Developers target Biscayne, north of Omni, for next boom
By Paola Iuspa
A stretch of Miami's Biscayne Boulevard north of the planned performing arts center will get its own identity as a hub of new construction if a group of developers and business owners have their way.
The group - all with interests between interstate highways 395 and 195 from Biscayne Bay to Interstate I-95 - want to convert the stretch of road into the next Brickell Avenue and Aventura success story, said Jason Robertson, a developer and president of Urban Habitats Inc.
"We still need to come up with a name for the area," said Mr. Robertson, who was part of a similar initiative in Aventura.
The Aventura Marketing Council was created in 1988, during the time when construction in that part of Miami-Dade flourished.
"The purpose of our effort," he said, "is to promote awareness for development."
Bacardi-Martini Inc. and car dealership Norman Braman, with properties within the corridor; Florida East Coast Realty Inc., which is bringing housing to the Omni area, and Argent Ventures, owner of the Omni Center, are some of those behind the marketing effort, Mr. Robertson said.
Until recently Mr. Robertson was the Miami partner in the Finger Cos., a development firm proposing a mixed-use project on the boulevard between 19th Street and 20th Terrace. Now that his contract with the Houston-based group is expired, Mr. Robertson's company is focusing on redeveloping properties in Wynwood, which is within the area the Biscayne group hopes to market.
As less land is available for construction in Miami Beach and the Brickell area, building north of the performing arts center, is the next logical move, said Jeffrey Cohen, a real estate broker with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Realtors.
"We want to promote the Biscayne corridor not only in Miami but also in other US cities," said Liza Gallardo Walton, a marketing specialist with GDB + Partners, the Miami-based public relations firm representing the group.
Developers and business owners joining forces to promote a district rather than individual projects is not a new idea, said Adam Teitelbaum, COO of New-York based Argent.
He said his group has often gotten together with what normally would be considered its competitors to market a destination.
"We did that in Cleveland," he said. "Building owners also got together and created the 34th Street and the 42nd Street partnerships in Manhattan. You are stronger as a group."
At a time when the Biscayne Boulevard corridor is rebounding, marketing the district is priority, he said.
The Aventura Marketing Council was created when luxurious high-rises started transforming the more than 700 acres of former swampland surrounding the Aventura Mall, 19501 Biscayne Blvd., said Elaine Adler, the council's president.
She said her nonprofit came about when Aventura, incorporated in 1995, was part of the county and potential buyers and developers were associating it with the 1980s TV series Miami Vice, which tended to glorify crime and a fast-paced lifestyle.
"We needed to come up with a different name to change our image," she said. "Local developers would go to trade shows to promote their projects and people in the Northeast would say, Where? Miami? Oh, no. We know what is going on down there. We watch Miami Vice."
The council did a lot of direct mail advertising and got the US Postal Service to recognize Aventura as an address in 1988, Mr. Robertson said.
With a budget funded only by membership fees, the council now helps organize an annual Aventura arts & crafts festival each winter that attracts about 50,000 fans. The group holds monthly breakfast meetings, luncheons and networkers at the Turnberry Island Resort. Council members also get involved in helping hold events such as the Breeder's Cup and the Super Bowl, Ms. Adler said.
Developer David Lombardi, who owns commercial properties in Wynwood and Park West near the planned performing arts center, said he was not aware of the effort but welcomed it.
"Development on Biscayne Boulevard will help Wynwood," he said. "When people start moving to the high-end residential buildings on Biscayne, they will come to Wynwood for entertainment."
Projects in the planning stage in the Biscayne corridor include the Finger's Biscayne Village, a mixed-use rental complex with 437 apartment units and developer Michael Bauman's 1800 Club, the 450-unit rental residential building with 27,604 square feet for office and 4,872 for retail.
Developer Tibor Hollo, heading Florida East Coast Realty, is soon to begin construction of Bay Park Plaza II, a 471-unit residential rental tower with ground floor retail.
Developer Eric Sheppard, heading WSG Development Co., is building a 26-story building with more than 30 loft units at 34th street and Biscayne Bay.
"It is very simple," Mr. Hollo said about his participating in the Biscayne Boulevard initiative. Brickell is kind of built-out and the few pieces of land available are in the hands of strong developers. Land now available is between I -395 and I-195."
Mr. Hollo, who began building residential in the Omni area in the mid-'80s and who completed Bay Park Plaza I two years ago, said finding tenants for his building has been very easy.
Keith Mullarkey, a condo-owner and property manager of Biscayne 21 Condominium, on 21st Street and the bay, said property values have gone up in the past two years. When he bought his studio in 1999, he paid about $50,000. Now, he said, he is being offered about $100,000.
"Investing in Biscayne," Mr. Mullarkey said, "will be like winning the lotto."