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It’s no surprise to most of us to hear or read that South Florida and the Miami area rank behind many other cities and states when it comes to high-tech talents, payrolls or jobs. The image of Miami as being an attractive place for party goers and tourists looking for year-long sun is a sticky one, however many high-tech graduates, start-up entrepreneurs and capital venture companies are becoming aware that South Florida is working hard to change this. A few innovation centers, educational programs and real estate projects are aiming to help Miami become one of the high-tech communities of the United States, forging a bridge between North and South America. The Emerge Americas Miami trade show launched its first successful edition in May 2014 and just ended its second edition in Miami Beach. The five day Emerge Americas conference is an exchange forum about innovation and technology and shows that high-tech drastically changes every single industry such as healthcare, banking, travel, entertainment, community and civic engagement etc…

The Lab Miami, which received grants from the honorable Knight Foundation, is a 10,000 sf warehouse in Wynwood which was turned into a meeting and working place for creative entrepreneurs and start-up leaders. It offers subscription-based working space as well as a vast series of educational programs on topics such crowdfunding for real estate, how to build a successful app and workshops on design or coding.

Downtown Miami Venture Hive incubator an location of the Miami Microsoft Innovation Center

Downtown Miami Venture Hive incubator an location of the Miami Microsoft Innovation Center

The first US-based Microsoft Innovation Center opened last year in Miami and is hosted at Venture Hive, a start-up incubator located in Downtown Miami.

The Downtown Miami and Wynwood areas are actually gathering a few places and initiatives focusing on building-up Miami’s high-tech community. The Miami-based Simkins family, which made most of its financial success in the paper manufacturing business, has recently presented plans to the City of Miami to design the Miami Innovation District, an ambitious mixed-use real estate project that would be located near Downtown Miami and would offer thousands of square feet of retail, restaurants, small residential units for start-up creators and software engineers and approximately 4 million sf of office space targeting entrepreneur incubators and large technology multinationals such as Google or Yahoo. The project for the Miami Innovation District has not been approved yet, however, Miami is more economically vibrant then ever and will, at some point, become one of the US technology hubs we will be counting on.

 

Painted mural on one of the walls of the Trujillo and Sons food and beverage distribution center

Painted mural on one of the walls of the Trujillo and Sons food and beverage distribution center

Allapattah means alligator in Seminole indian language. This industrial area of Miami stands between the Airport expressway ( 112 ) and the Dolphin Expressway ( 836 ) and from NW 7 avenue ( a few blocks West of Wynwood ) to NW 27 avenue. Allapattah saw its first permanent settler in 1896. The neighborhood developed between 1896 and 1950 together with the growth of the Florida East Coast Railroad. One can notice many old railroad tracks crossing the roads. The area started welcoming African Americans in the 1960’s, as they were pushed away from their homes when interstate I-95 was being built. It also saw the arrival of many Cuban immigrants, leaving Cuba after the 1959 revolution. Immigrants from Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti arrived much later, in the 1980’s. Nowadays, Allapattah is a melting pot of residents and workers of the Caribbean, Central and South America. A growing number of white people are getting back to the area, as owners or managers of import-export of produce or meat, clothing manufacturing businesses or as real estate investors, purchasing warehouses at prices which are much more accessible than those of Wynwood or Doral and leasing them out to various tenants. These tenants work in the distribution, manufacturing, import-export or car repair industries. It is a working class neighborhood which hosts many warehouses. It is the heart of the produce, and food distribution such as for Trujillo and Sons Inc and Mr Greens Produce as well as clothing manufacturing businesses in Miami, low density multi-family buildings, and houses which were mostly built in the 1950’s. Allapattah offers a lot of affordable housing and is located just North of the Jackson and University of Miami medical centers. It is strategically located for a dot.com distribution center, storage center or refrigerated produce business since it is located close to major routes ( I-95, 112, 836 ) as well as the Miami River, Wynwood and Downtown.

warehouse in A

Warehouse in Allapattah

Photo from gaebler.com

Photo from gaebler.com

I recently attended a presentation coordinated by CREW Miami at the Four Seasons hotel on Brickell Avenue. It was the “2015 economic update”, presented by Hugh F. Kelly, Clinical Professor in New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, where he has taught for 30 years. According to his analysis, US cities which can offer a developing Downtown area as well as real estate assets based on rental income and long term increase in average property value are the ones that are currently attracting most investors as a time where stock markets are volatile. 366 million dollars where spent in buying commercial real estate in 2014 ( office buildings, multi-family buildings that have more than 4 units, warehouses, retail, shopping centers and land ). Twelve cities are included in the top list for commercial real estate sales in 2014 and Miami is one of them, together with cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Washington. In the category of holding hotels as a real estate asset, Miami ranks first, Brooklyn is number 4 and, believe it or not, Manhattan is number 13. In the category of holding multi-family/ apartment buildings, Brooklyn appears as number 1 and Miami as number 9. When it comes to the retail market, Brooklyn ranks number 1, Miami number 2 and New York number 3.

Photo from under30ceo.com

Photo from under30ceo.com

Among the interesting ideas that I picked from this presentation, I also heard that Generation Y ( those born between 1977 and 1994 ) represent 160 million people in the United States, which is approximately half of the total US population.

According to William J. Schroer, who wrote on “www.socialmarketing.org”, Generation Y can be defined as ” The largest cohort since the Baby Boomers, their high numbers reflect their births as that of their parent generation..the last of the Boomer Is and most of the Boomer II s. Gen Y kids are known as incredibly sophisticated, technology wise, immune to most traditional marketing and sales pitches…as they not only grew up with it all, they’ve seen it all and been exposed to it all since early childhood.” Hugh F. Kelly says that Miami’s attractiveness to the 25-34 year old demographic is increasing and approaching New York levels, which is interesting as, according to him, this crowd was way below US national average in Miami until 2000. This trend is now reversing and exploding.

O Cinema theater in Wynwood. Photo from www.localwiki.org

O Cinema theater in Wynwood. Photo from http://www.localwiki.org

Miami is a surprising city, where a 45-floor modern building can rise next to an old church or an abandoned warehouse, where a luxury store can stand next to a small neglected house from the thirties and where big chain retailers are neighbors to independent movie theaters. I love art movie theaters. Besides mostly featuring independent American and foreign movies, which can be refreshing once you have seen three blockbusters in a month, they somehow find a way to draw people away from their home or device screens, enhance a sense of community or revitalize some areas. Also, their architecture and their selection of quality movies and events definitely bring character to a few areas such as Tower Theater in Little Havana, or Coral Gables Art Cinema in Coral Gables, sitting across the street from independent bookseller Books & Books. Miami gathers an incredible choice of  independent movie theaters which aim at showing quality movies for adults and families that are not easily accessible in regular theaters and appeal to the multi-faceted demographics of South Florida.

Miami Beach Cinematheque. Photo from www.clandestinenola.com

Miami Beach Cinematheque. Photo from http://www.clandestinenola.com

O Cinema was created thanks to a matching grant from the Knight Foundation and now offers three venues : Wynwood, Miami Shores and Miami Beach ( on 71st Street ). The Miami Beach Cinematheque sits in a beautiful Art Deco building which used to be where the City of Miami Beach was. Bill Cosford Cinema may actually be the exception in regards to its architecture as it is located in a quite insignificant building at the University of Miami, in the Coral Gables campus. Miami-based Ana and Hans Morgenstern have an inspiring blog, www. indieethos.wordpress.com that offers reviews about movies which are mostly screened in these small theaters. This is also where most of Miami film festivals take place, such as the Miami Jewish Film Festival ( January 15-29,2015 ), the Miami International Film Festival ( March 6-15, 2015 ) and the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival ( April 24-May 3, 2015 ). Purchase your tickets for the upcoming Miami Jewish Film Festival as tickets often sell out long before the end of the current year. Happy holidays to all !

Photo from thegrio.com

Photo from thegrio.com

The 2014 Miami Art Week, which includes Art Basel Miami Beach and over 20 satellite fairs, is, as usual, taking place during the first week of December. It attracted approximately 75,000 visitors from around the world in December 2013. A combination of art fairs, museum, gallery exhibits, events, cultural programs and parties will make this week frenetic and somehow overwhelming considering that there is no possible way one can view or experience most of what Miami has to offer in a 7 day time period. For those wondering which art fair takes place where and when, click here. Some of this year’s highlights or changes are :

1 ) MOCA North Miami has a new director since last summer. Following a months-long litigation between the City of North Miami and the former MOCA board, the board has left the museum to open ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art, which unveils its temporary space this week in The Moore Building in the Design District.

2 ) Chinese painter and choreographer Shen Wei, who choreographed the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing olympic games, is having his first US museum solo exhibition and performance; “In black, white and grey “ at the Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami. His show will offer a combination of dance performance and an exhibition of the artist’s paintings.

3 ) After years of showcasing at the Ice Palace, Pulse art fair will be held this year under a tent in Indian Beach Park in Miami Beach ( 4601 Collins Avenue ).

4 ) Art Basel has partnered with Kickstarter in crowdfunding programs to help fund outstanding non-commercial arts projects from around the world.

5 ) As the gentrification of Wynwood is moving forward, rents have much increased. As a result, a few galleries and artist studios are leaving the area and moving further North to the Little River or Little Haiti neighborhoods or further South, near Downtown Miami.

6 ) The fairs are spreading out to various areas such as Miami Beach, Midtown and more recently to Downtown Miami ( Miami River Art Fair, Miami Street Photography Fair etc… ).

7 ) The traditional Art Basel Miami Beach MAM Ball has been replaced by a very sophisticated dinner and art experience that will take place at PAMM ( Perez Art Museum ), later in January 2015.

The future Faena Forum  ( Photo from Faena and OMA )

The future Faena Forum
( Photo from Faena and OMA )

Of course, many parties are taking place…after all, this is Miami ! Parties are organized by local museums, art collectors, gallery owners or by developers such the one that will be coordinated by Argentinian developer Alan Faena. Faena seeks to promote the Faena House and Residences, a six-block development in Miami Beach designed by Foster + Partners, which will include the former Saxony Hotel, the Versailles, the Claridge hotels, luxury residences, retail and garage spaces. It was also recently announced that the Faena Forum ( whis is apparently a temporary name ), an event and cultural program venue designed by architect Rem Koolhaas, will also be added to the mixed-used development. It will be the equivalent of the Faena Art Center located in Buenos Aires. Happy Art Basel Miami Beach week !

According to historian Henry Howe, Miami means “mother” in the Ottawa language and this was the word that designated one of the original Indian tribes who lived in the Miami valley. They would go up and down the river on their canoes, and this is also how the first white settlers arrived in Miami, around 1800, coming from the Ohio River to the upper portion of Florida. The Miami River hosts a few historic landmarks of Miami, such as Lummus Park, created in 1909, which entered the U.S. National Register of Historic Place in 2006 and Garcia’s, a fishing place and a restaurant which opened 35 years ago.

Miami River Greenway

Miami River Greenway

I recently attended a river tour, organized by the Miami Association of Realtors, which clearly showed how the Miami River area has been cleaned-up and revitalized over the past few years and, welcoming new residential projects, restaurants and waterfront walking pathways, which have have turned it into one of the most dynamic neighborhoods of Miami. It crosses various neighborhoods such as Brickell, Downtown, Little Havana, Allapattah and Overtown. A $89 million project cleaned-up the contaminated river water a few years ago. The Greenway, a public walking and bicycle trail, created in 2001, is still expanding along the historic Miami river. It offers waterfront landscaping and exercise opportunities, information kiosks, lighting, benches and outdoor art installations for residents and tourists. It goes along new residential towers, older and newer restaurants such as the to-be-seen-at Seasalt and Pepper as well as local marine businesses ( seawall designers, commercial fishing companies… etc ). On the upper side of the river, the Miami Mega Yacht Club will provide with 16 boat slips and a clubhouse and add another venue to the Epic Hotel and Marina to keep mega yachts. The medical and civic center, where the University of Miami medical school and hospital as well as where the Miami Richard E. Gerstein Justice building stand, are located east of the Miami River.

River Landing, the mixed-use project that will offer a mix of 445 residential homes, and 500,000 sf of retail, hopes to attract some of the 40,000 people who go to work daily to the medical and civic center. A few big box scale retailers have already signed-up such as LA Fitness. Also, the river is just a few blocks away from the Miami Marlins Park stadium and Little Havana. Going South of this area lies Snug Harbor, close to Point Park, where a low-density neighborhood showcases historical homes. I was told that one of them just sold for $1.5 millions.

Miami River marine business

Miami River marine business

Further South, in Brickell, Brickell City Centre, the $1 billion project developed by Hong-Kong based Swire Properties, is under construction and offers to purchase apartment/condos facing the river ( for some of them ). Also, a few new residential building have been announced such as 444 Brickell and Edge on Brickell. The Miami River commission just approved the construction of Sushi Samba and Duck & Waffle restaurants to be designed in a unique glass an wood design overlooking the river. Green spaces, business opportunities and life are indeed booming by the Miami River.

Photo This one BCC

Brickell City Centre

There are so many urban development projects currently going on in Miami that it’s almost impossible to be perfectly updated on each one of them. Large mixed-use developments are being built in various areas, from Doral to Downtown Miami and Bal Harbour, The Miami Design District and Miami Beach. Miami will become one of the most vibrant shopping destinations of the world, a sort of New York   ( Manhattan ), Dubai or Shanghai by the ocean with a sparkling Latino twist. Its identity is clearly evolving from a vacation destination to a more sophisticated and confident international metropolis. Brickell City Centre, developed by Hong-Kong-based Swire properties, is a $1.05 billion/11-acre project, which is currently under construction. It includes 700 Brickell and various blocks just West of Brickell, between SW 7th and SW 8th Streets. Its design should really change the way part of the Brickell area looks, with its see-through roof connecting the various sections of the development, from retail and restaurants to residential, from residential to office spaces. The Whitman Family Development, which owns and manages The Bal Harbour Shops, has signed an agreement with Swire Properties to manage the retail component of the project and recently announced that Saks Fifth Avenue will open a 107,000 sf anchor store there. The first residential tower, Reach, which is planned to be completed at the end of 2015, is said to have sold 70 % of its residences. The second residential building will start selling by the end of the year.

Miami WorldCenter, another major development, which will start construction during the first semester of 2015, in Downtown Miami, West of Biscayne Boulevard and Bayside Marketplace and just East of the future All Aboard Florida or Miami Central train station. The 10-block development will feature residential units, thousands of parking spaces and 765,000 sf of retail, including Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Miami WorldCenter is now launching Paramount, its first residential tower.

Expansion of The Miami Design District

Expansion of The Miami Design District

The Miami Design District is being expanded and has been going through major construction over the past two years, especially West of NE 2nd Avenue, between 38th and 40th streets. Miami-based developer Craig Robins will increase its retail space by approximately 30%, offering additional art, dining and luxury shopping experiences with boutiques such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Celine, Prada, Cartier and more as well as a few art galeries and furniture showrooms. Also, residential towers such as Baltus House and a large parking are being built. The Miami Design District aims at becoming the point of convergence of art, entertainment and luxury shopping in Miami.

Therefore, wherever you go around these neighborhoods, the value of office, retail and residential real estate is going-up. Its population of residents and businessmen/business women is expanding too.

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