Invest: Miami speaks to Beverly Raphael, President and Co-founder

When I moved to Florida in 1981, the Miami Design District had just a couple of furniture showrooms. Now, it’s become the SoHo of Miami with high-end shopping destinations like Hublot, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Bvlgari and Tom Ford. Watching it develop has been nothing short of spectacular.

More recently, we completed a three-story Harry Winston store in the Design District and are building two restaurants at Brickell City Centre. One measure of this market’s rapid growth can be seen in the fact that competition in the construction sector today is more intense than ever. Developers and general contractors from the U.S. Northeast have seen what’s happening in Miami and want to get a piece of it. They’ve opened satellite offices here, driving prices up. These developers are taking exciting risks and the high-end residential products they are introducing are giving Miami a posh feel, different from anywhere else in Florida. We’ve also seen an evolution in the aesthetic preferences of retailers. For instance, a lot of European designs are moving from an “Old World” look to a much more contemporary and minimalistic look with clean, straight lines.

Retailers and restaurateurs are trying to create designs that aren’t “cookie-cutter,” looking here and abroad for new concepts. We are also seeing big players entering the retail space; in Downtown Miami, Forbes is helping develop the mega mixed use project Miami Worldcenter, bringing together great shopping, entertainment and restaurants. RCC Associates has responded to this market demand for high-quality retail, restaurant and entertainment spaces. Five years ago, we built Zuma, which continues to be one of the top restaurants in Miami.

Looking ahead, we will continue to benefit from the influx of European, Asian and Latin American money, and I’m confident in the opportunity here. Miami has seen recessions over the years, and it always comes back stronger. We haven’t seen the bulk of the growth yet. This is just the beginning.