Interamerican Plaza enjoying new life in Little HavanaBy Marilyn Bowden
A landmark building in Little Havana is seeing better days after a major renovation project, principals and tenants say.
Interamerican Plaza, 701 SW 27th Ave., was already in foreclosure when WRH Mortgage, a subsidiary of William R. Hough & Co., bought it in 1996, said Executive Vice President Brad Salzer.
"Over $1 million in back taxes was owed," he said.
The St. Petersburg mortgage company hired Continental Real Estate Co., a local management and leasing firm that handles about 4.5 million square feet of office and retail, to repair and re-position the building.
Built in 1976, the 14-story, 162,311-square-foot tower had not only not been renovated, said Stephen Levine, senior associate at Continental Real Estate, but had been allowed to fall into disrepair.
"We have engineered a major face-lift including up to $2.5 million of repairs and renovations," he said. "Some of it was aesthetic. The facade has been re-surfaced, re-painted and re-sealed. We renovated common areas and re-landscaped throughout. We re-surfaced and re-sealed the parking structure."
Exterior lighting illuminates the building at night, Mr. Levine said.
In addition, he said, less visible capital improvements brought the building's infrastructure up to code. A chiller plant and air-conditioning systems were replaced. The elevator systems were repaired.
Years of deterioration were also reflected in the tenant mix, Mr. Levine said. The building housed government offices and temporary educational facilities that made it undesirable to professional office tenants.
After three years, he said, the Continental team managing the property, led by President Carol Greenberg Brooks, is turning the property's image around.
"Because of existing obligations with some tenants," Mr. Levine said, "we had to wait for some leases to expire.
"With others, we forced their hands. We made a tough decision to forego income to get to where we needed to be.
"Now we're starting to see results with increased leasing activity."
Continental has recently completed about 20,000 square feet of leases with new tenants, he said including Terremark Worldwide Inc., which took space for a back office; a division of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.; Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, and Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greater Miami both of which will now have headquarters at Interamerican.
Leases for an additional 45,000 square feet are outstanding, Mr. Levine said, and other proposals would account for another 15,000-20,000 square feet.
"We have a very aggressive economic package," he said. Space at the renovated building leases for $17 a square foot full-service, he said, with a full build-out package of $25 a square foot.
"The location is central and parking at a ratio of four spaces per 1,000 square feet is free.
"The building is close to SR 836 and US 1, and the commute to downtown, Coral Gables or Coconut Grove is less than five minutes."
JosĒ L. Marban, executive director of Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, said Continental contacted the organization, which sponsors the annual Carnival Miami and other events in the area, to help put them in touch with local groups looking for space.
"We were looking for space ourselves," he said. "We thought moving to Interamerican Plaza would be a great idea. We bring in sponsors for Carnival Miami from out of state and even out of the country. This was an opportunity to have a view right on Calle Ocho where Carnival Miami takes place."
With Miami-Dade Community College's new Interamerican Campus in the same block and an expanded Union Planters Bank across the street, Mr. Marban said, the area around Interamerican Plaza is improving as well.
"There are a lot of positive things going on here," he said. One is the monthly Cultural Fridays program, he said, that presents "Hispanic arts and music in an upscale ambiance."
Details: Stephen Levine, (305) 854-7342.
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