Coral Gables offices battle Brickell, each other for tenants
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Two new office projects are under way in Coral Gables, adding to the 1.6 million square feet of office space close to completion in nearby downtown Miami and Brickell.
As part of the 396 Alhambra development, construction on the 173,000-square-foot office building is to begin in the months ahead and take 18 to 20 months to complete, said Darryl Robinson, the project's leasing agent.
The $130 million office project encompasses rehabbing an existing seven-story office building and constructing a 15-story Class A office tower at the southeast corner of Alhambra Circle and LeJeune Road.
Construction of parking for 396 Alhambra has begun and renovations of the seven-story building are under way, said Mr. Robinson, principal of Oak Hill Advisors.
Miami developer and project principal Eddie Avila teamed with Agave Florida Investments, a real estate affiliate of Mexican tequila producer Jose Cuervo, to build the project.
Citibank inked a 10-year lease, with renewal options, last month for 5,500 square feet of retail space at 396 Alhambra's new north tower.
Citibank is moving into a temporary lobby location in 396 Alhambra's south tower because the old branch building, at Alhambra Circle and LeJeune Road, is being demolished to make room for the new 15-story north tower.
As part of the development, a three-story garage on the property has been demolished and an 884-space garage is under construction. The eight-story garage — already up to the fifth level and expected to be complete by September — is to include 18,000 square feet of ground-level retail, Mr. Robinson said.
The construction manager is Balfour Beatty and the architecture firm is Fullerton Diaz.
While parking construction is under way, Mr. Robinson said, the existing office building, with 90,000 square feet of leasable office space, is undergoing a major makeover that began about six months ago. It includes installation of hurricane-impact-resistant windows and new reconfigured bathrooms. Renovations are to finish around October.
"You will not know the difference between the old tower and the new tower," he said.
Despite the recently completed 2020 Ponce, a 14-story office tower in the Gables, and Met 2 Financial Center and 1450 Brickell wrapping up construction this year in downtown Miami and Brickell, Mr. Robinson says prospective tenants will recognize the project's value.
"We feel our timing is perfect to get tenants that recognize the value of a well-built, well-capitalized partnership with the goal in mind of building something special," he said.
But more competition is brewing close to home.
Nearby, Allen Morris Co. is moving ahead with its latest project, Ponce de Leon Towers, a 210,000-square-foot luxury office building that is part of the seven-acre Old Spanish Village in the Gables.
The Coral Gables-based development company got a ruling from the City of Coral Gables last week that allows it to proceed with its last project approvals, said W. Allen Morris, company chairman, president and chief executive officer.
The group has signed leases for 32,000 square feet of the 210,000-square-foot office project, Mr. Morris said.
The Rockefeller Group has committed to one full floor equaling 25,000 square feet and Allen Morris Co. is to move its headquarters from Alhambra Towers to the new building to occupy 7,000 square feet. Rental rates start at $43 per square foot on a gross basis.
"We are in negotiations with other tenants that will take us well over our 50% [leased] target," Mr. Morris said. "A lot of people like to build speculative buildings. We like to build buildings that are successful before we start construction."
Mr. Morris said he plans to begin construction by year's end to complete the 16-floor project by the end of 2012.
On the ground floor, the building is to house a bank branch, a restaurant and another financial services firm. Just as in Alhambra Towers, another Allen Morris Co. office project in the area, the eight-level garage is to be underneath the building. Office floors are to begin on the ninth level.
The city also has plans to renovate Ponce Circle Park, Mr. Morris says, which sits steps from the property. He says he hopes the park's renovation is completed by the time Ponce de Leon Towers is built.
With a design inspired by the 16th century Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona, Mr. Morris says what differentiates his project from those rising on Brickell Avenue is the architectural design and originality.
"It's not just another glass box like the new office buildings in Brickell Avenue," he said. "They are very nice buildings, but they are all glass boxes and one cannot even tell them apart."