Miami is a “city of the future” that needs to challenge “cities of the day” like New York and Boston to reach a new level, said developer Don Peebles, founder, chairman and CEO of the Peebles Corp.

Already a culturally developed, international tourist destination, Miami can achieve this by attracting new companies, allowing more construction and developing affordable housing for its workforce, Peebles told attendees at a Bisnow conference on transit oriented development Thursday at the Miami InterContinental.

“The region must get people out of their cars, improve mass transit and allow for denser development,” Peebles said. A strong draw for corporate investors is Florida’s low taxes who divides his time between homes in New York and Coral Gables. Why not go after the highly-taxed financial services industry in New York City, for example and bring them to this low-tax center?”

But there are impediments: traffic congestion and excessive complications for new vertical development and density. Miami employees typically spend as much as three hours a day going to and from work, which deals a major loss to productivity, he said. Miami’s workforce for the most part can’t afford to live where they work and lack access to the public transportation system.

The county has a rail system but it is not broadly developed. To access public transportation here today, people need to use cars. One answer is transit oriented development, which allows people to stay close to employment centers.

“People will need to access every part of their lives without getting into a car,” said Peebles, whose company is working on a variety of projects in Miami and the Northeast.

A major roadblock to developing new projects in the Miami area is a lack of unified zoning oversight, which limits density and structural height. Miami and Miami Beach are made up of many municipalities that each has its own city hall, police force and regulations for real estate.

“I never had to hire a lobbyist until I came here,” Peebles said. “Politicians here tend to reach out to small groups of people regarding real estate permitting. They can get elected with 4,000 votes. In New York City, the mayor has 10 million people, so what if 10,000 people get annoyed with him? In New York, people can express their views, but zoning is decided by people who are qualified. A central issue impeding development is there is no comprehensive oversight for real estate permitting, zoning, density and structural height. Miami has to realize that it is an urban center, and allow more supply.”

Peebles was one of several panelists that included Miami-Dade transport officials, real estate developers and attorneys. Others included Meg Daly, founder and president of Friends of the Underline (a park, path and trail built under the Metrorail), who said that bicyclists and pedestrians using the Underline have so far helped remove about 5 percent of cars from US-1 while attracting new customers to businesses along the route.

“Among other projects, Miami-Dade County is concentrating efforts to make first- and last-mile connections for all its rapid transit corridors,” said Aileen Bouclé, executive director of the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization. “Uber and Lyft are helping, but they both are operating at a loss.”

“Meanwhile, as infill increases in the downtown area, the bare bones Metrorail stations should incorporate amenities, and new stations should be added between existing ones,” said Humberto Alonso, vice president of Atkins North America.


Source: The Real Deal

Speaking to a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce crowd, an American Dream Miami consultant said construction on the massive theme-park-oriented mall may not begin until 2025, three years after all roads and expressway interchanges into the development have been completed.

In the meantime, fostering more development around public transit hubs is the key ingredient in creating the kind of critical mass that will transform Miami into a true urban center, according to a panel of downtown and Brickell developers.

“Bringing in the Brightline commuter train into downtown is going to be transformative for the city,” said Greg West, president and chief development officer at ZOM. “It not only elevates Miami, but all of South Florida on the global stage. It should bring more population.”

West joined Swire President Kieran Bowers and Henry Pino, managing member Strategic Properties Group and Alta Developers, in a discussion about builders capitalizing on Miami’s continuing evolution. It was the second of two panels during the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce 2017 Real Estate Summit held at Jungle Island on Friday.

Pino said his companies have plans to develop two mixed-use sites near Miami-Dade Metrorail stations south of Miami.

“We are trying to expand our projects to be closer to the train stations,” he said. “We just closed on a property that will be 900 feet from the Dadeland South Station,” Pino said. “We have another one in South Miami that is across from city hall and within walking distance to another Metrorail station.”

Earlier this week, Alta paid $11 million for a 1.45-acre industrial site at 9600 South Dixie Highway to complete an assemblage that also includes a 6,250-square-foot site with a retail building at 9514 South Dixie Highway and a 3,125-square-foot site with an office building at 9516 South Dixie Highway. Alta plans to seek county approval to redevelop the sites into a mixed-use project that includes 420 apartments, roughly 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, a pool, a fountain and a fitness center.

Bowers said Brickell is a good example of how residential development close to a Metrorail station creates critical mass and encourages people to use public transit

“My experience with Metrorail is that it is fine once you get on it,” Bowers said. “But getting to the stations is the real problem.”

During the earlier panel, three developers building massive projects in the northwest area of Miami-Dade discussed the challenges they face breaking ground, noting it can take years to cut through the regulatory red tape. The panelists were Jose Gonzalez, vice president of corporate development for Florida East Coast Industries, Stuart Wyllie, CEO of the Graham Companies, and Edgar Jones, president of Edgar Jones & Co., which is part of the development team building American Dream Miami.

Gonzalez talked about the hoops Florida East Coast jumped through simply to prepare a former landfill for development into an industrial park.

“We bought the land in 2004,” Gonzalez said. “We literally just broke ground last year. And it will take 10 years to build out that park.”

Jones said that construction of American Dream cannot begin until the state and county finish building all the roads and expressway interchanges that provide access to the gargantuan entertainment and shopping destination.

“That will be completed in 2022,” Jones said. “Construction of the mall won’t start until three years after that.”

Jones also groused about amount of time the developers have been required to spend on traffic studies to convince county officials that American Dream will create more gridlock in an area already plagued by traffic congestion.

“The development team has widened the scope of the areas that may be impacted by more traffic so much that we now know the traffic impact in Santa Monica, California,” Jones said in jest.

He also claimed that if American Dream opponents succeed in killing the project, the massive assemblage of land would be developed into industrial parks.

“You will have trucks on the road at significant levels,” Jones said. “Those trucks will be out during rush hour.”


Source: The Real Deal

Miami-Dade County’s new transit director has big plans.

Alice Bravo, Miami’s former deputy city manager, has several short-term projects in mind, but her grand vision is sure to raise eyebrows in South Florida: Eventually, she hopes that the plans that she and her team put in place in the next few years will make buying a car “optional” for Miami’s next batch of commuters.

“It’ll take time, but we have to take advantage of this enthusiasm to make Miami a car-optional city one day,” Bravo tells New Times. “It’s apparent that we have a younger generation that is not interested in having a car and wants to use public transportation. We have to make sure there is a system there for them to satisfy their needs.”

How the heck will she do that? Bravo admits it’s a long-term goal, but in the near future, she says, there are projects that will immediately relieve congestion. She points to the often-out-of-sync traffic signal system. She says by creating a system that can monitor intersection congestion and adapt on a moment’s notice depending upon traffic flow can optimize efficiency. Once a system is in place, she says, it can become centralized and connected to the bus system.

“We want to get all of our systems working together,” Bravo said.

For the longer term, Bravo is concentrating on “connectivity points” — places that are convenient for commuters in different suburbs. She wants to turn those connectivity points into stations and work to bring people to those stations as easily as possible (whether it be adding sidewalks or bus lanes). From these stations, she wants to work with local municipalities to create shuttles to quickly take people to other hubs around the city.

And to really tackle the east-west transportation debacle, Bravo plans to work with various agencies to put buses on existing highways.

The top-tier transportation shakeup comes after Miami-Dade’s much-criticized former transit director, Ysela Llort, resigned last month. She had overseen the county’s transportation since county Mayor Carlos Gimenez was elected in 2011. Even though Llort was credited with connecting the airport line to Metrorail, many observers have pointed to the lack of east-west and late-night public transportation options.

“The bus/train fares keep increasing, and the conditions get worse and worse. How is this working for [us], the tax-paying, hard-working residents?” one online petition to Llort declares. “Find the money, make public transit a priority, and fix our city.”

Gimenez, in a move to tackle public transportation “more aggressively,” hired Bravo to replace Llort. Bravo left her previous post as deputy city manager, where she oversaw six departments, including public transportation. Bravo is credited with shepherding in Metromover’s Brickell extension and the city’s free trolley system.

Born and raised in Westchester, Bravo remembers driving past Metrorail as it was being built in the mid-1980s. On the weekends, her family would sit in traffic on South Dixie Highway on their way to Key Biscayne. From the car window, she stared at the colossal concrete beams and steel rails. It fascinated Bravo, who was only a tween, and planted the seed for flashy transportation ideas to come.

Bravo went on to study civil engineering at the University of Miami before earning her MBA from Florida International University. She worked first as an engineering consultant on transportation projects for 13 years. Then she went to work for the Florida Department of Transportation, where she was in charge of implementing well-known projects such as 95 Express and the PortMiami tunnel. She was then hired by the City of Miami to work in capital improvements and transportation. In 2011, she was promoted to assistant to the deputy city manager. Two-and-half years later, she was promoted to deputy city manager.

Now, Bravo is trying to put that experience to use by transforming Miami-Dade’s transportation policies.

“The scope of transportation for the county is very large and affects millions of people,” Bravo says. “The mayor’s vision is to combine the public transits with the roadway through public works to make sure all of our transportation systems are coordinated to maximize efficiency.”

Bravo wants to make sure the current transportation systems are clean, safe, and reliable. To that end, she’s been studying the technology and transportation systems in other metropolitan areas in the States and Europe. “There are a lot of different groups with different ideas. Everyone needs to come together to formulate these plans that’ll span out 20 years. It’s not built overnight, but over many years,” she says. “But we need to turn a corner and start acting.”

In the meantime, Bravo is excited about taking Metrorail to work. “Our office is just north of Government Center,” she notes.


Source: Miami New Times