Loft-condo developer plans 2nd Miami River residential project
Less than a month after starting construction on a loft-style condominium, developer Lissette Calderon said she is planning her second residential project on the southern shores of the Miami River.
Ms. Calderon has a contract to buy 2.2 acres at 690 SW First Ave. and is working on plans for a mixed-use, mostly residential building. She said with more than 90% of the units in her Neo River Lofts sold, she is again banking on the lower river, which divides downtown Miami's central business district from the Brickell area.
Neo River, her first solo project, is to consist of a 21-story building with 199 lofts. Ms. Calderon said she paid $1.7 million for the site at Flagler Street and the river. If the deal goes through, she said she hopes to build a residential tower with more than 199 units.
Construction could cost at least $60 million, the developer said. Because of the project's size, it would require a major-use special permit, said Ms. Calderon, president of the NEO firm.
It has not been decided if the second project will be rental or another condominium.
"We are evaluating the different opportunities," Ms. Calderon said. "It will also depend on what the city allows us to build."
City of Miami commissioners three weeks ago changed the zoning of the site from waterfront industrial - which allows manufacturing, assembly and storage activities - to restricted commercial, which allows retail, up to 150 residential units per acre, hotels or offices.
Members of the Miami River Commission, a state-created watchdog named to oversee the 5.5-mile-long river, said they welcome housing along the downtown section of the river, spanning from the Fifth Avenue Bridge to Biscayne Bay. While the group did not weigh in on the zoning change because members said they are waiting to finish a master plan for the area, opening the area to residential appears to fit with the commission's ideas.
"This project is perfect for that part of the river," said Brett Bibeau, the river commission assistant managing director. "Housing will rejuvenate the area and make it an active place 24 hours a day."
Mr. Bibeau's group is working on a master plan for the river's 11-mile-shore, he said. The plan, also known as the urban infill blueprint, will be ready in three months. It will determine what kind of development should be allowed in each of the river's three sections.
A preliminary draft of the urban infill plan calls for high-rise and mixed-use buildings along the lower river, low-rise and mixed-use properties between the Fifth Avenue Bridge and 22nd Avenue and marine-related uses from 22nd Avenue to Northwest 36 Street.
Other projects going up near the downtown portion of the river are One Riverview Square, an office building on the north shore of the river and South Miami Avenue. A Publix supermarket, on the south bank between Southwest Third Avenue and Sixth Street, is also under construction.
Michael Bedzow, developer of Brickell on the River, 27 SE Fifth St., said he expects to start the first of two 42-story condominiums late this year or early in 2003. Construction of the second tower will begin two years after the first one is built, he said, and the 712 units will sell from $160,000-$600,000.
Developer Antonio Cabrera Jr. with Epoch Corp. said he has contracts to buy three parcels a few yards from the waterfront west of Miami Avenue on the south bank. He said he expects to seek city approval for his mixed-use project, mostly residential, in November.
Farther east, Related Group of Florida headed by Jorge Perez is applying for permits to build about 900,000 square feet of residential and 100,000 of office space at the mouth of the river and Biscayne Bay.
Peter Swartz, former owner of the East Coast Fisheries restaurant and chair of Royal Bay Partners Inc., said he is also planning Riverside House Miami, a 32-story residential rental building, two condominium towers, retail and restaurant space along the south bank of the river on Southwest North River Drive between Southwest Second and West Flagler streets. His project still needs city approval.
Attention to the area has been increasing in the past four years, since the federal government agreed to finance most of the river's $80 million dredging project. The Miami River cleanup is scheduled to begin in October and be completed in 30 months.
Local governments also embrace the Trust for Public Land's project to build a boardwalk along both sides of the river. The nonprofit designed a $23 million greenway to give people access to the river.
In the meantime, city planners are encouraging developers and property owners to follow the blueprint and build walkways on their properties. In partnership with local governments, the trust will help pay for construction of the walkway on portions of land that are publicly owned.