In what could be a substantial step forward in local efforts to stem a housing affordability crisis, the city of Miami appears ready to begin requiring developers of some new residential towers to set aside a percentage of units for residents with low incomes.

The “inclusionary zoning” measure, just approved by the City Commission on a preliminary 4-0 vote, is the first in Miami-Dade County to mandate inclusion of affordable housing in new private development projects. The new rules are set for a second and final commission vote in December.

The zoning will apply only in a limited area that sits east of Overtown and west of Northeast Second Avenue and the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, within the Omni community redevelopment district.

But city officials say it could produce thousands of new affordable dwellings relatively quickly as high-rise construction in the affected area continues to boom. The zone encompasses as many as 30 city blocks and large stretches of blighted or vacant land already undergoing redevelopment.

“It’s coming on very fast,” said Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, whose district includes the Omni area and who sponsored the measure. “I think the effect of this down the road could be quite significant.”

The measure passed on first reading with support from some local property owners and land-use attorneys who might in other circumstances object to the requirement for affordable housing. An attempt at inclusionary zoning at the county level, pushed by Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan two years ago, failed to win commission approval in part because of vociferous opposition by developers.

But the two-step approach adopted by the city was embraced by some developers. That’s because it will also upzone the area, providing the developers more buildable density to offset the lower revenue they will generate from setting aside specific percentages of units for strictly defined affordable and workforce housing.

The measure will apply in an area stretching from Interstate 395 north to the south border of the historic Miami City Cemetery at roughly Northeast 18th Street, and between Northeast Second Avenue on the east to North Miami Avenue — though it carves out the Miami-Dade School Board properties. A new zoning map for the area must also be approved by the commission separately.

Developers were amenable to the approach because it’s already been tested in about half a dozen approved residential projects. The Argentinian Melo Group first proposed inclusion of workforce housing in three towers they are developing in the area in exchange for authorization to build more densely, and at least two other area developers followed suit.

But each of those was approved on a case-by-case basis by the city. Instead of piecemealing it, city officials proposed making inclusion of affordable housing the rule across the board.

“It’s taken market-rate developers and introduced them to a world of affordability that they may not have been comfortable with,” Russell said. “They recognized this is just another way to build another project, and it works. In order to make this work we decided on a bit of carrot-and-stick approach,” Russell added, referring to the inclusionary zoning rules. “The additional density is the carrot and not making affordability an option is the stick.”

“Since the new zoning measure was introduced, other area owners have expressed interest in developing once it’s in place, saidIris Escarra, an attorney with land-use powerhouse Greenberg Traurig who has shepherded dozens of real-estate projects to approval, including the three Melo towers in the area. “There are other owners in that area who want this as well,” Escarra said in a recent interview. “I really think the city is at the forefront of creating solutions for affordable housing. The three Melo towers include a total of 255 units for workforce housing, usually described as apartments affordable to teachers and police officers.”

The new city measure seeks to expand the range of affordable housing in Omni projects to people with even lower incomes. It gives developers the option of setting aside a larger number of workforce units or smaller numbers of units targeting low and very low-income people.

Under established legal definitions, affordable housing is aimed at households making 80 percent of the Miami-Dade median income or less, while workforce housing should be affordable to families at 120 percent of the median income. That means, for instance, rents affordable for a family of four with a household income of $62,950 or less, according to published figures for 2018. Workforce housing would comprise units with rents affordable to a family of four with an income up to $94,440.

But Russell and city officials want to make those income targets even lower to reflect the fact that incomes in the city are significantly less than those across the rest of the county. He and Commissioner Manolo Reyes successfully sponsored a companion resolution ordering city administrators to develop a housing income chart for the city that would more accurately reflect what its residents can afford.

Those new affordable and workforce units, Russell stressed, will be mixed in with and indistinguishable from market-rate units in the buildings, just as they are in the new Melo Group buildings. In traditional low-income housing development, entire buildings are devoted to affordable units, with few if any market-rate dwellings, often resulting in segregation of people by income.

“The idea behind the inclusionary zoning rule,” Russell said, “is to produce truly mixed-income buildings and a mixed-income community at a time when Miamians are increasingly physically separated by class. It will also allow lower-income people who work in or around downtown to live close to jobs and schooling, and not have to move to far-flung, more affordable suburbs where much of their time and income is tied to car use. It’s going to a blended neighborhood. Miamians are already becoming divided by income and neighborhood. We don’t believe it has to be that way.”

Russell and Escarra said the inclusionary measure will likely also produce more affordable housing more quickly than the traditional approach, which entails a grindingly slow process of cobbling together money and tax credits from state, local and federal governments and private lenders. Miami-Dade has used that approach, in tandem with private affordable-housing developers, to produce thousands of affordable housing units across the county. Those sources, however, are drying up and few new projects are winning approval for the needed credits and financing, they said.

“This will create the affordable housing a lot faster than the city could build it,” Escarra said.


Source: Miami Herald

A hotel made of stacked shipping containers is being proposed on a riverfront lot in Downtown Miami for a new “hip” boutique development called The Ship Yard.

The shipping containers would be stacked seven stories high and converted into guest rooms, according to a presentation submitted to the Miami River Commission. That is shorter than the 12 stories permitted by zoning on the lot.

A gourmet food court with food served from converted shipping containers will be surrounded by “zen-like” gardens and landscaping. There will also be a bar area, pool area, sundeck and hot tub. Renderings also appear to show a new river walk.

Melo Group’s partially completed Flagler On The River restaurant complex is across the river, along with The Wharf.

A hearing by the River Commission is scheduled November 5.


Source: The Next Miami

Four developers will seek to rezone property in Miami for major projects, including a 43-story apartment tower by the Melo Group.

The city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board will consider all four applications on March 15. If approved there, the applications would need to pass two readings before the City Commission. These rezoning applications deal with the allowable height and density on the sites, not the specific building designs, which would go through a different approval process.

1. Apartment Building Proposed By Meo Group In Arts & Entertainment District

Miami-based Melo Group, one of the largest residential developers in Miami with its condo and apartment towers, wants to rezone the 1.22-acre site it owns through affiliate Art Plaza LLC in the Arts & Entertainment District. It paid $16 million in 2014 for the property at 1336, 1348 and 1366 N.E. 1st Ave., 50 and 58 N.E. 14th Street, plus 1335 N.E. Miami Court. It’s near where Melo Group is currently building the Square Station apartments.

The area is zoned for 500 units per acre. Attorney Iris Escarra, who represents Melo Group in the application, said it’s not feasible to build to that density level under the site’s current zoning because it doesn’t allow enough square footage. Melo Group intends to build an apartment building with ground-floor commercial space, she said. That location is ideal for Miami workers because it’s near the School Board Station Metro Mover and Melo Group would but a public entrance to encourage mass transit and walking, she added.

The property’s current zoning of T6-24-A would permit a 22-story building of 518,000 square feet with 304 units. Rezoning Art Plaza LLC’s land to T6-24B would allow a 43-story building of 1.28 million square feet with 630 units, according to Escarra’s estimate.

“Square Station has the same zoning,” Escarra said. “This area is really in need of that particular zoning change. It’s important to get people to take the School Board Stop.”

2. Apartment Tower Proposed In Omni

Developers Damian Narvaez and Alex Karakhanian plan to build an apartment building in the Omni neighborhood.

Their co-owned company 2247 N.W. 17th Avenue LLC paid $6.6 million in May 2016 for the 43,262-square-foot site at 1900 N.E. Miami Court. It currently has a 50,317-square-foot building from 1923 that recently housed Aspira Charter School.

The developer seeks to rezone the property from T6-8 to T6-12, which would increase the permitted height from eight stories to 12 stories. The density would remain at 500 units per acre. Attorney Steven Wernick, who represents the developers, said rezoning the property would allow his clients to propose a building closer to the area’s permitted density. If approved, it will design an apartment building with ground floor retail, he said.

“The site is in need of redevelopment to bring more housing into the area,” Wernick said.

Based on an average unit size of 700 square feet, the current zoning would permit a 266,963-square-foot building with 220 units. The new zoning would allow a 444,226-square-foot building with 358 units. Wernick said the final number of units would depend on the design of the building and the size of each unit.

3. MiMo Site Could Be Rezoned

The owner of a 1.33-acre site in MiMo wants to rezone the property for more density.

Todd Leoni manages the three companies 7000 Biscayne LLC, 7100 Biscayne LLC, and 7120 Biscayne that own the property. It covers 7000, 7010, 7020, 7030, 7100, and 7120 Biscayne Blvd. plus 565 N.E. 71st Street. The property currently has a three-story office building, two restaurants and a car wash.

The property is currently zoned T4 and T5. The proposed zoning of T6-8 would allow 85 units. There would be no change in the permitted height, as buildings in the MiMo historic district are limited to 35 feet.

It’s not clear exactly what the developer plans to build. Attorney Gilberto Pastoriza, who represents 7000 Biscayne LLC, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

4. Mixed-Use Proposed In Allapattah

A mixed-use multifamily project is planned for the emerging neighborhood of Allapattah.

Luar Investments LLC, owned by Raul Rodriguez, owns the 44,442-square-foot site at 2950 N.W. 7th Ave., 720, 730, and 744 N.W. 30th Street, and 735 N.W. 29th Street. It currently has an 8,956-square-foot building that’s used by an ambulance company and the parking lot is utilized for ambulance parking to serve the nearby hospitals.

It’s currently zoned T4 with 36 units per acre. The developer wants it rezoned to T5 with 65 units per acre. This would allow about 48 units on the site.

Miami attorney Ben Fernandez wrote in the application that Luar Investments intends to build a mixed-use multifamily development with ground floor commercial space. He couldn’t be reached for comment.


Source: SFBJ

Out-of-town buyers aren’t just snapping up Miami’s prime real estate — they’re also changing the way luxury developers build.

As more out-of-towners decide they want to put down roots in South Florida rather than simply buy investment properties for the rental market, they’re asking for bigger, better, more expensive designs. Units equipped with quarters for a nanny or maid. Guest suites for visiting relatives and friends. High-tech security with biometric identification.

Those requests come from both Latin Americans, who have driven Miami’s latest real estate boom, and wealthy Americans, who are appearing locally in greater numbers. Some developers, hoping to lure a growing pool of Chinese buyers, are even turning to “feng shui” consultants who specialize in the eastern art of balanced design.

“Foreign investment has completely changed our entire landscape from an architectural standpoint,” said Daniel de la Vega, president of One Sotheby’s International Realty. “People are bringing their families here to spend time, and that changes their needs. One Sotheby’s now advises all developer clients building units greater than 3,500 square feet to include live-in quarters for a maid or nanny,” de la Vega said.

At Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a luxury condo tower planned for downtown Miami, about 80 apartments out of a total 513 have a bedroom and bathroom — called a “lockout suite” — branching off from the main entrance near the unit’s private elevator. The studios, between 250 and 280 square feet, are envisioned as space for a maid or nanny, although they could also be used for teenage children who squawk for privacy or an elderly parent who needs quiet, said Peggy Fucci of OneWorld Properties, sales lead for the project. Units with a lockout suite start at about $1.5 million, or $650 per square foot.

In past projects, Fucci said, “we had people buying small units in addition to their main purchase because they wanted a place for the maid.” Now they expect that space to be available as part of their units.

Look To The Roofs

Families like to entertain and, in Miami, that naturally means enjoying the outdoors. Large outdoor terraces and elaborate rooftops are becoming the norm for high-end developments.

MiamiRealEstateDesign-OasisParkRoofIn single-family homes, the need for rooftop-space is partially driven by high land prices and small backyards. At Oasis Park Square, a 150-unit single-family home development marketed to Venezuelans, some backyards are large enough for a 392-square-foot pool. But the flat rooftops — tricked out with a jacuzzi and the option of a summer kitchen, as well as a bathroom — are where many homeowners will entertain. That wouldn’t be possible in Miami’s traditional Mediterranean style of building, which usually uses low-pitched tile roofs. The rooftops on these modernist homes are between 1,300 and 1,900 feet of open space. That’s more than a third of the size of many houses, which range from 3,300 to 4,000 square feet.

“The buyers find rooftop space very attractive,” said project architect Francillis Domond, who grew up in Venezuela. “Venezuelans have large extended families, and it’s very common to get together for family events at least every month.”

Oasis Park developer Masoud Shojaee of Shoma Group said when interviewed all but nine of the homes, which run from $1.15 million to more than $2 million, have already sold, with the majority going to Venezuelan buyers. “There is so much product on today’s market that you have to give the buyers exactly what they want,” Shojaee said.

Family Ties

MiamiRealEstateDesign-Aria on the Bay-PlayroomFamilies also need places for children to play.

“Kids’ rooms in condos used to be an afterthought,” said developer Carlos Melo, co-owner of the Melo Group. For a project called Aria on the Bay that will open in fall 2017, Melo plans to include a 2,360-square-foot play room for children, equipped with toys, board games, rock-climbing, pingpong, televisions — and cameras linked up to the security room to soothe nervous parents. One of the project’s four swimming pools will be a shallow “kiddie” pool.

Melo said he thinks that some younger couples accustomed to life in Miami’s downtown and other major cities may not want to give up their urban lifestyles for the suburbs. Instead, he argues, they’ll look for high-rises with enough space for kids. “We are expecting a new generation of young families who want to live in the city,” Melo said.

Down From The Northeast

Domestic buyers are also making more of an impression on Miami’s market — meaning some developers are focusing on public transit, smaller units and semi-urban projects common in other big American cities.

Statistics on where exactly those buyers are coming from aren’t precise, said Ron Shuffield, president of EWM Realty International. But he said that through the first six months of 2015, the number of luxury buyers in Miami-Dade County, home of Miami, listing a New York address is up roughly 20 percent over the same period in 2014.

Anastasia  Townhomes

Anastasia Townhomes

That’s important because the number of foreign buyers has been slowing as currency crises rock economies in Latin America and Europe. Cash sales — which often indicate international buyers — were down 12 percent in Miami-Dade in June 2015 compared with June 2014, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.

Santander Townhomes

Santander Townhomes

Townhomes are one sub-market that have appealed specifically to New York and northeast buyers, said Shojaee of Shoma Group. His firm built a 10-unit townhome project called Anastasia and has another 10-unit project called Santander scheduled to open by year’s end. The two-story walk-up homes at Santander are made from coral rock and start at $1.35 million for 3,000 square feet. Most buyers have been domestic.

New Balance

Chinese buyers also are growing in numbers, although they accounted for only 2 percent of international deals in South Florida in 2014, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors. But that’s double the number from 2012. Local brokers have visited Beijing to pitch buyers, including Ugo Colombo’s CMC Group.

And Paramount Miami Worldcenter has even hired Claudine De Bolle, a Miami-based feng shui consultant, to help make sure the condo’s common spaces have the right feel for Chinese buyers.

“It’s important for Chinese buyers to know the project was designed with feng shui because it is associated with good luck and prosperity in their culture,” De Bolle said.

De Bolle said she recommended that developers replace a lobby chandelier that was too angular in its design with one that used smoother features. “The chandelier was very beautiful, but it was very pointed coming down from the ceiling and it felt like a threat,” she said. Other recommendations included placing a fireplace in the lobby to balance the other feng shui elements of wood, earth, metal and water, and using matte tiles instead of a shinier material to slow the energy of a ninth-floor conservatory meant for reading and relaxation. Chinese buyers have accounted for about 15 percent of sales so far, according to developers.

Part of the reason South Florida has been so attractive to out-of-towners looking to buy a vacation home or relocate is because it is well-priced compared with other global cities. Urban apartments in London ($2,948 per square foot), New York ($2,024 per square foot) and Moscow ($1,243 per square foot) are all much pricier on average than Miami Beach ($760 per square foot), Miami ($475 per square foot) and Fort Lauderdale ($400 per square foot), according to research compiled by EWM in 2014.

And for developers there is a clear advantage to building and marketing buildings for end-users rather than investors. “Investor-dominated buildings face risks from fluctuations in foreign currencies,” said Jack McCabe, a housing market analyst based. But focusing on the high end of the real estate market means home prices and rental rates in Miami — already some of the nation’s highest compared with median income — won’t see any relief, he added.

“There’s very little that you would consider to be affordable that’s under construction,” McCabe said. “The developers have been targeting the sweet spot of the buyer pool, which is primarily affluent cash buyers.”

And if currency crises persist and some foreign buyers can’t close, some projects may go under or have to reduce prices.

“The upper end is almost like a separate market,” McCabe said. “The prices are so high above the rest of South Florida that we’re likely to see a correction just in the luxury end of the market if there’s not enough demand.”


Source: The Bulletin