Category Archives: CBD: Parkwest

Parkwest and Falcone Further Considered

The New Landlord of Parkwest

Under normal circumstances, Falcone’s plans for Parkwest would be astounding, but in Miami, normal circumstances are hard to come by. There are other projects that resemble Falcone’s vision for a city-within-a-city nearby: CitiSquare, Omni, and Midtown. In fact, his vision is simply the latest of Miami’s mega projects. This does not change the fact that his vision is unprecedented in scale and scope.

Since Lev Leviev and Shaya Boymelgreen acquired the Hank Sopher parcels beginning in 1999, they were the primary land owners in the area west of Bicentennial. Daniel Kodsi, around 2003 began his acquisition patterns in the area as well, and although busy developing Paramount Bay has yet to start Paramount Park. Today, the three real estate giants are no longer the landlords of Parkwest. The title is now Art Falcone’s. Let’s take a closer look at the area in question:

Map: The area highlighted in blue west of Bicentennial is where 85% of the Falcone acquisitions have taken place. North of the I-395 are two blue areas. The one south of 15th street is roughly the area allocated to Citi-Square, and the area north of it is the Omni. I have also repositioned the I-395 itself to illustrate, more or less, what the realignment of the over pass would look like. The current track of the I-395 is highlighted in green as the current FDOT plans call for the creation of park space along the current track once the project is completed.

With three mega-projects planned so near to one another, the prospects for the future of both Parkwest and the Media and Entertainment District are tantalizing big and forward-thinking. The trend seems to be the total overhauling of existing infrastructure in favor Miami 21 building guidelines; wider streets and avenues, new thoroughfares, more green space. The Falcone rendering even includes a rotunda and grand fountain on N.E. 1st Avenue.

Image: Rendering of the Parkwest plans from aerial vantage point

The plans seem to compliment the Parkwest’s newest towers well and are in the preliminary stages. However, with so many residential projects now stalled or canceled, it’s difficult for some to get enthusiastic about even this massive new development. If you have doubts about Falcone’s seriousness, then consider that other than strategically amassing this impressive Parkwest portfolio, in anticipation of executing to the best possible outcome, he and his team have traveled to

Europe, China, Dubai, Japan, India and across South America and the United States for ideas. Favorites include Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills, Paris’ Champs Elysées, Dallas’ Victory Park and Rio de Janeiro.”

and are collaborating with the likes Zyscovich and Elkus Manfredi. It’s clear that Falcone recognizes the historic opportunity for development he has in Parkwest. His international visits tell me that he and his team have high urbanism standards and want to apply the best urbanism ideas to their plans for the Magic City. Being in the heart of the Core, whatever happens in Parkwest will surely spill over an effect the CBD and M&E. Although early in the planning stages, owners at Parkwest’s newest condos must be rejoicing at the thought of Falcone’s plans, and they certainly shouldn’t be alone.

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Big Plans for Parkwest

Image: Rendering of the envisioned Parkwest

I have spent a considerable amount of time evaluating Parkwest’s prospects. Its location in the heart of the CBD, proximity to the proposed Museum Park, new ultra-luxurious condos, among other things, makes the neighborhood an important piece of Miami’s urban puzzle. Boca Raton builder Art Falcone, the latest billionaire in the Miami development mix, has, according to the latest Herald article (via-addictedtospace; skyscrapercity), quietly acquired 20 parcels in Kodsi and Boymelgreen-dominated Parkwest.

“the project has been the subject of intense planning and design for more than a year. Elements include offices and shops, hotels and meeting spaces, residences and entertainment and an educational component.”

The project’s plans are expected to coincide with the master plan being drawn up by Zyscovich’s firm. The project’s first phase plans are expected to be submitted to the city in the first quarter of next year.

More from BoB:

Identifying Signs of Urban Life: Parkwest’s Woes

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Skyline Gap a Reminder of Miami’s Possibilities

Image: The empty gap between Parkwest’s towers on the right and the Financial District to the left (Firefox users right click to view larger image).

In 2005, the Parkwest side was flat. Today, four towers are jutting into the sky. Most skyscraper enthusiasts have been envisioning this “Parkwest Wall” since the towers were announced, but now that they are a reality, there is a pronounced gap between Everglades on the Bay and Marina Blue.

Rendering: The Biscayne Wall as it would appear with Paramount Park and 600 Biscayne in the mix.

Four developments are planned within the gap. The Empire World Towers, Paramount Park, 600 Biscayne Building, and MDC Wolfson Campus building, would convert the area from a gap to the focal point of the skyline.

Rendering: The Oppenheim-designed MDC Wolfson building as it would look with 600 Biscayne and Paramount Park to the immediate north

Currently, there is no activity to speak of regarding any of these developments, but the plans are in place. It’s just another reminder of what could be. If the gap is filled with existing plans, Miami’s skyline, will for the first time appear seamless (no major gaps) from the MacArthur Causeway vantage point–that is until Island Gardens partially blocks the view.

Rendering: Empire World Towers

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Identifying Signs of Urban Life: Retail Activity (Parkwest’s Woes)

Image: The Marquis (left) and ten Museum Park (right)

This installment was supposed to be about Brickell Village, but I shuffled the order a bit and decided to start my retail potential focus at the center of the Core.

Parkwest has many problems. Let’s address them in no particular order:

Image: Greyhound Station with the Marquis tower looming in the background

Woe 1: The Greyhound Station

This is a repository for low income travelers from all over the country. Many of the homeless roaming the streets are from elsewhere. Greyhound is their common source of entry. The bus station is not compatible with the densification pattern of the Core. It occupies too much space and is an entry point for often unstable elements. As it is, there are no imminent plans to relocate the station.

Woe 2: Camillus House

Being Downtown’s homeless shelter, Camillus House is a natural center of gravity for homelessness. This means that the closer you are to it, the likelier you are to run into panhandling and vagrancy. There are, however, plans to relocate Camillus House west to the Civic Center area. This would reduce the high concentration of displaced persons on the streets. It’s not clear when that move will take place.

Woe 3: The I-395

Having a loud elevated highway run across the flank of your neighborhood is not good. Other than the ceaseless swoosh sound of the speeding traffic, the overpasses can serve to conceal drug deals and illicit activity, promulgate vagrancy, and hamper aesthetic appeal. Fortunately, the FDOT has plans to repositioning it north, ditch it, replace the existing overpass space with park land, and provide level bridge crossings to the newly visible (because the street level view north is currently blocked) M&E District. The timetable for the work has not been set. It should be remembered that the Opus tower was denied by the commission in order to preserve the FDOT’s plans. As encouraging as the plans are, don’t expect the work to start anytime soon.

Image: 1st Avenue View of East Overtown from Parkwest

Woe 4: Overtown

Overtown for years was taboo for people in the suburbs. It was the place you didn’t drive through. Sad, considering the neighborhood was, at one point, a thriving cultural hub for Miami’s Black community. The construction of the I-95 and displacement of about half of Overtown’s residents put an immediate end to that. Today, most of Overtown lies beyond the I-95. The smaller remnant to the east of I-95 meets Parkwest at N.W. 1st Avenue. As one would expect from a ravaged community, Overtown is unstable. Economically, it is in a state of decay. It’s low income and historically plagued with a high crime rate.

Woe 5: Infrastructure

Parkwest lacks cross walks and pedestrian lights. Its sidewalks are in a state of disrepair. With the exception of vacant lots, there are no places to park. The streets are uneven, dirty, and riddled with potholes. There is nothing in the way of landscaping and little in the way of greenery.

Woe 6: Security
The combination of having a high concentration of low income housing units and a homeless shelter creates a security problem. Drug distribution and use is more common. At night, there is little sense of security unless you are near a club and in a group.

Image: Parkwest; empty streets and neglected buildings

Woe 7: Stagnant Retail sector

Parkwest lacks shops of any kind. In so far as retail activity is concerned, it is a void. This means that incoming residents don’t have many services or goods to procure in their immediate surroundings. That’s a fancy way of saying nothing to eat or buy here. Pretty much, there is no retail foundation. Things would have to start from scratch.

Like Woe

There are some serious progress impediments in Parkwest. Through a retailer standpoint, Parkwest is not desirable at this point. However, retailers also have to think about long term potential. By virtue of setting up shop, a retailer becomes vested in the community. Understanding what track the community is heading in, whether positive or negative, is vital in influencing retail activity. On the surface, Parkwest’s retail potential is questionable, but what happens when one digs deeper? What’s happening under the surface? Does the news get better or is urban vitality going to have to wait? This will be considered as we go from Parkwest’s woes to its pros.

(To be Continued…)

Parkwest Map

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Where Overtown Meets Parkwest

Image: A scenic N.W. 1st Avenue with the Miami Arena to the right

Visionary Mode

It never fails. Every time I am in the vicinity of N.W. 1st Avenue and the old Miami Arena, visionary mode kicks in. Visionary mode, by the way, is when an area’s potential is blindingly bright, despite its existing blighted state. This little section of the CBD is located, more or less, where Overtown meets Parkwest.

Here are 10 11 reasons why I like it:

  1. The metro rail runs through it and there is a station servicing the area
  2. The FEC corridor, which is a likely future public transit route runs through the heart of the neighborhood to further supplement the hood’s transit potential
  3. N.W. 1st Avenue, which runs through the center of the neighborhood, is palm tree lined, and has a spacious median, making the Avenue pedestrian, auto, and eye friendly.
  4. Glenn Straub owns the Miami Arena and the site represents a potential development catalyst for the area, depending on what the Wellington-based millionaire finally does with the property. At first he considered re-utilizing it, then selling it, now razing it to the ground in place of a new development. He didn’t spend 28 some odd million dollars for nothing. Look to see some action soon.
  5. Logik, a proposed office development, is planned for the neighborhood
  6. Miami-Dade Transit recently relocated its offices to a new state-of-the-art building in the neighborhood
  7. It’s a short walk away from the heart of the CBD, Biscayne Bay, and burgeoning Media and Entertainment District
  8. Parkwest flanks the east side of the neighborhoods with hundreds of millions worth in new development
  9. Miami 21 zones it T6, which means it will be ripe and ready for further densification
  10. The area is heavily under utilized, under valued, and filled with vacant land (this means it’s a blank canvas for new development).
  11. The FDOT’s future plans to reposition the I-395 would add park space to the northern boundary of the area

Activity

There are currently two large scale residential developments: the Madison and Park Place. The former being a condo and the latter being an apartment complex. The periphery of the area is riddled with low income housing. The average Joe probably wouldn’t feel comfortable riding a bike or walking through this neighborhood due to the presence of vagrants and murky elements. Still, the area, despite its lackluster on-the-surface appearance has much going for it and will likely see a transformation within the next couple of years. Sorry gentrification activists.

Neighborhood Map

Image: Map of the area. The blue line represents the existing Metrorail line, the red line represents the FEC rail line (probable future public transit line), The red plot is the site for the proposed Logik, the green plot represents the new site for Miami-Dade transit, and the Orange represents the Miami Arena.

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Your Crummy Building Has Ad Potential

Are vacancies keeping you down?

Have you tried everything?

Don’t fire the leasing manager just yet. You can join the billboard building bandwagon today:

Tenants don’t need the windows. Hurry up. Spaces are limited.

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Under Utilization in the CBD: Part II (Historic Designations)

Image: The Related Group’s Loft II (left) and the historic Congress Building (right)

Continued from Part I

Historic Designations

Since the CBD is filled with antiquated structures, there are many that stand no hope of restoration and rehabilitation, but there are some examples of historic buildings with potential for adaptive reuse. I’ll defer to Chapter 23 of the City Code, which sets forth a set of 8 criteria for the designation of a historic structure/site worthy of preservation:

  1. Are associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the past
  2. Are the site of a historic event with significant effect upon the community, city, state, or nation
  3. Exemplify the historic, cultural, political, economical, or social trends of the community
  4. Portray the environment in an era of history characterized by one or more distinctive architectural styles.
  5. Embody those distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or method of construction
  6. Are an outstanding work of a prominent designer or builder
  7. Contain elements of design,detail, materials, or craftsmanship, of outstanding quality or which represent a significant innovation or adaptation to the Florida environment
  8. Have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history

At least one of the requisites must be met for designation consideration. Having said that, let’s take a look at some of the structures that have already been designated as historic by the HEPB, so that we can assess the current state and composition of preservation in the CBD:

Image: Chipped masonry in the Courthouse facade

Dade County Courthouse

Completed in 1928, the Dade County Courthouse is built in the Neo-Classical style. The structure is currently being rehabilitated. The masonry as you can see from the image above is chipped in several places. This remarkably designed granite-covered building is one of the City’s most recognizable historic structures.

Image: Ingraham Building (above)

Ingraham Building

Built in 1927 in the “Chicago School” style of architecture, the Ingraham Building is one of the most intricately designed and historically impacting buildings in the CBD. One feels a deep sense of history when looking at and entering the building. It was renovated in 1990 and is currently houses professional offices and wholesale jewelry and diamond businesses. It is a staple of vintage urbanism in the CBD.

Huntingtion Building

As distinctive as the Huntington Building is with its knight-sculpture adorned crown, it remains easily overlooked. The building was completed in 1925 during the land boom and resulted in the developer going bankrupt during the ensuing bust. The Huntington Building is situated directly across the vacant lot for the proposed Loft 4 development and is an architectural gem.

Image: Congress Building surrounded by the Lofts I and II, and Everglades on the Bay

Congress Building

Completed in 1926 in the Neo-Classical architectural style, the Congress Building is actually composed of two separate buildings united as one. Surrounded on almost all sides by new construction, the Congress building strikes one as evidence of the boom meshing with old urbanism in the CBD. The least impressive of the designated historic structures, the Congress Building still encapsulates a unique architectural style.

Image: Dupont Building facade and interior

Alfred I. Dupont Building

The A.I. Dupont Building was completed in 1937, and at the time, was symbolic of Miami’s rise out of the depression. Designed in the Moderne architectural style that was common during the era, the Dupont Building has an ornate and intricate interior that alludes to local history. Currently, the building is home to law firms, jewelry businesses, and an assortment of professional suites.

Image: Theater main entrance

Olympia Theater Building (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts)

The first air-conditioned building in Miami, the second atmospheric theater in the U.S, and a fine example of American movie palace architecture, the Olympia Theater Building (Gusman Center for the Performing Arts), stands out as one of Miami’s most special buildings. Here, the intricacy of the masonry is evident from all angles, and the interior is arresting. The Olympia is across the street from the Dupont and a block away from the Ingraham.

Image: The old Walgreens Building

Walgreens Building

When the Walgreens was originally built in 1936, City residents viewed it as a sign of recovery in the City. The 1.6 million dollar construction cost, at the time, was staggering. The building’s Streamline Modern style is still striking today. Owned by the Alono family, the 5-story building is home to La Epoca department store.

 

 

Image: Close up of the Security Building’s distinctive crown

 

Not Included Here

I left out a couple of historic buildings in the CBD (the Post Office building, First National Bank, and Security Building are covered in the Vintage Urbanism in the CBD post). The Freedom Tower stands apart from those designated as historic in the CBD interior since it is rather well protected and will be incorporated into the 600 Biscayne development. The City National Bank Building, although designated as historic, did not strike me as being particularly impressive.

Undesignated Historic Structures

There are also quite a few historic buildings (i.e.: Burdines-Macy’s Building, Seybold Building) that one would expect to be included on the designation list but are not, these will be the subject of the next installment as the question of adaptive reuse is considered and we finally quantify (approximate) the proportion of historic structures with reuse potential versus those under utilized structures that need to bit hit with a wrecking ball.

(To be continued…)

 

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Museum Park Plans Questioned

According to Riptide 2.0 (The Miami New Times blog), Museum Park plans (Miami Art Museum and Museum of Science and Planetarium)are getting complicated by diverging viewpoints. At Wednesday’s public meeting in the PAC, a group called Neighborhoods United claimed that the plan did not include enough open park space. This was reiterated by several people in the crowd, including a group called Citizens Against Everything Bad. Some concern was based in part on an initiative that was voted on by City residents in 1974 that would ensure green space at Bicentennial Park.

These folks are thinking about an initiative that took place 34 years ago. 34 years ago the level of massive construction in Miami would have been unimaginable. Much has changed since then and basing their arguments on a 1974 vote seems like an archaic way of going about dealing with the current state of development affairs and planning for the future. This is not to say that past initiatives should be disregarded, but 34 years is a long time. In looking at Copper Robertson’s plans, there seems to be plenty of green space incorporated.

It is not a matter of discrediting the legitimate concerns of Neighbors United, but frankly, what is more important, more open space or larger world class centers of culture and learning? Apparently, these folks feel that the actual structures need to be scaled down in order to accommodate more green space. This would come at a high cost: a decrease in space for exhibitions, fewer lessons to be taught to our children, less art to be admired, etc. The emphasis needs to be on fostering culture and knowledge not having more space to have picnics and walk dogs. Certainly the plan should be balanced but more important are the museums themselves not the green space outside.

The City of Miami has several under utilized urban parks that need funds to improve their use. It would be a good idea to put pressure on the City to use added tax revenues for a more effective public parks master plan than it is to stress more green space in the proposed Museum Park. Bringing up these issues is constructive, but one must factor in the compromises that would have to be made in order to accommodate their requests. In doing so, most will see that the cost of facility reduction outweighs the benefits of more green space.

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The Miami Bay/River Promenade: A Dream or Reality?

There has been much speculation concerning the construction of a Bay/ River walkway from the Miami River north to Margaret Pace Park. It was said that funding would come from the half-penny sales tax as well as a government bond. However, little has been published that would indicate that the project has gone past a feasibility study. Miami’s Downtown Transportation Master Plan makes reference to the walkway and extends it to Margaret Pace Park. Developers in the North Bayshore Drive area have told prospective buyers that the walkway would reach the park, but there is no confirmation that the walkway will be built—even less reach Pace Park, which would be the ideal scenario. This is important because the city may cut back funding and possibly reduce the scale of the walkway—in consideration of the looming property tax crisis.

Such a walkway would make the bay front area of the city much friendlier to tourists, residents, and visitors. It would significantly boost the value of the surrounding land and residences. It would benefit all the establishments on it or near it by providing easier access to and from them and stimulate business growth. It would provide an excellent pedestrian link from the Miami River neighborhoods to the bay front neighborhoods, thus creating a more connected urban community. The benefits are several and clear. So, then, what is the status of this project? Is there funding? Where is the money finally coming from? Is the project done being researched? There are many more questions surrounding this exciting proposal.

Pedro Martin’s Terra Group has plans to build a public walkway as part of their 63 story planned tower near the Venetian causeway. Currently, along the Grand and Marriot, there is something of a walkway. Pace Park has a sidewalk along the bay, but it is not a bay walkway. Bicentennial is well positioned to accommodate one—pending the outcome of the Museum Park plans. Bayside, for all intensive purposes, is one. Bayfront Park, already has a semblance of a walkway, although it would have to be modified. South of Bayfront Park stands the Intercontinental Hotel and One Miami projects, which will serve as the junction point between the Miami River and the Bay front area. There are, however, many physical obstacles in the way: the inlet next to the AAA, the I-395, and all the individual buildings and venues (many of which do not have any semblance a walkway). Additionally, there are so many infrastructure lapses and proposed initiatives that many in the city don’t currently care to entertain the idea of a walkway. All of the Miami River projects have been required to incorporate public river walk space into their schemes, thus making it easier to consolidate all the river walkways. However, it is not clear how or who will manage the walkway should it exist.

The bay/river walkway will serve as a sort “cherry on top” of Miami’s urban sundae if you will. It is not necessary but boy would it be a perfect addition. I do, however, not want to understate the potential significant impact such a project would have on the surrounding area. It will serve as a repository for tourists and visitors in downtown. The views of the buildings from the promenade will be some of the best in the city. It will certainly add to Miami’s emerging “world-class” status. The only problem is the lack of information. The DDA’s website has gotten much more user friendly, but does not contain much information on the plan. Miami-Dade’s website doesn’t do much better—it references the project as a bike path. The funding being designated at 1,000,000 seems too low–begging the question of whether this is a seperate similar project or linked to the promenade initiative. On this end, the information is incomplete, and the desire to attain it is serious. BOB will certainly devote quite a bit of time to uncovering the status, potential, cost, and other factors surrounding this vital project.

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The Landlords of Parkwest: Leviev/Boymelgreen and Daniel Kodsi

PARKWEST LAND ACQUISITION MAP:

RED: Daniel Kodsi BLUE: Leviev/Boymelgreen

Lev Leviev and Shaya Boymelgreen are the biggest land owners in Parkwest, but Daniel Kodsi is stepping up to the plate. Leviev and Boymelgreen’s parcels are smaller than Kodsi’s large parcels. LB’s land acquisitions, for the most part, took place either in 1999 or shortly thereafter. The parcels were acquired from local parking lot magnate Hank Sopher. Until 2005, Leviev and Boymelgreen had been the undisputed landlords of Parkwest. In 2005, Daniel Kodsi acquired several significant parcels in the neighborhood. This pattern is important to see because it indicates that these two separate entities are likely to be the most active in changing the area and capitalizing off of its progress. It also indicates that these developers consider the area to be a high priority on their land portfolio. The entire west side of N.E. 2nd Avenue from 11th street till 7th street is owned by either Leviev/Boymelgreen or Daniel Kodsi. For all intensive purposes they are the landlords of what is fast becoming one of Miami’s most important urban neighborhoods. In studying land acquisitions, one will find that Parkwest is where Leviev/Boymelgreen has the biggest cluster of parcels. Considering their extensive financial resources, development experience, and ambitious current plans, one can almost count on them transforming Parkwest to the point of being unrecognizable. Kodsi’s presence in the neighborhood implies that his Paramount Park project was more of a bridgehead in the area, while these later acquisitions are a sort of invasion into the heart of Parkwest. He will have room for at least two more major developments on parcels located on the west side of N.E. 2nd avenue on 9th and 10th streets—behind 10 Museum Park and 900 Biscayne respectively. Leviev’s plans for Marquis West on their N.E. 2nd avenue and 11th street lot indicate that their future projects will be similarly dense. Although high density is a safe guess, it’s not clear what Daniel Kodsi will do with his parcels to the south of the Marquis West. Considering all of his Paramount projects, he is likely to think and act big. Under the surface, Parkwest is rumbling with activity. Look for these development juggernauts to steamroll forward with big plans for Parkwest soon.

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