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South Beach ACE project

South Beach ACE project

After a few years of non-construction in residential and mixed-used projects, retail and office inventory has been going down in many key areas of Miami-Miami Beach. There is now so much going on and so many urban and suburban developments taking place or in the pipeline that I have decided to break them down into a series of posts. Each part will be presenting a new project which will be transforming the area forever.

PART 1 presents the new Miami Beach Convention Center project, which I wrote about not too long ago. This is the one making the news right now as one of the final bidders, South Beach ACE, just won the competition . Also, the project has been raising some vivid reactions in a few layers of the community. South Beach ACE, who gathers architects Dan Tishman, who is behind the One World Trade Center in New York, Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect and professor in Architecture and Design at the graduate school of Harvard University and local developer Robert Wennett, who is behind the garage and retail stores at 1111 Lincoln Road. The ambitious 52 acre, over $1 billion development will redevelop the convention center as well a create a hotel, parks, parking garage and possibly new residential and retail spaces. The controversy surrounding the project partly lies on the fact that some Miami Beach residents, politicians and activists are questioning the fact that the City of Miami Beach would be leasing the land where the project will be built to South Beach ACE, leaving the new landlord with a lot of power to decide on the land use. A referendum will be taking place on November 5. If new retail spaces are created, they will add competition to the current Lincoln Road stores, which already hosts some big names such as Apple, BCBG Max Azria, Desigual, H&M, Forever 21 and should welcome a ZARA flagship store in the upcoming months. Also, the new residential units would add freshly built condos to a neighborhood where most of the homes are Art Deco apartments and houses built between the Thirties and the Fifties.

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Waterfront walkway in the Brickell area

Waterfront walkway in the Brickell area

After years of discussion and often conflicting views, The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County are finally moving forward with creating continuous waterfront walkways along the Miami River and from Biscayne Bay- Edgewater to the Rickenbacker Causeway. I wrote a post about new constructions and restaurants located along the Miami River a while ago, but some of these projects have changed and the waterfront walking areas have extended or are about to be created. Miami is an incredible city in many ways but despite the fact that it’s surrounded by water and has a river that runs through it, it’s not organized at all when it comes to walking along the water ( not the beach ). Furthermore, many portions of the city lack trees that bring shade. Unlike cities around the world like Tampa, Sydney or Paris, many of the Miami waterfront walking paths are not connected to each other and the main reason for it is due to the fact that these potentially pedestrian areas are a mix of privately and publicly owned pieces of land. Also, the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve Act protects some portions of the bay from local development. As an example of the conflicting situations raised by the development of the 15-mile waterfront route is what is happening between Ugo Colombo, the developer of glamorous Epic condominium and hotel and the City of Miami. The developer was supposed to tear down its sales center a while ago, as it is obstructing the continuity of the waterfront walkways in the Downtown area.

What is currently happening in Downtown Miami, where Museum Park will be hosting a waterfront pedestrian promenade, will surely boost the development of continuous walkways. Area residents and tourists will find so pleasant to walk around instead of always jumping in a taxi or in their car that these new habits should motivate building owners, activists and public officials to move the idea further. However, these simple changes require a lot of legal settlements and funding sources. FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District gave a $5.8 million grant to help develop waterfront projects behind the American Airlines Arena, including seawall designing, permitting, construction, landscaping and lighting.

Future Flagler On The River rental condo and office space building

Future Flagler On The River rental condo and office space building

The development of waterfront walking, running, rollerblading and cycling will hopefully become an increasing attraction in Miami, for residents and visitors alike and the opening of more waterfront restaurants will surely enhance business and entertainment opportunities. Also, a few waterfront condominium and office buildings will see their occupancy rate  and value grow as these projects are coming along, such as buildings like Icon Brickell, Ivy, Mint etc… Also, Flagler On The River, a rental condominium building started construction a few months ago. It is located on the Miami Rover, at 356 W Flagler street and will offer 300 rental units located on 32 floors, as well as office space and a waterfront restaurant on the first floor.

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Welcome to Miami Beach signYears of discussion about renovating the outdated Miami Beach Convention Center have led to a fierce redevelopment plan competition. There are now two firms competing for the final of the mega project to renovate and redevelop 52 acres in the middle of Miami Beach, including the Miami Beach Convention Center, the ugly 17th street parking garage, the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the Fillmore-Jackie Gleason theater. This is the largest urban development, costing over $1 billion, to be designed in South Florida. The final two competing teams are led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels ( who is the designer behind BIG for Grove at Grand Bay new construction project which just broke ground in Coconut Grove ) for Tishman’s South Beach ACE Design.

Project designed by Rem Koolhaas

Project designed by Rem Koolhaas

Both projects are designed by European architects who probably understand somehow better how to design urban centers that connect to the rest of the city. Rem Koolhaas offers to link the new project to Lincoln Road while Bjarke Ingels incorporates a connection to the New World Symphony building on 17th street. Both developments feature a renovated convention center – build on and around the current one -, a hotel, a ballroom, a cultural center,  residential units and retail. We should find out which team will win the bid on July 17th.

Each mega development project attracts some controversy and this one is no exception. First, the City of Miami Beach owns the land, however, it is planning on leasing it for 99 years to the developer who wins the bid. Many are saying the city has enough funds and should not lease its land. Second, leasing the land for a century to a private developer would allow this company to take over control over the use of the land, which infuriates many residents, including organization Let Miami Beach Decide, which is asking for a referendum on the project.

Project designed by Bjarke Ingels

Project designed by Bjarke Ingels

What I personally wonder is why the current convention center will not be knocked down to create a totally new building. From what I read about the topic, the structure of the existing convention center will remain and the new developments will be built on top of it and around it. Where will the Miami Boat Show, Art Basel Miami Beach and other main local fairs will take place during renovation time ?

Although the additional retail and hotel spaces will certainly add competition to the retail spaces located on Lincoln Road and the hotels lined up along Collins Avenue, the current office, retail and residential markets ( for rent or sale ) of the area will keep increasing in value, especially around 17th street, James, Meridian avenue and its surroundings.

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Perez Art Museum Miami ( under construction )

Perez Art Museum Miami
( under construction )

There is so much happening in a few areas of Miami that it is sometimes challenging to keep track of those changes. What is currently happening in the Brickell-Downtown area of Miami is the perfect example of how a city as diversified and innovative as Miami is able to reinvent itself. Within a few weeks, the Whitman family, owner of the famous Bal Harbour Shops has announced its financial and marketing involvement in the future mixed-used development Brickell CityCenter, to open in 2015,  and the new Perez Art Museum Miami, set to open at the end of 2013,  has already published its calendar of exhibitions for 2014. After seeing some of their major tenants leaving their Bal Harbour location, such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermes etc… for the Miami Design District, the owners of Bal Harbour Shops decided to help luxury retail expand in Miami instead of fighting against it. They have decided to help Swire Properties, the owner of Brickell CityCenter to build and manage the future sf 520,000 combination of offices, condos, hotel and retail. On the other hand, the Miami Art Museum, which is relocating at Museum Park ( left of the American Airlines Arena )  and being renamed after real estate mogul Jorge Perez donated $35 million in funding and artwork, will showcase an exquisitely designed museum, built by famous Swiss architect firm Herzog and De Meuron . The museum will seat on a 29-acre piece of land and will offer public parks and museum exhibits of  locally and internationally established local and international artists.  

The multitude of condominiums located in the area; Vizcayne, Marquis, Ten Museum Park, Marina Blue, Wind, Mint, Plaza on Brickell, Brickell on The River,  just to name a few, have seen their value increase over the past three years…As  Downtown Miami is going through dramatic redesign changes and is soon to become a hot cultural and entertainment spot, the value of local real estate is not ready to go down any time soon.

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Wynwood Graffiti buildingTony Goldman, the visionary man who transformed Soho in New York, the Art Deco area in Miami Beach and the Wynwood industrial hub into a contemporary art district and bohemian social neighborhood, passed away in September. He left a strong legacy of entrepreneurship and creative endeavours which are now followed by his children and his working team through Goldman Properties; Jessica Goldman Srebnick and Joey Goldman. I heard Tony Goldman was planning on transforming NW 5th avenue into a sort of high-end Fifth Avenue. The current wholesale stores would have to shut down or relocate further West. For now, new additions have appeared in the Wynwood Arts District and new projects are in the pipeline. The Wynwood Walls have expanded, including new mural paintings from Shepard Fairey and Kenny Scharf.

Current NW 5th avenue in Wynwood

Current NW 5th avenue in Wynwood

Goldman Properties will be building the first residential property in the area called The Wynwood House as well as The Green Space, a sf 10,000 warehouse conversion utilizing natural elements and green features. A Montessori School has opened on 23rd St and NE 2 avenue, close to the trendy children’s store Genius Jones. Also, a new cool barbecue eatery, Pride and Joy, has appeared on 28th street and North Miami Avenue and, believe it or not, a local beer factory may choose Wynwood for its headquarters.

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Art Miami tent

Happy Art-Baseling ! I love this time of the year, when South Florida weather becomes cooler and the small Art Basel Miami Beach flags are spread out around Miami streets, announcing the upcoming week of art fairs, art related events, special exhibits, public art installations and parties. This is such an exciting time and despite the heavy traffic during the first few days of December, Miami gets filled with thousands of art gallery owners and art collectors flying in from all over the world. You can easily tell who is visiting; they just look different. Of course, it is impossible to do it all in just a few days, there is just too much to do and see. I will not be able to describe half of what will be happening this year but let’s try to focus on a few art fairs and events not to be missed. The main fair, Art Basel Miami Beach, will take place as always at the Miami Beach Convention Center ( December 6-10 ), the second major fair; Art Miami ( Dec 5-9 ) will take place in a tent in Midtown and is adding a sister fair this year, Context Art Miami. This new fair will take place in a neighboring tent and will showcase galleries representing emerging and mid-career artists. The Overture art fair will also be hosted in a tent in Midtown, presenting 100 works of art from Warhol. It has been a few years now that most of the fairs take place between South Beach ( Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami…) and Midtown ( Art Miami, Context, Scope, Red Dot etc…) with the exception of a few great ones located in North of Downtown Miami ( Pulse ) and on 67th and Collins ( Nada ). In addition to its 257 art galleries from all over the world, Art Basel Miami Beach will keep on offering public events and art installations such as Art Video, presenting videos created by artists and projected from dawn to dusk on the New World Center SoundScape ( large outdoor screen on 17th and Collins ) and Art Public, featuring art installations in Collins Park. For further information about the galleries and multitude of events organized by Art Basel Miami Beach, check out the public program featured on their website or download their very cool new smartphone app.

Pop-Up Piano Miami will present eight pianos painted by various artists and placed in outdoor spots in Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District. The UR1 Music & Art Festival will take place in Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami, on December 8th and 9th, offering musical performances of singers such as Kanye West as well as art installations. Another new addition to this year’s performances is the 90-foot-long alligator head that will be floating around Biscayne Bay waters…interesting ! Of course, each local gallery and museum has prepared specific exhibits and their must-be-seen-at VIP opening parties. Local art collectors are opening their exhibition spaces to the public. As always, art and extravaganza will be everywhere in Miami during the first few days of December ( December 1-10 ).

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New Miami Trolley

I can’t be the only one to have noticed these old-fashioned looking green and orange trolleys, going around the Downtown Miami, Brickell and Brickell Key areas over the past few days. This is one of the new initiatives of the City of Miami and the Downtown Development Agency to offer alternative transportation options to South Florida residents and visitors. The free Miami Trolley offers a ride every 15 mns, stopping on Brickell, Brickell Key, Downtown, Bayside Marketplace and the new Marlins baseball stadium. Its route should be expanding to the Arscht Center, Overtown, Wynwood and possibly Midtown and the Miami Design District within the next few weeks and months. This is one of the examples of the current or future  transportation solutions that are or will be offered to help us work and live without being so dependant on our cars.

Some of the other current transportation projects include buses that are now connecting Sunrise and Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Downtown Miami, Tropical Pedicabs, which go from Mary Brickell Village, to Downtown Miami and the new Marlins stadium. Within the next few weeks, Car2go will be offering 250 two-car seat Smart cars available for short trips and the City of Miami will also provide Miami residents and visitors with a bike share program which is similar to the one which has been blossoming in Miami Beach. There are other projects in the pipeline and these new transportation options will take some time to become effective and popular, however, I am very pleased to see how energetic the city is in responding to the booming population living and playing in the Brickell and Downtown Miami areas.

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