own objectives, of course.”

How Mana’s proposal fares will play out over the next several weeks, and is likely to have defining implications for Wynwood’s redevelopment. The debate over his plan is the first sign of a serious split in the neighborhood since it began drawing outside developers, investors and speculators who’ve driven up rents and land prices and driven out many of the artists and galleries that characterized its early revival.

The NRD plan, supported by a majority of local property owners, was an effort to guide development before it happened, upzoning just enough to foster construction of reasonably priced housing and new commercial spaces while maintaining a consistent scale, and encouraging a building-design aesthetic that blends with Wynwood’s funky industrial look.

But some are clearly concerned that Mana’s plan, because it covers a substantial percentage of the neighborhood, could upend that carefully calibrated strategy before it has a chance to work.

Earlier this month, the board of the Wynwood Business Improvement District, an autonomous public agency chartered by the city that commissioned the controlled-development NRD plan, declined Mana’s request for an endorsement of his own plan after twice meeting to consider it. Instead, the BID board, which Furst chairs, asked the city’s planning and zoning board to defer a scheduled vote on the Mana plan while agency leaders could study his proposals further.

The planning board put its vote off until Jan. 20 after Mana’s representatives agreed to a postponement. The Mana plan and a companion development agreement with the city will ultimately need to be approved by the Miami commission.

Mana’s attorney, Iris Escarra of Greenberg Traurig, was out of the country through January and could not be reached for comment. At the BID’s Dec. 14 meeting, though, she hinted Mana might be willing to compromise. “It’s possible this is going to evolve,” she said. “Stay tuned.”

Escarra did say that the development agreement will legally require Mana to keep his promises, including building the fire station and every acre of the promised open space. She also noted that city planners have already insisted that Mana meet other elements of the Neighborhood Revitalization plan. Among those: That his new buildings be reviewed by a new Wynwood design review board created under the NRD, and that Mana’s development provide cut-through “paseos” to foster pedestrian flow and connectivity to the rest of the neighborhood.

BID board members, who represent the district’s property owners, say they would like to reach an understanding with Mana. But what they’ve seen so far, they say, doesn’t seem to justify the large increases in scale and density he’s seeking.

And neither his zoning plan nor the development agreement appear to sufficiently hold Mana to building the promised public space in a timely fashion, nor guarantee a high design quality, they contend. Because the project would be built out over 30 years, some Wynwood stakeholders worry Mana might leave the public space for last.

“The vision for the Mana project is a good one,” said Jonathon Yormak, an investor and BID board member who’s planning a mixed-use building on a large vacant lot his firm owns off Wynwood’s main drag . “Everyone believes the underlying premise is a good one. We are all inclined to support it.  To Mana’s credit, he has engaged us. But for what he is really providing, versus what he’s asking for, does that seem like a fair outcome? The initial answer is no. What he’s presented is more to his benefit and to the detriment of the neighborhood,” Yormak added. “If they care to get our support, I believe they can get it. It will require a little bit of consideration and cooperation from them.”

Zyscovich said he and Mana’s team plan to meet with BID members in early January.

 

Source: Miami Herald

A panel of major Miami developers, many of them billionaires, gathered at The Real Deal South Florida’s Real Estate Forum & Showcase to talk about their upcoming projects and give their take on when this real estate cycle will come to a close.

Craig Robins, Jeffrey Soffer, Richard LeFrak, Gil Dezer and Michael Simkins

Craig Robins, Jeffrey Soffer, Richard LeFrak, Gil Dezer and Michael Simkins

In attendance was Richard LeFrak of the LeFrak Organization, Jeffrey Soffer of Turnberry Associates, Gil Dezer of Dezer Development, Craig Robins of Dacra and Michael Simkins of the Innovate Development Group.

The five heavyweights touched on themes like what it means to build a neighborhood and the challenges involved with planning a multibillion-dollar project. However, one topic reigned supreme: is South Florida headed for a crash?

“In the long run, what is going to happen is what always happens: the weak will not survive, the strong will survive, and the ones who survive will thrive,” said LeFrak, chairman and CEO of the LeFrak Orgnization.

To watch the panel from start to finish, check out the video below, or go to The Real Deal‘s YouTube page.

 

Source: The Real Deal