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CREC Completes Office Leases Totaling 13,000 SF in Coral Gables, FL

Carol Brooks

Hemisphere Media Group expands its Coral Gables headquarters; Law firm Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert opens its first permanent Miami-Dade County office.

The Coral Gables office market is getting an added boost thanks to the expansion of the only publicly-traded, pure-play US Hispanic tv/cable networks and content platform and a Broward law firm opening its first permanent office in Miami-Dade. Hemisphere Media Group, Inc. will relocate and expand its headquarters to 4000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., while new arrival Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert will open its newest office at 2800 Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The two leases total a combined 13,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Carol Brooks, President of Coral Gables-based CREC, one of Florida’s largest commercial real estate services firms, represented Hemisphere and Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert in the two transactions. William Holly of Patton Real Estate represented the owner of 4000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., CMC Group.

The leases come as new investment pours into the Coral Gables business district. A $21 million makeover of the neighborhood’s main retail thoroughfares, Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, is underway; more than 85 new restaurants have opened in the last five years; and over 1,500 residential units are expected to come online by 2020.

“The Gables is surging as new companies enter what has always been one of Miami’s most desirable submarkets and existing firms expand,” explains CREC President Carol Brooks, who advised both firms in their leases. “Our tenant representation team took the time to learn the needs of Hemisphere and Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert, and then created a leasing strategy that will meet both firms’ current and future real estate requirements. The result will be new absorption for the Coral Gables office market.”

Hemisphere owns and operates five leading U.S. Hispanic cable networks, two Latin American cable networks, and the leading broadcast television network in Puerto Rico. The firm was located at 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., but recently decided to relocate to an 8,000-square-foot space with the goal of modernizing its space and establishing a defined headquarters that could accommodate its entire staff.

“As we have grown, we took on additional non-contiguous space and this move will put us all under one roof, so we can work more efficiently,” says Hemisphere President and CEO Alan J. Sokol. “After surveying the market with CREC, we concluded that 4000 Ponce was the right choice due to the building’s location and modern finishes. We couldn’t be happier with our new headquarters, and we’re thrilled that we’re remaining in Coral Gables.”

Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert is a full-service South Florida law firm with approximately 45 lawyers that represent clients of all sizes, from entrepreneurs to large public companies. The firm’s main office is in Fort Lauderdale. The new Coral Gables location, which totals nearly 5,000 square feet, opens following the arrival last year of veteran Miami lawyer Bobby Gilbert, who is overseeing and expanding the firm’s complex litigation and class action practice.

“By opening our office in Coral Gables, we’ll be able to continue building our team and providing the full range of services to our clients and co-counsel across South Florida,” says Gilbert, who will manage the Coral Gables office.

About CREC

Founded in 1989 by Chairman Warren Weiser and President Carol Brooks, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies) is one of Florida’s largest commercial real estate services firms, managing a portfolio of more than 100 office, retail and multifamily properties totaling 11.4 million square-feet. With offices throughout Florida, CREC specializes in asset and property management, leasing, tenant representation, construction management, development dispositions and finance, and creative workout solutions. For more information, visit  www.crec.com.

About Hemisphere Media Group, Inc.

Hemisphere Media Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HMTV) is the only publicly traded pure-play U.S. media company targeting the high growth Spanish-language television and cable networks business in the U.S. and Latin America. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, Hemisphere owns and operates five leading U.S. Hispanic cable networks, two Latin American cable networks, and the leading broadcast television network in Puerto Rico. Hemisphere’s networks consist of: Cinelatino, the leading Spanish-language movie channel with over 16 million subscribers across the U.S., Latin America and Canada, including 4.5 million subscribers in the U.S. and 12.3 million subscribers in Latin America, featuring the largest selection of contemporary Spanish-language blockbusters and critically-acclaimed titles from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and the Caribbean; WAPA, Puerto Rico’s leading broadcast television network with the highest primetime and full day ratings in Puerto Rico. Founded in 1954, WAPA produces more than 75 hours per week of top-rated news and entertainment programming; WAPA America, the leading cable network targeting Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean Hispanics living in the U.S., featuring the highly-rated news and entertainment programming produced by WAPA. WAPA America is distributed in the U.S. to 5.2 million subscribers; Pasiones, dedicated to showcasing the most popular telenovelas and drama series, distributed in the U.S. and Latin America. Pasiones has 4.4 million subscribers in the U.S. and 10.6 million subscribers in Latin America; Centroamerica TV, the leading network targeting Central Americans living in the U.S., the third-largest U.S. Hispanic group, featuring the most popular news, entertainment and soccer programming from Central America. Centroamerica TV is distributed in the U.S. to 4.0 million subscribers; and Television Dominicana, the leading network targeting Dominicans living in the U.S., featuring the most popular news, entertainment and baseball programming from the Dominican Republic. Television Dominicana is distributed in the U.S. to 3.0 million subscribers. For more information, visit  www.hemispheretv.com.

20 Sports Authority Stores Up for Grabs in South Florida
Carla Vianna | Daily Business Review

About 20 locations from Miami to Jupiter will be up for grabs once the debt-laden sporting goods retailer closes its doors in bankruptcy. Averaging 40,000 square feet, the large stores threaten to inflate the market by nearly 1 million square feet when big-box retailers are physically downsizing.

A dwindling market for department stores makes finding a tenant for extra-large spaces more difficult than releasing boutique-size shops catering to lifestyle brands, said Gunster real estate attorney Brian Belt. The Miami shareholder said big-box stores sit on the market longer, which could hurt smaller tenants nearby that counted on the foot traffic generated by their bigger neighbor.

If landlords fail to attract a sizable retailer, the large spaces may be retooled into gyms or other uses that “don’t generate as much income,” Belt said.

When Sports Authority shuts its doors, hundreds of stores across the U.S. may go dark — and stay dark.

South Florida, however, is somewhat immune to the “retail apocalypse,” said Alan Esquenazi, a principal at CREC who has represented Sports Authority in the past.

Brokers are confident the retailer’s South Florida locations won’t sit vacant for long.

Esquenazi said Sports Authority “traditionally went for high-profile, great locations.”

These include the street-level store at the popular Shops at Midtown Miami and a spot at Dadeland Station in suburban Kendall. The bankrupt retailer also has a presence at Dolphin Mall and Sawgrass Mills.

Steven Henenfeld, CREC’s director of retail leasing, said the closings open prime sites for tenants looking to upgrade their position in the market and give landlords the opportunity to push up rents when a newcomer moves in.

“South Florida in general will fare better with respect to Sports Authority’s vacancies than a lot of other markets because our retail numbers are very, very strong,” Belt said.

Retail vacancies dropped to 3.2 percent in Miami-Dade County and 5.3 percent in Broward County during the first quarter, according to CBRE Inc.

A bankruptcy auction will be held June 29 for 320 of the chain’s 463 store leases, including 18 in South Florida totaling 715,000 square feet. New York-based A&G Realty Partners LLC will accept bids until June 23.

“After the June 29 date, we will have a better idea of what is going to be left available,” said CBRE senior vice president Paco Diaz.

Diaz said the top two contenders could be Dick’s Sporting Goods and Orchard Supply Hardware.

Lowe’s purchased Orchard Supply in 2013 and last year announced plans to add 40 stores, according to a retail report by Orlando-based Crossman & Co.

“Retailers at every end of the spectrum are reevaluating their footprints,” the report said. Healthy retailers are “exploring smaller stores to gain access to urban consumers where real estate costs can be prohibitive.”

While large department-store brands like Macy’s have struggled with underperforming assets — over the past five years the retailer closed 52 locations — discount retailers like Ross Stores Inc. boast healthy performances and could be viable contenders for Sports Authority’s defunct locations.

 

Does Sumitomo’s $220M Grab Point To More Big Office Buys?

Does Sumitomo’s $220M Grab Point To More Big Office Buys?

JUNE 9, 2016 | BY JENNIFER LECLAIRE

MIAMI—“The fact that the Miami Tower’s price doubled in less than decade is proof that the investor appetite for existing office space is driving property values to record levels.”

The sale price on the 631,672-square-foot office asset: $220 million.

MIAMI—The Japanese corporation Sumitomo recently paid $220 million for the iconic, light-changing Miami Tower in Downtown Miami. Call it the latest sign that the investor appetite for Miami’s commercial real estate market is still intensifying.

Domestic and international investor interest continues to drive property values to record levels. For example, the Miami Tower was last sold for $105 million five years ago. The sale price doubled in about five years.

“The fact that the Miami Tower’s price doubled in less than decade is proof that the investor appetite for existing office space is driving property values to record levels,” Ezra Katz, CEO of Aztec Group, tells GlobeSt.com. “As Miami’s booming condo market outbids office developers for available land, the amount of inventory is not keeping up with the rising demand for office space. We expect that office rents and sale prices will continue to rise as supply becomes more constrained and investor demand increases.”

The past year has seen a series of similar office deals, including the $140 million sale of 777 Brickell, the $112 million sale of 800 Brickell, and the $142 million sale of Espirito Santo Plaza, all trophy assets in Miami’s financial district.

Miami’s booming condo market has also impacted the ability of institutional investors and office developers to compete for land, since condo developers will outbid them every time. As a result, Miami’s office market is seeing steady rising rental rates and increased demand, but little new office inventory to meet the rising demand.

These market fundamentals point to the reasons why Sumitomo would pay top dollar for an office asset like Miami Tower, and all signs point to other office properties trading hands as deep-pocketed investors seek top-performing assets to add to their portfolios as market conditions continue to strengthen favoring landlords.

“Sumitomo’s pickup of Miami Tower is another example of an institutional buyer targeting a performing asset amidst high barriers to new office development across South Florida,” Warren Weiser, chairman of CREC, tells GlobeSt.com. “Building a stand-alone office tower from the ground-up in today’s market has become cost prohibitive just as demand for Miami real estatesoars. This is putting existing buildings benefitting from quality locations and strong income in-place at a premium.”

Coral Gables Sees Mega Deal; Largest of 2016

Coral Gables Sees Mega Deal; Largest Of 2016

MIAMI—The seller more than doubled its money in 11 years.

2121 Ponce includes a five-story, 586-space parking garage and street-level retail space.

MIAMI—It’s the largest commercial real estate transaction in Coral Gables, FL so far this year. A joint venture between Greenstreet Partners just sold the 2121 Ponce office building to a member company of Zurich North America for $57.5 million. Greenstreet acquired the building for 27.1 million in 2005.

Zurich Alternative Asset Management, Zurich’s alternative investment adviser, worked with the buyer on the deal. The sale of the 164,848 square-foot office building marks the latest sign of mounting demand for high-performing South Florida office properties among institutional investors around the world. CREC and CBRE brokered the deal.

“Coral Gables has long been one of South Florida’s most desirable submarkets, and that position will only grow as office users prioritize locations that are walkable and in close proximity to public transit options,” CREC principal Steven Hurwitz, who manages leasing at the building in tandem with CREC’s Doug Okun, tells GlobeSt.com. “2121 Ponce has emerged as one of the neighborhood’s best addresses over the past decade, particularly among companies in the market for space priced slightly below the rates at newer buildings nearby.”

CREC and Greenstreet acquired 2121 Ponce in 2015. Since then, the office asset has seen significant renovations of all common areas. A leasing and marketing program repositioned the building as a boutique, service-oriented option for Coral Gables office users. CREC has worked as the exclusive leasing agent and will continue managing the office asset for the new owner. The property is 95% occupied.

CREC’s Warren Weiser, Harry Blyden, and Andrew Remick co-brokered the sale of 2121 Ponce alongside CBRE’s Christian Lee, Jose Lobon, and Andrew Chilgren. Roy Rosenbaum, director of acquisitions, and Sean Bannon, managing director and head of US real estate, led the way for Zurich.

“Our experience at 2121 Ponce is an example of how a building’s value can be maximized by bringing a clear vision to life through creative leasing, construction, marketing and property management strategies,” says CREC chairman Weiser. “The investments we’ve made over the past decade have transformed the building into a core institutional-grade asset, leading to this sale. We expect similar acquisition activity in the coming months given high barriers to new development across South Florida.”

Located in the Coral Gables business district one block north of the “main and main” intersection of Ponce de Leon Boulevard and Alhambra Circle, 2121 Ponce includes a five-story, 586-space parking garage and street-level retail space. Goldstein Schechter, Fox Latin America, Valley National Bank, the Consulate of Barbados and CREC call the office building home. POC restaurant is located on the building’s ground floor.

The office property’s setting in Coral Gables’ walkable downtown is also appealing to tenants as the $21 million makeover of two of the neighborhood’s main retail thoroughfares, Miracle Mile and Giralda Avenue, gets underway. The submarket is home to more than 150 multinational corporations, more than a dozen luxury hotels, a free public trolley system, and boutiques and restaurants. Eighty-five new eateries opening in the last five years. Meanwhile, more than 1,500 residential units are expected to come online over the next three years.

Swiss insurer makes landfall in Coral Gables with $58M investment pay

Swiss insurer makes landfall in Coral Gables with $58M investment play

Sellers more than doubled their money after 10 years of holding the property

June 06, 2016 03:45PM
By Sean Stewart-Muniz

2121 Ponce De Leon Boulevard

It looks like there’s still plenty of foreign investment to go around for Miami’s office market.

Zurich North America, an affiliate of a major Swiss insurance company, just closed on its $57.5 million purchase of the 2121 Ponce office tower in Coral Gables.

The deal was announced Monday by real estate companies Greenstreet Partners and CREC, which formed a joint-venture back in 2005 to buy the 13-story office building for $27.1 million.

Through the years, Greenstreet and CREC started renovating the common areas for 2121 Ponce, which was built in 1970. The companies brought the building up to 95 percent occupancy with an eclectic mix of tenants like the Consulate General of Barbados, Fox Latin America and Valley National Bank. CREC itself even took space in the building, and plans to stay even under the new ownership.

After roughly a decade of holding the property, Warren Weiser, chairman of CREC, told The Real Deal that the partners decided it was a good time to sell amidst a tightening office market.

“The asset performed pretty darn well even through the recession,” Weiser said. “It’s a very good market for both buyers and sellers right now.”

Weiser said the partners had an established relationship with Zurich, which keeps a U.S. office in New York. After touching base in February, the two parties “shook hands” in March and closed the deal last week.

“[Zurich] knows this market,” Weiser told TRD. “They made a very smart purchase because you can’t reproduce this building for the price they paid.”

The most recent sale of 2121 Ponce, which measures 164,848 square feet, breaks down to nearly $349 per foot. That’s more than double the $164 per foot that CRED and Greenstreet paid in 2005.

One explanation for that price explosion can be found in the latest market numbers from brokerage JLL. Although net absorption in Coral Gables was down by a fraction of a percentage point during the first quarter, there was no new office space under construction in the city at that time. Giralda Place has since broken ground with 58,000 square feet of offices. Meanwhile, office vacancies stood at 10.6 percent and rents were asking an average of $38.18 per square foot annually, according to JLL.

The deal was brokered by CREC’s Weiser, Harry Blyden and Andrew Remick, along with CBRE’s Christian Lee, Jose Lobon and Andrew Chilgren. On Zurich’s side, the firm was advised by its “alternative investment management” division. The Swiss insurance carrier has roughly 55,000 employees worldwide, and its North America division specializes in property-casualty coverage, according to its website.

It’s not unusual for insurance giants like Zurich to diversify into real estate: among U.S. firms, Prudential Financial boasts a thriving real estate arm that’s also bought into the Coral Gables office market.

Tight little island: office space on Miami Beach scarce

As it has historically been, Miami Beach remains a boutique market with very little office space available, sparse parking and no new construction on the horizon, experts say…

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In Focus – High Stakes in South Florida
Women’s Wear Daily | In Focus
Miami is riding an unprecedented roller coaster.The city rebounded from the recession only to
be hit by economic downturns in Brazil and Russia, major sources of tourism and second-home
owners for the region. Rising sea levels threaten to engulf it within the next century — if not soon-
er — but that didn’t stop a hedge-fund manager from buying two units at Faena House in Miami
Beach for a record $60 million. The Panama Papers’ leaked shell companies and offshore bank
accounts have led to cash purchases of condominiums in gleaming new residential towers,
which seem to multiply here like cells in a Petridish. Retail is also on fire in “Mall-ami,” while
commercial property sales are breaking records.

 

“The market clearly reflects consumer demand for high-quality retail experiences,” said
Michael Comras, president of a namesake commercial real estate firm in Miami Beach. Comras’
entire block on the north side of Lincoln Road, 78,000 square feet in total that he owned with
Jonathan Fryd of Fryd Properties, sold for $370 million last year. “It was the largest retail trans-
action and the second-largest of any real estate deal in Miami-Dade County history,” he boasted.
Talk to any developer or leasing broker and it’s the same story about how the city was under-
served for too long. Drew Schaul, executive vice president of RKF, a New York-based retail real
estate firm with offices in Miami, said there were 11 square feet of retail per capita when he moved
to the city in 2005, compared with a national average of 22 square feet. When LVMH Moët Hen-
nessy Louis Vuitton yanked its store portfolio from Bal Harbour Shops about four years ago
and moved it to Aventura Mall and the Miami Design District, it set a trend for brands to consider
emerging neighborhoods and evolving centers.

 

Northern states have watched populations trickle down to Florida for a while, but the city’s
retail offerings really began booming at the turn of the Millennium, helped by the arrival of Art Basel
Miami Beach and the construction of luxury residential high rises and hotels designed by star archi-
tects. Their collective impact lured high-net-worth individuals, and brands streamed in soon after.
“Miami was just a place for fun in the sun before Art Basel gave it global substance,” said Craig
Robins, chief executive officer and president of Dacra, the Miami-based real estate development firm
with a large stake in the Miami Design District. “It’s much younger, too. There were four hospitals in
Miami Beach when I grew up and now there’s one. It’s gone from 80-year-olds to 35-year-olds.”
According to the City of Miami Beach Tourism Culture and Economic Development, the city’s
median age fell from 65 in 1980 to 40 in 2014. In 1980, 49,000 people of a total population of
96,000 were over 65. In 2014, seniors made up 15,000 of 91,000.

 

Residential rent is also high in Miami. According to Zillow, the national average rent will be
$1,407 by February 2017, while the average rent in Miami will be $1,899, a 3.3 percent forecasted
increase from February 2016. It also ranks Miami metro third in percentage of income going to-
ward rent, after Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York is fourth, according to Zillow data from
the fourth quarter of 2015.
Younger generations, struggling with high rent, are influencing the city’s transition — from
a car culture to taking public transportation, walking and biking. As population and traffic
increases, distinct neighborhoods — Coconut Grove, Wynwood, the Art Deco District — are
tightening into all-inclusive, hyperlocal hubs in which to live, work and play. Some are already
fully served, while others fill in missing components, like retail in downtown and Brickell, or
residential and hospitality in Wynwood. Big-box chains are creating controversy as they creep into
former bohemian districts to service residential growth. Michaels and Marshalls plan to open in
South Beach, and Wal-Mart’s forthcoming store in Midtown Miami borders Wynwood.
“Developers and consumers are placing their bets on the full lifestyle package. People don’t
want to spend their entire lives in the car,” said Rafael Romero, an associate vice president for
retail at CREC real estate firm in Coral Gables. “They’re also staying single longer and having
kids later, so they can live in urban areas with disposable income to blow.”

 

The hottest markets — from Brickell to Sunset Harbour — target young professionals by hitting
the fashion, fitness and food trifecta. Chef-driven restaurants, which got a late start in Miami and
now open on a weekly basis, have paved the way for gentrification and the rampant rise of street
retail as opposed to the city’s historic preference for air-conditioned and covered, open-air malls.
“More than revitalization, the next decade is about connectivity as all these areas gel and roll
into one another,” said Comras of the effort to convince residents to leave the car at home or get
rid of it altogether. “These pedestrian pockets are even happening in suburban areas like Doral.”
With strong ties to Latin America, Miami retail is adjusting to different circumstances than
the rest of the U.S. Malls report tourism and second-home owners drive 70 percent of sales in the
area and people, no matter where they’re from, splurge on vacation.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported record-breaking travel and tourism
numbers last year with a 5.4 percent increase in overnight visitors to Miami and the Beaches
during the 12 months from September 2014 to August 2015 — 15.1 million overnight visitors, up from
14.2 million for the same period the previous year. This boosted the economic impact to $25.1 billion
from $23.5 billion, a 7 percent increase.

 

Retailers aren’t as affected by online shopping either; whether because of cultural preferences or
lack of Internet access, international tourists and part-time residents prefer brick-and-mortar stores.
A typical scenario is a family of four from Quito, Ecuador, flying in to buy back-to-school wardrobes.
Having seen its middle class shrink long before the rest of America, Miami’s economy mir-
rors those of Southern Hemisphere nations more closely than it does neighboring states.
“Miami functions more like a third-world society with extreme wealth versus poverty,” said
Schaul, “so you’re seeing an abundance of new luxury and discount or fast-fashion retail.”
Here is a snapshot of some local projects and neighborhood developments. ■

 

South Florida Region Experiencing Retail Resurgence

When it was Miami Beach vs. Coconut Grove, the Miami enclave lost.

Shoppers and tourists fled the historic neighborhood for the revitalized South Beach retail strips minutes from the ocean.

Years ago, this was the norm in South Florida: When one area got hot, it kicked others off the map.

“The Grove was the hottest thing until South Beach came along,” said Michael Comras, president and CEO of the Comras Co. of Florida Inc.

Then Coral Gables grabbed the attention of shoppers, and together the cities “sucked the life out of the Grove,” the commercial real estate broker and investor said.

Back then, retailers were competing for the same slice of the pie, but that’s no longer the case.

“The pie has gotten bigger,” Comras said.

Miami’s international allure and steady job growth has fueled population growth. South Florida surpassed the 6 million mark this year, making it the eighth most populous region in the nation.

With it comes a resurgence in the region’s retail sector.

An estimated 1.4 million square feet of retail is now planned or under construction in downtown Miami, mostly in big-name projects like the nearly completed Brickell City Centre, Miami Worldcenter and Met Square. Forty percent of all countywide construction activity is taking place in the city’s urban core.

As Gunster real estate attorney Brian Belt puts it, “The retail goes where the population goes.”

Amid the influx of new housing, developers are challenged to create unique concepts that attract different segments of the population, Comras said.

Foot Traffic

Craig Robins has successfully carved a niche in Miami’s retail arena, catering to design enthusiasts and the city’s most sophisticated shoppers.

Two decades ago the Miami-based developer began sweeping up property in a desolate area northeast of Interstate 195 and Biscayne Boulevard when conventional wisdom said what happened in booming South Beach could never cross the bridge.

Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, is now developing about 70 percent of the once-sleepy neighborhood known as Miami’s Design District. Dilapidated buildings have been transformed into top-shelf storefronts carrying luxe brands ranging from Christian Louboutin to Valentino.

Dacra is working on its second phase to duplicate the open-air, two-story shopping plaza on Northwest 39th Street.

“What the retail did for us is it validated the neighborhood as a blue-chip location,” Robins said.

Last month, 85,000 Pay by Phone parking transactions were counted in the nearby Wynwood district, a neighborhood commonly likened to New York’s Brooklyn borough and referred to as Miami’s Arts District.

Warehouses hint at the neighborhood’s industrial base, but their new users paint a colorful picture of an emerging community shaped by retailers.

Foot traffic has been going up steadily, said Tony Cho, CEO and founder of Metro 1, a commercial and residential brokerage company routinely inking deals in the Wynwood area. The buzz is luring well-known brands in addition to homegrown ventures like Panther Coffee.

“Retail particularly follows residential booms,” Cho said.

More than 7,000 condominium units are under construction, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Over 3,000 are coming to the Edgewater and Midtown areas, which sit next to the Design District and Wynwood.

Investor Appetite

Art galleries, entertainment venues and trendy stores are increasingly occupying Wynwood’s boxy buildings, which have traded for price tags that reach $1,000 per square foot.

New York developer Moishe Mana has big plans for the 30 acres of the neighborhood he owns: Mana and his team are ironing out details in his proposed master plan, which would bring retail, office, hotel, a museum and beauty school to the district.

“The majority of buyers who understand and get Wynwood are New Yorkers because they saw what happened in the Lower East Side” and other once-neglected areas of New York City, Cho said. “They saw [it] then. The creative class came into the neighborhood and transformed it.”

Metro 1 closed $65 million worth of sales in the neighborhood during March alone. Headline-worthy deals included a 1941-built warehouse that sold for $22 million, or 633 percent more than just 17 months before.

Earlier this year, New York-based Thor Equities, which began amassing a hefty portfolio of Design District property at record prices in 2014, sold most of it to another group for $128 million. RedSky Capital, a Brooklyn-based real estate company also active in the Miami area, picked up seven parcels with plans to redevelop.

Sources close to the deal said the area’s dollar figures hit a point where Thor opted for quick profit rather than redevelopment.

The retail craze has spilled beyond Miami’s urban core.

Miami Beach’s commercial sector continues to draw deep-pocketed investors. Two months ago, a retail property on the city’s tourist-laden Lincoln Road shopping strip sold for more than $6,500 per square foot.

Last year, the resort city became home to the second largest real estate deal in Miami-Dade County history when Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega paid $370 million for an entire Lincoln Road block.

Miami’s Coconut Grove is finally catching up.

Federal Realty, a Rockville, Maryland-based company that focuses on buying and redeveloping underperforming property, partnered with local developers Grass River Property and the Comras Co. last year to enter the Miami market.

The trio dropped millions on two neglected shopping centers: The $87.5 million acquisition of CocoWalk, a sleepy open-air retail center in the heart of Coconut Grove, and the $110 million purchase of the Shops at Sunset Place, an underutilized mall in South Miami.

Farther Afield

Investor appetite is fueling a resurgence of neighborhoods beyond the bustling urban core.

“We see a lot of demand, a population that’s not being served,” Federal Realty CEO Don Wood told the Daily Business Review in February. “If the hunch is right, we’ll spend another $200 million or more to invest in producing and creating a product that’s right for the community that it serves.”

Comras said plans for CocoWalk would be announced within the next 60 to 90 days, then plans for Sunset Place will appear shortly after.

“Obviously, we’re very bullish on Coconut Grove,” he said. “You have an amazing residential market, a great office market, a great hotel market and now it’s a matter of bringing back the retail.”

Plans will focus on creating an outdoor environment that will give shoppers a reason to step away from the computer and off the couch.

In another blockbuster deal, West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach Outlets, which replaced a fallen mall, sold for $278 million in 2015 for the second largest real estate deal in Palm Beach County history. Retail sale were up by triple-digit percentages compared to the year before, said Belt, a Miami-based shareholder at Gunster.

“It’s doing well because it has really good employment growth and income growth,” he said.

Meanwhile, shopping malls across South Florida are looking to carve out something beyond online sales, launching ambitious expansion projects to revamp their centers.

Sunrise’s Sawgrass Mills is adding a new wing, and the master-planned Metropica community is under construction next to it. Aventura Mall landed a loan early this year to kick off its expansion. Whitman Family Development’s $400 million expansion of its Bal Harbour Shops pushed forward with the $30 million purchase of an adjacent church property in February.

Then there’s the American Dream Mall slated for northwest Miami-Dade. If plans come to fruition, the mall would be the largest in the nation.

The enclosed mall versus open-air retail trend was further validated when one of Miami’s largest developments, the $2 billion Miami Worldcenter, ditched plans for a department store-anchored mall for a more airy environment. The initial 760,000-square-foot shopping center was replaced by one- and two-story storefronts on three blocks. The project broke ground in March.

Existing outdoor retail strips are also undergoing renovations.

Miami Beach recently approved a master plan for Lincoln Road, and Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile is due for a makeover.

Flagler Street

But Belt warns, “There are obvious exceptions to the rosy picture.”

While Miami’s overall vacancy rates have dipped below 4 percent, empty storefronts lining downtown’s Flagler Street tell a different story.

“In downtown Miami, some of the smaller shops that cater to the lower or lower middle-class market and foreign buyers … are not doing well at all,” Belt said.

Mana, the New York developer who owns swaths of land in Wynwood, has pocketed a number of buildings on Flagler.

He promises to make downtown young again. The developer is working with University of Miami students to design micro-apartments catering to recent college graduates and millennials working in the area.

Existing tenants dominated by electronics, luggage, perfume and apparel shops are a byproduct of segmented ownership, said Rafael Romero, associate vice president at Continental Real Estate Cos. But now business owners and government officials are pushing for the modernization of Flagler Street, forming the Flagler Street Task Force Committee to track a $13 million renovation.

For now, the downtown market is more attainable than pricey Brickell a few blocks away, “especially for a restaurateur that may have the best idea in the world but may not have the deepest pockets,” Romero said.

“Downtown and specifically that Flagler corridor and parts of that Biscayne corridor … are where we’re likely to see the greatest growth over the next cycle.”

Invest Miami 2016 – Carol Brooks

This is an exciting time for Miami’s retail market, as national and international brands are expanding their presence, and new mixed-use developments, mega malls, and neighborhood centers will create new investment opportunities…

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Seven Office Components Headed for Doral

Responding to market demand, several new office spaces are taking shape in Doral, while there is churn in the market farther east in Waterford, sources say…

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