Miami’s rental apartment market is about to get smaller — literally.

Micro-units — compact, affordable apartments aimed at young, single professionals who want to live in popular neighborhoods without paying exorbitant rents — are sprouting up in Wynwood, downtown Miami and other desirable areas where prices make it impossible for younger people to buy.

Wynwood 25 rendering

Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin in July on Wynwood 25, a $100 million mixed-use project by Miami’s Related Group and the New York-based East End Capital. The 400,000-square-foot development will occupy 2.3 acres and include 289 rental apartments, ranging in size from 400 to 1,200 square feet.

By comparison, the average two-car garage is 480 to 625 square feet.

More than 80 percent of the apartments at Wynwood 25 will be studios and one-bedrooms, starting at $1,400 per month. A limited number of three-bedroom units will go for $3,200 per month.

“Our approach to the building is to think about the type of person who would be drawn to Wynwood and want to live there,” said Jonathon Yormak, founder and managing principal of East End Capital. “This is not the same as Brickell or Miami Beach.”

Yormak said he hopes the micro-sized apartments will attract what he calls “the creative class — not just millennials but simply people who have a creative mindset and appreciate the arts, the entertainment and the grittiness that is cool about Wynwood.”

Apartment Boom In Wynwood

Wynwood 25 is one of three major residential projects Related Group is developing in the neighborhood. Another rental apartment building, Wynwood 26, is a joint venture with Block Capital Group that will feature 176 micro-units. Groundbreaking is scheduled for later this year.

Related’s third tower, Wynwood 29, a partnership with developer Tony Cho will offer micro-condos ranging in size from 416 to 900 square feet and priced from $200,000 to $500,000.

“If you go to Wynwood, the streets are always full, day or night,” said Jon Paul Perez, vice president of Related Group. “We think the first developer that gets to the residential market there will be the most successful.”

Wynwood 25 will be the first residential building to break ground under the regulations established by the Neighborhood Revitalization District plan (NRD), a joint effort hatched in 2015 between the city of Miami’s Planning and Zoning Department and Wynwood’s Business Improvement District (BID). The plan aims to help guide Wynwood’s transition from an industrial district to a standalone, self-sustaining neighborhood..

“The NRD is driven to shape Wynwood into a mixed-use, vibrant neighborhood with places to work and live, in addition to the existing businesses and restaurants,” said Steven J. Wernick, an attorney at Akerman LLP., who serves as land-use counsel for East End and assisted in the joint venture with Related. “Over time, we’ll see a diverse group of people moving into Wynwood — people who want to be close to places of work, arts and culture and restaurants. This building is an economic catalyst for more development in the heart of Wynwood, and it adds a significant amount of units to the neighborhood’s housing stock.”

Vice rendering

Micro-units are spreading to other neighborhoods, too. Scheduled for completion in fall 2018 is Vice, a 464-unit apartment rental tower at 230 NE Fourth St., in downtown Miami. The building is part of a nationwide rollout by developer Property Markets Group of a 5,000-unit pipeline of apartments, dubbed PMGx, pitched at millennials and young professionals in cities such as Miami, Denver and Chicago. (A Fort Lauderdale tower is planned for 2020.)

Vice, a 464-apartment rental tower at 230 NE Fourth St., is part of a national rollout of micro-units by developer PMG. Construction is scheduled to be completed by fall 2018.

Apartments at the Vice tower will start at 450 square-foot studios for $1,600 per month to three-bedroom, 1,400 square-foot units for $4,200. The building will offer common-space amenities, a jumbo-sized gym and high-tech features such as smart locks and thermostats. Flat-screen TVs and bookcases will be incorporated into some of the units, so tenants just need to bring a sofa, bed and dining table.

“Typically, as you progress through life and grow professionally you can afford better places to live,” said Ryan Shear, a principal at PMG’s Miami branch. “The building is targeted toward the younger demographic, because that’s the price point we’re trying to hit. But the term ‘micro-unit’ is often abused. 520 square feet in New York is not considered micro, but it is in Miami. We just see them as smaller apartments

Micro-units have already popped up around Miami as part of larger residential projects. The Flats Luxury Apartments in CityPlace Doral, for example, include a 518-square-foot studio for $1,645.

Tight Rental Market

Despite all the new construction in South Florida, demand continues to outpace supply in the apartment rental market. A 2017 first quarter study by Cushman & Wakefield claims 30,093 new apartment units were built in the past five years, while the region’s population ballooned by 333,000 — just one unit for every 11 new residents.

Although smaller apartments cost less to build, that doesn’t always translate to lower square-footage pricing. The costs of the most expensive rooms in any apartment — the bathroom and kitchen, which require plumbing, tile, cabinetry and electrical — remain the same, no matter the overall size of the unit.

According to Trulia, the median rental price for one-bedroom apartments in Miami in May was $1,500 — roughly the same price of the new micro-units. But the trend toward smaller apartment living is spreading. Tom C. Murphy, co-president of Coastal Construction Group of South Florida, says the average size of units in multifamily residential projects (i.e. apartment buildings) has gone down about 10 percent over the last five years, from 950 square feet to 900 square feet.

“We’re also seeing a trend in design for units to go even smaller,” Murphy said. “Developers now want to get two bedrooms into a 600- or 800-square-foot space. This is happening all over the country.”

What’s unique about Wynwood 25 is that the building is spearheading an attempt to bring full-time residents to the neighborhood.

“By Miami standards, these spaces are smaller than what you might find in suburban areas, which are geared toward multi-bedroom, large family products,” said Albert Garcia, vice chairman of Wynwood BID and managing principal for Wynwood Ventures. “These are designed for young adults who see Wynwood as the amenity for living in this area. Their living room space might be smaller, but they are steps away from cafés, galleries, retail, entertainment venues and museums.”

According to a study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, 61.6 percent of renters in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area were cost burdened (spending 30 percent of their income on housing), and 35.2 percent of renters were severely cost burdened (spending more than half their income on housing). South Florida ranked seventh out of 381 U.S. markets in the study.

Neighborhood As Amenity

The micro-unit trend started in large metropolitan areas such as New York and San Francisco four years ago, when a shortage of affordable housing led developers to try building smaller, more reasonably priced rentals.

Real estate analyst Jonathan Miller says the micro-unit concept hasn’t taken hold in New York City, because the rents aren’t that much cheaper on a square-foot basis than existing older buildings. But in a neighborhood like Wynwood, where residential is still a new form of construction and the target is a younger audience, the idea could sell.

“It’s very promising in terms of offering more affordability to an upstart market,” Miller said. “The premise is that in urban markets with a lot of restaurants and services, you don’t spend as much time at home, so smaller living spaces can be optimal. It will remain to be seen whether Wynwood will embrace this, but conceptually it makes a lot of sense.”


Source: Miami Herald

The largest zoning code overhaul in Miami history was given a preliminary green light.

Moishe Mana‘s massive special area plan, a mechanism used for projects of more than 9 acres that permits a developer to mold zoning within existing regulations, nabbed a unanimous OK from city commissioners Thursday evening.

The New York developer is pursuing a sprawling, multi-phase project in Miami‘s once crime-laden industrial neighborhood now known as the Wynwood arts district. The 20-plus acre development requires an overhaul of regulations in the city’s recently established Neighborhood Revitalization District, a zoning code specific to Wynwood intended to keep its arts-oriented environment intact and luxe high-rises out.

Rendering of the Mana Wynwood Special Area Plan proposed by Moishe Mana.

Rendering of the Mana Wynwood Special Area Plan proposed by Moishe Mana.

Labeled Mana Wynwood, the special area plan would be the largest-ever in Miami. It’s with this mechanism that the mega-developers behind Brickell City Centre and Miami’s Design District were able to build, said Iris Escarra, a Miami-based shareholder with Greenberg Traurig. The land use attorney is representing Mana‘s team along with Greenberg shareholder Carlos Lago in Miami.

“We’re taking it to the next level,” Escarra said of the current zoning.

Mana‘s team is planning a major commercial venue centered on arts and culture, with some added residential components.

The anchor attraction will be Mana Contemporary, a museum modeled after the developer’s 300,000-square-foot entertainment venue in New Jersey. A quarter of the land will be kept as open space. Mana Commons, a proposed 2.5-acre park, was likened to Millennium Park in Chicago during Thursday’s meeting.

“This is truly a transformational project,” said Bernard Zyscovich, founder of Zyscovich Architects, the firm designing the venue. “It’s unusual because unlike most of the clients that walk into my office, this is not a project driven by residential development.”

The architect touted the Mana‘s vision in creating jobs via mixed-use commercial space catered to the arts and cultural education.

“Once completed, Mana Wynwood would result in 22,000 direct and indirect full-time jobs,” Zyscovich said.

City commissioners asked the team to include benefits and job opportunities for Overtown residents before bringing the plan for its second reading in late July.

The Wynwood Business Improvement District has worked feverishly with Mana‘s team over the past year to ensure the mega-development is compatible with Wynwood‘s unique character and the most recent zoning.

David Polinsky, a member of the BID‘s board, said the group will back the development subject to three major conditions: The Mana team should support the expansion of the BID to include the western area of the plan; Mana properties bordering Northwest 22nd Avenue, or the “Calle Ocho” of Wynwood, should follow the neighborhood’s current zoning; and the area’s temporary uses should be restricted, including the special events Mana can host, until shovels hit the ground.


Source: DBR

In a metropolis where everything seems to change constantly, Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile has been a holdover — a last-century Main Street not far removed from the 1950s in spirit and urban form, complete with angled street parking, narrow sidewalks, under-nourished street trees and, until recently, a respectably unexciting mix of mom-and-pop shops, jewelers and more bridal shops than anyone could care to count.

A rendering of a redesigned Miracle Mile streetscape showing wider sidewalks, a new paving pattern recalling the sky, parallel parking instead of angled parking, and new trees. (Credit: Cooper, Robertson & Partners - City of Coral Gables)

A rendering of a redesigned Miracle Mile streetscape showing wider sidewalks, a new paving pattern recalling the sky, parallel parking instead of angled parking, and new trees. (Credit: Cooper, Robertson & Partners – City of Coral Gables)

But it’s all been looking decidedly tired of late. Even as a sprinkling of stylish new restaurants and boutiques begins to brighten up the Mile, its sidewalks are stained and buckling and accommodate but a few cramped cafe tables. Raw dirt fills the open street-tree planters. Corner wood benches are splintering. Automobiles speed through noisily, subjecting pedestrians to long, discomfiting waits to cross the street.

Not, merchants and city and civic leaders say, what you’d expect from one of South Florida’s signature drags. And so Miracle Mile will become the latest to undergo a wholesale makeover designed to secure its viability by enhancing what planners call the public realm, much like the retrofits that have re-energized its South Florida competitors on Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach, South Miami’s Sunset Drive and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Even Flagler Street in downtown Miami is now undergoing its own hopeful pedestrian-friendly facelift.

A rendering shows restaurant row on Giralda Avenue rebuilt without curbs and with trees in the middle of the street, in the fashion of a European plaza. Bright street pavers describe concentric circles resembling ripples in a puddle, while LED lights overhead are designed to recall falling raindrops. (Credit: Cooper, Robertson & Partners - City of Coral Gables)

A rendering shows restaurant row on Giralda Avenue rebuilt without curbs and with trees in the middle of the street, in the fashion of a European plaza. Bright street pavers describe concentric circles resembling ripples in a puddle, while LED lights overhead are designed to recall falling raindrops. (Credit: Cooper, Robertson & Partners – City of Coral Gables)

The $21 million Gables streetscape project, which got a green light from the city commission last month and should get under way by spring, starts with dramatically wider sidewalks, covered in a multi-hued granite meant to resemble a cloud-dabbed South Florida sky. Curbs will be removed and the street edge defined by low stone bollards and a lush, densely layered tree canopy. Garden-like spots for lingering will occupy every corner and mid-block street crossing.

To expand sidewalk width from 15 feet to 23 feet, street parking will shift from angled to parallel parking. To slow down motorists and move them farther from the sidewalk, one of two traffic lanes in each direction will be slightly narrowed. The goal, city officials and planners say, is a welcoming ambience for people on foot, something struggling business owners on the Mile wish they’d see lots more of.

The plan, devised by one of the country’s top urban-design firms, provides what people look for in a Main Street today, they say: Ample space for strolling, shopping and sidewalk dining, all of it wrapped in a sexily distinctive look that will shine equally in the pages of Architectural Digest or on Instagram.

“Our task was to create a street unlike any other in the world, a street that says ‘Coral Gables,’” said Earl Jackson IV, the partner in charge of the plan for Cooper, Robertson & Partners of New York, during a public meeting last year. “It can be one of the great streets in the world if we get it right.”

The project will extend two blocks away to Giralda Avenue, the faded restaurant row that will undergo a parallel transformation. That single long block will be remade as a shared space between cars and pedestrians, with trees in the middle of the street to slow motorists and a curbless design to give Giralda the feel of a European plaza. Colorful granite pavers set in concentric circles, like ripples in a puddle, will extend all the way across Giralda, from storefront to storefront. Overhead, LED lights designed to resemble falling raindrops will hang from wires.


A thick scrim of trees will create a formal entrance at either end of Giralda. Removable bollards, meanwhile, will allow the street to be readily shut to autos for events like the popular, seasonal Giralda under the Stars, during which restaurants fill the block for a night with tables, music and dancing.

The project and its poetically fanciful design features have been enthusiastically embraced by a majority of the city council and most Miracle Mile and Giralda business and property owners, who have been coping with a bump in vacancies and what some say is steadily decreasing foot traffic, especially by day.

The cost will be split by taxpayers and downtown property owners, who agreed to a special assessment through the Coral Gables Business Improvement District. The project also means significant infrastructure upgrades, including a new water main and drainage and electrical-system improvements.

Some longtime Mile merchants say the redo, which the city has been considering for a full decade, is long overdue. The city last refreshed Miracle Mile and its sidewalks in 1999, when medians planted with big palm trees were added. While the work did improve the street’s ambience, merchants say, it didn’t go far enough and was of less than top quality.

Meanwhile, competition from online shopping, new upscale malls and emerging walkable, hip neighborhoods like Brickell and Wynwood sucked patrons away from the Mile. And though a scad of new restaurants has brought new life after dark, it needs even more activity to thrive, said Jose Bolado, co-owner with his brother Carlos of Bolado Clothiers, on the street for 47 years.

The crowds that will be drawn to the outdoor cafes made possible by the wider, more appealing sidewalks will in turn attract even more people, Bolado predicted. And more people on the street means more customers for retailers who figure out how to entice them into their stores, he said. That won’t happen if the Mile remains as it is, he said.

“Is it necessary? Yes,” said Bolado of the makeover. “All you have to do is walk outside and see the sidewalks are a raunchy mess. The traffic is menacing. It’s a sad state of affairs.”

 But the project, which coincides with a wave of high-density development in and around the downtown Gables that’s prompted a backlash from some residents, has also given rise to worries that it will take Miracle Mile down the same path as Lincoln Road, where rising rents have pushed aside local merchants, restaurateurs and customers in favor of big chains catering to tourists.

Some fear that the small streetfront shops that have defined the Mile since its inception in the late 1940s will give way to bigger, snazzier development, like the massive residential and commercial building housing the Tarpon Bend restaurant which replaced a low-scale retail strip more than a decade ago, altering the street’s historic character.

Though Gables founder George Merrick built the Mediterranean-style Colonnade building on Coral Way in 1926, he centered his business district several blocks north at the intersection of Alhambra Circle and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, said historian Arva Moore Parks, author of a new Merrick biography.

It wasn’t until just after World War II that businessman George Zain and his wife Rebyl, turning away from Merrick’s mandated Mediterranean style, established an auto-oriented commercial strip in a spare modern style along a half-mile-long stretch of Coral Way that the city renamed Miracle Mile in 1955. Few of the new buildings were architecturally distinguished, Parks said, aside from exceptions like the Miracle Theater, but the Mile was defined by a uniform low scale.

It thrived as an upscale shopping and business district, a rival to Lincoln Road, until, like its Beach counterpart, it began to lose its allure — and its shoppers — to new suburban shopping malls in the 1960s. For years afterwards the Mile was sustained largely by the bridal and jewelry trade.

Now some long-established shopowners who are hanging on despite declining business fear the streetscape will usher in a transformation they won’t long survive.

“Some day this little strip of shops will be gone,” said John Albright, manager and former owner of one of the oldest businessess on the Mile, Gables Coin & Stamp Shop, while gesturing around at the narrow store, one of several with angled fronts in a plain one-story building. “Just look around. You can see what’s probably coming.”

Already, Albright said, rising rents have pushed out some local businesses, including the jewelry store across the street, which couldn’t afford the $15,000 monthly rent, while a handful of casual-dining chain outlets, such as California Pizza Kitchen and Panera Bread, have opened on the Mile.

Albright and new owner Pat Olive say they’re not sure if they’ll benefit from the sidewalk redo. They’re worried business will be hurt during construction, even though work will proceed in sections and the city promises access to shops won’t be curtailed. They say wider sidewalks might boost restaurants without doing much for a daytime business like theirs that caters to a specialized collector base.

Then there’s the issue of parallel parking. The shift from angled parking will eliminate 96 streetside spaces out of the current total of 236 along the Mile, said Gables public works director Glenn Kephart. And while the city points out that there are hundreds of parking spaces in public and private garages directly behind the Mile’s storefronts, some merchants like Albright and Olive say customers prefer to park in the street out front.

Backers of the makeover plan, though, say that’s outmoded thinking. The city promises to make it easier and more appealing for Miracle Mile visitors to find off-street parking. A new signage scheme that’s part of the Mile renovation will point people to garages, and the city hopes to enhance the unalluring mid-block “paseos” that lead to them, Kephart said. A system of valet stations on the Mile will be expanded. Planners are also exploring phone apps that can give real-time information on parking availability. Meanwhile, the city is going out for bids to redevelop two dingy, outdated garages on the south flank of the Mile.

“We’re going to find our cars are gonna end up where they should be, in garages,” said Stephen Bittel, chairman of Terranova Corp., an early investor on Lincoln Road that’s also one of the biggest landlords on the Mile. “Streets are for people. Great streets are great places for people to gather and walk and shop and eat. That requires wider sidewalks and space for chairs and tables and more modern lighting and different landscaping. That’s what is required for this leap forward. Miracle Mile is the absolute face of the city. It just needs to reclaim its glory and kind of go back to the future. And we think the streetscape is the right way to get there.”

Bittel and BID leaders readily concede that increasing property values, rents and the quality of tenants along the Mile is one important goal of the plan.

But they insist that doesn’t mean Miracle Mile will turn into Lincoln Road. Bittel doesn’t believe the Mile will ever command the kind of rents, now surpassing $300 a square foot, that Lincoln Road does. In any case, he says the success of Miracle Mile will hinge on the right combination of national tenants and local, one-of-kind retailers and restaurateurs that will appeal to Gables residents, downtown workers and tourists.

And while some small shops may have to leave the Mile, they can move to nearby streets, as several already have.

“We’re not trying to compete with South Beach or make it a playground for 20-year-olds,” said Gus Fonte, the BID secretary. “We’re trying to make it a better destination and attract additional development, while keeping workers after dark and giving residents something they can be proud of.”

That sounds like the right formula to Sara Zamikoff, owner of the eight-year old Emporium, a women’s boutique whose mix of clothing and accessories by local and independent designers has won it a dedicated following. She moved her store to the Mile from Ponce de Leon in June in search of healthier foot-traffic, with just a small increase in rent. So far, she’s delighted with the results, and says she’s looking forward to the wider sidewalks and beautified streetscape.

“I see a lot of potential,” Sara Zamikoff said. “Miracle Mile is well known. It used to be known for wedding boutiques, but that’s changing. We are what Lincoln Road no longer is. If we can re-create that ambience here, the more we can highlight the local businesses, that womens’ boutique, a great restaurant, a great local wine store like Wolfe’s, with people wanting that connection and those unique items, that will be amazing.”


Source: Miami Herald