Writer: Felipe Rivas
3 min read February 2021 —The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the in-migration trend that had already been underway across Florida, including in Miami-Dade. The result of all these people and companies fleeing the Northeast and Western states is evident in Miami-Dade’s vibrant commercial real estate market as mixed-income projects with higher density become more viable to meet the different needs of the region’s diverse population.
For developers and architects, in-migration continues to influence key industry trends, ranging from design and construction materials to the ability to win project bids.
Flux Architects, a full service architecture firm, rolled with pandemic-driven challenges and saw projects continue in the midst of the COVID-19 landscape. Working with industry partners like Wexler Associates and Verdot Capital, Flux Architects is actively working on different multi-use projects throughout the city of Miami, namely in the neighborhoods of Little Havana and Wynwood, two neighborhoods ripe for multi-use, mixed-income projects.
“We are very excited to be working with Verdot and Wexler on two mixed-use projects consisting of ground floor retail and 120 units located on Calle Ocho, SW 8th Street, in Little Havana,” Flux Architects Founder and Principal Edgar Gonzalez told Invest:. “As the first projects of this scale in the vicinity, we intend to set the tone for future apartment buildings in this up-and-coming neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.
The Flux Architects team is also working on a senior housing project in Wynwood in conjunction with the Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida and South Florida Community Land Trust. This project is set to be an affordable housing project in the heart of Wynwood, at walking distance from Wynwood walls. “The project consists of a seven story, 100-unit building with office space and amenities. Also worth mentioning, we completed the design for a project of two high-rise buildings we call ‘Twin Towers by the River.’ Situated along the Miami River, the two towers, one 28-stories, the other 30-stories, have unobstructed views to the spectacular Downtown Miami skyline and Little Havana,” Gonzalez added.
The influx of companies and individuals looking to maximize Florida’s pro-business tax structure, diversifying economy and the opportunities afforded by remote work is also accelerating the need for more mixed-income residential projects, Gonzalez said. “In the private sector, we have seen more demand for our full line of architectural services to help developers design mixed-use residential projects in up-and-coming neighborhoods,” he added.
Gonzalez also attributes this to young professionals — millennials — who are moving to South Florida for the first time and want to live in neighborhoods that offer walkability to shops, restaurants, art and entertainment. “We have also seen a demand for our architectural services for affordable housing, workforce housing and mixed-income residential developments. I believe that local South Florida residents with low income will benefit greatly from living in mixed-income residential developments. We are not only creating affordable quality housing for them, but also providing access to localized personal services, healthcare facilities and better schools,” Gonzalez said.
And developers, both locally and from out-of-state, are taking notice.
Wexler Associates, working with Flux Architects on their Little Havana project, has a strong presence in New York and recently opened an office in Miami. “Many of our existing developer clients in New York were talking about finding new opportunities to invest away from the city,” Wexler Associates Miami Manager Nissin Elmann told Invest:. “Miami is a natural place to go to for that because of the great weather and the strong ties between its business community and the business community in New York. We felt it might be a good time to open here,” he said.
Mixed-income higher-density projects with an affordable and workforce housing component will likely continue to dot Miami’s skyline as in-migration continues. Accordingly, architects and developers will need to come up with creative solutions to keep development costs down. “With many people coming to Miami, the density in the city is rising and as such, the housing needs, including affordable housing, will rise. With the density increasing in Miami, more buildings are being proposed that are taller with more units over small tracts of land as opposed to low-rise apartments spread over large tracts of land. We as structural engineers need to think creatively to keep costs down for buildings that are taller and tighter,” Elmann said.
“We are well versed in designing buildings with alternative materials that are specifically used for affordable housing, such as block and plank and long span metal deck, and we hope to provide that expertise to clients as the demand for affordable housing grows. These alternative systems also have the benefit of being more environmentally friendly than traditional concrete,” he added.
As available land in Miami and Miami-Dade become more scarce, parcels just outside of major locations such as Brickell are becoming increasingly desirable for new development projects. “We are very bullish on Little Havana and West Flagler. We believe there is tremendous potential for growth in that area, given its close proximity to Brickell and its history and culture,” Verdot Capital Vice President of Investments Sacha Azoulai told Invest:. “The areas around Miami airport such as Allapattah, Miami Springs and Fountainbleau are also up and coming and of interest for us. We really like Doral as well, which is developing really fast. The Influx of people also means influx of capital, which leads to job growth and the need for more workforce housing, which is where Verdot Capital comes in. We believe this trend will continue for the years to come,” he said.
Industry sentiment is that the Miami-Dade market will continue to provide investment opportunities though competition will certainly remain fierce. “Being creative and having cash as well as the ability to close quickly will be the key to winning bids,” Yariv Bensira CEO of Verdot Capital stated to Invest:.
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