Anyone who’s tracked Miami’s development long enough knows that fancy renderings need be taken with a grain of salt. Onyx 2, sister of BAP designed Onyx (completed), never disturbed the ground.
Category Archives: Uptown: Edgewater
I’ll have a double espresso and a glance at the neighborhood economies, please. Starbucks can provide more than an array of caffeine rich products. It can tell us a bit about the vitality of neighborhood economies. How? Hours of operation.
Starbucks and the Hood
Starbucks is an indicator of neighborhood economic activity because its operating hours, more often than not, coincide with that of its neighbors. For example, in South Beach, Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road and Pennsylvania closes at 2AM on Saturdays, a half hour after Starbucks across the street. Nearby Van Dyke Cafe opens its doors one hour after Starbucks, daily. In Brickell, Publix (in Mary Brickell Village) opens its doors a little over an hour after the nearby Starbucks, and PF Changs, right around the corner, closes at the same time as Starbucks on Saturdays and just one hour later on the weekdays. The correlations repeat wherever you go. Continue reading
Image: Midtown Four and Midblock
The Foremost Symbol of Miami’s Emerging Urbanism
Midtown Miami is, in many ways, the most obvious symbol of Miami’s rapid urban transformation. It exhibits Miami’s architectural star power, represents the most ambitious push west for urbanism in the city thus far, sits on a formerly blighted and infrastructureless area of the city, and incorporates large-scale commercial and residential elements. For all intensive purposes, it is a city-within-a-city.
Image: The shops at Midtown Miami’s northwest side
The Skeptics Viewpoint
Yet, despite this, there are those that recall the past failure of the much hyped Omni Mall when considering Midtown’s prospects for success. However natural this historic allusion may seem, the Omni, which never had the residential component Midtown has, is currently owned by a New York-based firm with billion dollar plans that span 10-15 years. Suffice to say times have changed. Then there are those that claim the project is too vast and will never be fully completed. This is to suppose that after all that has taken place, the remaining land and phases are going to be disregarded. This is hogwash, as I see it.
Image: West entrance into the Shops at Midtown Miami
What Prospects Does Midtown Miami Present for Uptown’s Future?
Sunset Place in South Miami is a good starting point for considering how a large-scale destination-retail facility can affect its periphery. Before I continue, I am in no way claiming that Sunset Place is a model for Midtown to emulate, rather I am using it as an example of the effects of a large-scale destination-retail facility on its periphery. Acting as an anchor luring thousands of visitors to the heart of South Miami, Sunset Place’s southern flank along Sunset Drive has become a hub of economic activity. There are restaurants, taverns, wine bars, lounges, stores, and cafes along Sunset Drive across the facility. Each of them is a testament to Sunset Place’s catalytic effects.
Image: Sunset Place in South Miami
Is Midtown Miami’s Peripheral Effect to Be Any Different?
There are those who argue that South Miami is a more stable section of the city with an enclave of well-off single family homeowners in the surrounding the area. This same argument is predicated upon the idea that Midtown is in the inner city where stability is fleeting at best. Naturally, the “inner city” refers to the Wynwood area that only within the last few years began gaining recognition as the center of a burgeoning art scene, but remains, for the most part, largely overlooked by visitors and tourists. We’ll get further into the Wynwood aspect later in the post, but to suggest this is also to ignore the presence of two nearby exclusive bay front communities: Bay Point and Morningside. These two neighborhoods are no slouches when measuring affluence. Edgewater’s rising prominence will add luster to Midtown’s prospects as well.
Image: Restaurants, taverns, and cafes across from Sunset Place
What Makes Midtown Miami Different?
Aside from the three aforementioned neighborhoods, Midtown Miami is situated next to two highly distinctive urban nodes: the Design District and Wynwood Arts District.
Image: Underutilized properties directly across from Midtown Miami.
The Design District’s Dacra-propelled plans and resulting buzz has lured numerous high-profile international tenants into the aesthetically alluring DD. Although some would describe the Design District as movie-set-like, that is to say absent of real life, there should be no doubt as to Craig Robins’ knack for smelling out the City’s next hot spot. Positive developments and activity in the Design District are sure to have a spillover effect on Midtown Miami and vice-versa.
Then, of course, there is the Wynwood Arts District, which for years, while simply known as Wynwood, had the stigma of an unsafe inner city neighborhood. Today, the hood is at the forefront of Miami’s art scene. There is a greater concentration of art galleries in Wynwood than in Coral Gables or Miami Beach. So many, in fact, that there is a website dedicated to tracking and showcasing them. However, on the surface, Wynwood doesn’t exude this fact. Passing by the neighborhood, only a keen eye will notice the various little galleries that dot the place. But, let’s be serious, Wynwood is gritty not commercial. It’s a neighborhood that is propelled by earnest passion for art not a desire to be accepted. Wynwood represents a breaking of the mold while Midtown represents a casting of it. Given such opposing characteristics, it’ll be interesting to see how the neighborhoods interact with one another.
Image: More under utilized properties across from Midtown Miami. Notice the neatly landscaped median–attributed to Midtown
The Midtown Periphery As It Is
Currently, there isn’t much new activity attributed to Midtown Miami around its periphery. This is natural since Midtown has yet to establish itself. Midtown Miami is the product of a NY-based development firm. In looking at land acquisitions in the periphery, almost all of the parcels located north of Midtown Miami are owned by NY-based firms. There is no direct connection to Cayre-Samuel that I’ve seen. Not surprisingly, the west flank of MM–and farthest from active Edgewater–has the least activity in terms of recent acquisitions. In other words, the most recent acquisitions took place in 2004, and the majority have been held for at least 7 years or, in most cases, longer. The south and east sides of Midtown are also lax on new acquisitions. If Midtown is to trigger activity along its periphery, then many existing land owners may just be playing a waiting game until the timing is right to make a move.
Image: Cynergi, which would never have been built were it not for Midtown Miami, is a prime example of the positive effect Midtown Miami presents to the area.
In anticipating the type of commercial activity that may take place around Midtown, the Sunset Place comparison becomes useful. Currently, Midtown doesn’t really offer dining options. The Design District does a better job at filling the void, but Midtown remains depressingly behind in this respect.
It’s a simple formula: where there is big box retail and new residential towers, we can expect restaurants, lounges, wine bars, and cafes to follow suit.
Sunset Place bore witness to this and Midtown Miami shouldn’t be any different. Will this happen in a few months? Of course freaking not! It will take a couple of years gradual and often painstakingly slow progress–which I will endeavor to cover–before people realize that the area is truly phenomenal. It boggles my mind to think that people doubt the positive influence that MM and the DD will have on the Uptown area. It just seems so shortsighted to me. I have heard people say that South Beach’s heyday is over and the Urban Core has only one way to go: up. Although I disagree with the South Beach side of the assertion, I know that much of our city’s dynamic social energy and economic influence will be shifting to the Core. It’s already happening. But, I bet, as time unravels its secrets, Midtown Miami will be pivotal in instigating this paradigm shift.
Map: Midtown Miami proper is outlined in Blue. Its vicinity in yellow. The WAD is colored in red, Edgewater in green, and the edge of the Media and Entertainment District in blue. The Design District lies directly across the I-395 to the north and Bay Point to the north east.
Image 1: An under utilized retail structure with blue awnings on NE 24th street and Biscayne Boulevard is shown in the foreground with new developments surrounding it.
Uptown is the largest of the three primary urban core segments (CBD and Brickell Village being the other two). It contains four unique sub-segments:
- Media and Entertainment District
- Wynwood Arts District
- Midtown Miami & vicinity
Map: Uptown and its four subsegments are shown above. The Media and Entertainment District is shown in blue, the Midtown Miami vicinity is shown in yellow, Edgewater in green, and Wynwood in red.
The Media and Entertainment District
This post will concentrate on the first of these subsegments. The Media and Entertainment District, known to some as the Omni District, which surrounds the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, is located just north of the I-395 and Parkwest. Along with the PAC, the Miami Herald and Omni buildings are located within the M&E. The M&E’s character is very much non-existent. Surrounding the PAC is a considerable amount of vacant land and derelict buildings. However, there are several interesting patterns that may indicate the retailization of the area.
Image 2: View of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts from Biscayne Boulevard
The M&E’s Layout
Looking at the map of Uptown, you’ll notice that the M&E, as defined by the DDA, juts to the north along Biscayne Boulevard. This extension is where Cite, City 24, Uptown Lofts, and Biscayne Plaza are located. These developments are vital because as mixed use projects they contribute retail space at the street level. Cite and Biscayne Plaza are good examples of how the filled retail space will enhance lifestyle options and pedestrian activity along Biscayne Boulevard.
There are still many underutilized structures that contribute nothing to the fold. Many of them are For Sale. In fact, Uptown has a greater concentration of derelict structures for sale than the CBD and Brickell Village to the south. There are implications that follow suit:
- The area remains undeveloped
- Many announced projects have either been scrapped or stalled
- In terms of acquisitions, the area is conducive to extensive redevelopment
Image 3: The same structure with the blue awnings from image 1 is shown here from street level. The right side is facing south toward City 24 and the M&E and the left side is facing north away from the M&E. While the streetscape is under construction in preparation for new ground level retail on the south side, the north side remains under utilized.
In these ground level retail spaces, we’re witnessing a wide variety of businesses spring up: wellness facilities, restaurants and cafes, banks, all sorts of stores. Aside from residential units being occupied, the advent of these new businesses to the area is the most important aspect of creating a truly urban environment.
Image 4: Banner ads for restaurant in Biscayne Plaza
Ground Level Retail
Currently, only Cite and Biscayne Plaza have fostered this kind of street level retail activity. Uptown Lofts and City 24 will add more ground level retail to the M&E. Staples, interestingly enough, is constructing a store in the heart of the M&E and it’s not attached to any existing or planned project. This is indicative of a pattern that may continue along Biscayne Boulevard as under-utilized buildings get replaced with retail. Biscayne Boulevard serves as an ideal artery to spread this kind of activity along Uptown.
Image 5: People mover elevated transit line with the Marriott and Radisson in the background
Importantly, although most of Uptown remains disconnected from the public transit rail system, the M&E is not. There are two stations servicing the M&E (Omni and School Board stations). This allows for connectivity with the other two Core segments to the south.
The Media and Entertainment District also boasts the only major hotel chains (Doubletree, Marriot, Hilton [formerly Radisson]) in all of Uptown making the neighborhood tourist friendly. The nearest hotels are in the Financial District to the south. Here again, this is good news for retailers. Although there isn’t much reason for hotel occupants to walk the streets of the M&E just yet, the presence of these hotels adds more value to the neighborhood.
There is more to the M&E, however, than meets the eye. Sure, the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts is hard to ignore, but it’s what you don’t see that’s most telling. Pedro Martin’s Terra Group has plans for the land surrounding the Herald. The plans required the rezoning of the parcels to accommodate Mr. Martin’s vision of two 64 story towers and a major destination-retail component called Citi Square (641,104 sq. ft. of retail space). Since the original buzz generated by the announcement of the potential land acquisition and vision for land-use, there hasn’t been much said about the project, but the deal between the McClatchy Company and Citi SquareGroup LLC. (Pedro Martin) appears to be a work in progress.
Image 6: View of the Omni from across the PAC
The Omni Center
The Omni is another critical longterm component. New York-based Argent Ventures’ $1 billion plans for the 1 million sq. ft. property span up to 15 years in four phases and include 6 large scale towers as well as 350,200 sq. ft. of retail space. A plan that spans 10-15 years is not at the mercy of existing market conditions but is susceptible to the uncertainty of time. Thoroughfares will be incorporated into the mega-project making it a city-within-city of sorts. Marc Sarnoff considers it a second Midtown. Argent recently closed on a $200+ million dollar loan to begin work on its plans.
Image 7: Filling Station lofts under construction
The M&E’s West Side Residential
The side of the M&E west of NE 2nd Avenue is rather desolate, but there are two residential developments that provide a glimpse of how the M&E’s interior may unravel: Filling Station Lofts and Parc Lofts. The latter is completed and the former is under contruction. Both are well designed mid-rise loft developments that stretch the notion of urban pioneering to the limit. Surrounding the two projects are plans for the Bayview Market, a destination retail facility, and MAX Tower, an innovative mixed use project designed to lure media and art-oriented tenants. Neither of the two have disturbed the ground yet, but add potential to the area.
Wrapping it Up
The presence of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, incoming street level retail, incoming occupants, presence of major hotels, large-scale long-term plans for Citi Square and the Omni, connectivity to the People Mover transit system, and its designation as a Media and Entertainment District make this urban neighborhood a very interesting prospect for retailers.
To be continued with installments dedicated to Edgewater, Midtown, and Wynwood…
Image: Site of the under construction Staples store. Paramount Bay is seen under construction to the right.
The new Staples store will stand on Biscayne Boulevard and N.E. 22nd Street next to Paramount Bay (under construction). Cite, with its new ground level retail space is one block to the South. Already, pedestrian activity in and around Cite has increased since its ground level retail space began filling. Neighboring Paramount Bay’s plans call for the incorporation of ground level retail space with the Edgewater Square aspect of the project.
Image: FEC Corridor facing north toward Midtown
There are many factors that influence retail and development activity. This installment is intended to describe those factors that are negative and may slowdown progress in the Uptown area, which is east of the I-95, north of the I-395, south of the I-195, and west of Biscayne Bay (the area includes: the Media and Entertainment District, Wynwood Arts District, Midtown Miami, and Edgewater).
Woe 1: Lack of Rail Transit Access
Connectivity to the mass transit rail system not only enhances accessibility for visitors to the area, but also alleviates the overall parking capacity. Of the three primary segments of the urban core (Brickell and the CBD being the other two), Uptown has the least connectivity to rail transit lines. There is no Metrorail station in Uptown. The free people mover system services the Omni and School Board area but doesn’t pass north of 15th street. Although the FEC corridor presents the opportunity of expanding the rail transit system north through Uptown, the initiative remains in the planning phase.
Image: entrance to the Biscayne Cemetery
Woe 2: Development Impediments
Uptown, unlike the CBD and Brickell to the south, has large parcels zoned and used for industrial purposes. Some of these include:
- People’s Gas Lot (1600 N Miami ave and 60 NW 17th street)
- Tarmac of FL (1801 NW Miami Ct and 17845 NW 1st ave)
- Metro Mix (2111 NW 1st PL)
These industrial spaces don’t just impede development but are eyesores as well. I can’t think of too many people who’d be fine with having a cement plant in their neighborhood. In Uptown, there are two of these medium sized facilities. The redevelopment of the 56 acre Buena Vista storage yard into Midtown Miami is a reminder that, through a redevelopment perspective, anything can happen, but the impediments remain and will not easily be removed.
Image: FPL substation
In addition to the obstructive industrial spaces that include the parcels mentioned above but are not limited to them, there is the large FPL substation (77 NE 20 ST) parcel. Here again, we have an eyesore and a development impediment.
Cemeteries are a fact of life, but their gloomy presence is almost impossible to remove and they don’t exactly boost real estate value. Brickell and the CBD don’t have cemeteries, Uptown has one in the heart of it. If there is anything positive to note in this respect, there has been some minor new retail activity surrounding the cemetery as of late, but nothing significant.
Woe 3: Crime and Vagrancy
According to county data, Uptown leads the urban core in crime incidents. To supplement this problem, the area directly west of the I-95, next to Uptown, is several times worse than Uptown proper. This undoubtedly, regardless of the I-95 barrier, creates the potential of a negative spill over effect. Additionally, Uptown has a problem with vagrancy that is comparable, but less severe, than that of the CBD. You can’t go to the Burger King across from the Omni and eat in your car without having at least one panhandler approach your window. This deters pedestrian activity, keeps visitors at bay, and weighs down the areas value. When measured against Uptown, Brickell is more desirable for retailers looking to set up shop away from vagrancy that might scare off customers.
Woe 4: Low Income Housing
Uptown has the most low income housing of the entire urban core. Unfortunately, there is a stigma of crime associated with high levels of low income housing. Whether true or not, the negative perception exists and is damaging to the potential of the community. Retailers tend to avert setting up shop near concentrated low income areas.
Woe 5: Nightlife, or Lack thereof
There is little to no nightlife in Uptown. Parkwest might be missing a retail sector, but it has a thriving nightlife. Having such nocturnal activity can help the retail sector by stretching hours of operation for surrounding retailers into the evening and adding dynamism to the economic mix. At night, Uptown is, well, boring. The Performing Arts Center and the couple of nighttime establishments nearby are not enough to compensate.
Woe 6: Pedestrian-unfriendliness
Uptown is the least pedestrian friendly area of the Urban core. Aside from the narrow sidewalks being harrowingly close to busy Biscayne Boulevard, they are in terrible shape and lack shade. Other than Margaret Pace Park and Midtown Miami, Uptown lacks free roaming areas for pedestrians. N. Miami Avenue, NE 2nd Avenue, and even Biscayne Boulevard haven’t matured enough, economically, to provide a reason for traversing the area on foot or bike.
Image: An abandoned building on N.E. 2nd Avenue
Woe 7: Dereliction and Decay
N.E. 2nd Avenue has considerable potential for becoming an economic artery, but currently it is lined with abandoned and derelict buildings–many of which are up for sale. Although these structures do provide something of a blank canvas for development, so long as they remain in their current dilapidated state they bring down the aesthetic appearance of the community and in some instances provide a haven for illicit activity. Uptown is riddled with these derelict structures–more so than any other segment of the entire urban core.
Uptown has plenty of problems and I’m certain that many have been left out, but the upstart neighborhood is brewing with growth and value potential. In the next installment, Uptown’s Pros will be discussed.
Image: FDOT-owned parcel being cleared (PAC is seen in right corner of image)
Weeks ago I noticed the demolition of an abandoned building across from (south of) the Carnival Center. Then I started getting questions emailed to me regarding this same issue. The building sat on FDOT owned land (1200 Biscayne – former site of Opus 2)–directly in the path of the proposed route for the I-395. Much has been said about the FDOT plans for the repositioning of the I-395, yet as of late, there has been no word regarding the project progressing.
Image: Empty lot next to the demolition site. This parcel belongs to the Carnival Center.
Could the building’s demolition be new room for temporary parking? Could it be the inevitable removal of an eyesore? Or, could it be that the FDOT is closer to actually starting the repositioning initiative? Whatever the case may be, the Opus 1 and 2 towers plans were halted due to the FDOT’s plans, and now there is activity along the project line. Some activity is better than none at all. We’ll keep a close eye on this.
Image: Biscayne Boulevard cruisin’
At a ULI conference last May, a V.P. of Cushman Wakefield mentioned a bike and scooter shop in Uptown on 19th street and Biscayne Boulevard as being an indicator of urban progress. He said, “a few years ago I would never have imagined a bike shop in that area.”
Image: Scooter and Bike shop on N.E. 19th street (Uptown)
South Beach has long been a center of scooter activity. Myself, I find them somewhat annoying at times as they jostle for position on the streets, but recognize their value to those looking to traverse traffic more efficiently, cut down on gas, and make finding parking more painless–an ideal urban self-transport option. With condos having stringent parking restrictions and traffic expected to pick up with the growing occupancy wave, look to see more of these little traffic side-steppers in Uptown.
Image: View across the street from the scooter and bike
Map of the area: N.E. 2nd Avenue is shown in green and Midtown Miami in blue
Economic Artery in the Making?
N.E. 2nd Avenue, which runs parallel to Biscayne Boulevard and the FEC Corridor in Uptown, has remained largely untouched by new development. This north-south thoroughfare is important because it links to the Performing Arts Center, Midtown Miami, the Design District, and is next to Edgewater and the Wynwood Arts District. Currently, the Avenue is mostly dotted with vacant lots and decrepit buildings for sale, which indicates a ripeness for transformation, but change, although small, is already turning N.E. 2nd Ave into something of an economic artery. Let’s take a quick gander:
Fantini Mosaico, founded in 1900 in Milan, Italy, is opening up shop on 2144 N.E. 2nd Avenue. The location is directly west of Paramount Bay and Biscayne Boulevard.
The Out of the Blue Cafe (2426 N.E. 2nd Avenue) opened its doors in February of this year. Already, the quaint restaurant has a dedicated following and has added to a growing buzz on N.E. 2nd Avenue.
Stoai Outdoor Concept Furniture opened its doors in March. It offers antique, outdoor, and patio furniture as well as different types of flooring.
the 18th Street Cafe (210 N.E. 18th Street) opened its doors a little over a month ago. According to the Daily Candy, this space was once a garage and is now a NY-style cafe.
Sidenote: the neighboring M Power Project Gym opened its doors a little over a year ago and is starting to see a pick in its membership according to the owner.
There are numerous projects proposed in the area that have yet to see any activity, but greatly improve the area’s standing.
The most noteworthy commerce-oriented proposals are:
- Bayview Market – large-scale destination retail complex (rumored to be luring Lowes and Wal Mart)
- MAX tower: A mixed use media and art exchange concept that will incorporate Class A office space
- 2222 Biscayne – Another Class A office building
If these are completed, then it will further cement the role of N.E. 2nd Avenue as a main economic artery for the entire area in the future, but as of right now, none have any on-site activity.
A 120,000 square foot multi-level retail complex planned for 32nd street and Biscayne Blvd is now leasing. The project, which is unnamed in the display sign, is located directly south of the proposed 3333 Biscayne office/condo development. With the advent of so many high density residential units and the absence of new retail on Biscayne Blvd. (except the rapidly filling spaces at Cite), Uptown has become an area ripe for retail activity. Seth Gadinsky is the broker assigned to the project. The project is within walking distance from Midtown Miami and the Design District.