Friday, November 7, 2014

The real estate climate in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables is quietly emerging as one of the best performing condo and townhouse markets in all of South Florida.

This city of less than 50,000 people located to the west and south of Miami proper is statistically outpacing — on a per capita basis — nearly every coastal condo market east of Interstate 95 in the tricounty region of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

Currently, Coral Gables has fewer months of condo resales – about six months of inventory – available for purchase than practically any of the more publicized coastal areas in South Florida, according to an analysis of data from the Southeast Florida MLXchange.

A healthy condo market generally has about six months of inventory available for resale. More months of available inventory indicates a buyer’s market and less months suggests a seller’s market.

By comparison, the Greater Downtown Miami market currently has 13 months of condo resale inventory available for purchase. Sunny Isles Beach has 11 months of supply. The markets of Miami Beach and Downtown West Palm Beach each have nine months of condo resale inventory available. The markets of Hollywood-Hallandale Beach and Downtown Fort Lauderdale and the Beach each have at least seven months of supply for condo resales on the market.

Only the Boca Raton-Deerfield Beach market, with less than six months of available inventory for resale, is positioned as well as Coral Gables from a supply perspective.

Contributing to the perceived strength of the Coral Gables condo market is the fact that resale units are trading at some of the highest year-over-year price increases in all of coastal South Florida.

The average condo transaction in Coral Gables this year has increased by 22 percent to $323 per square foot in the first eight months of 2014. In the same period of 2013, pricing was $264 per square foot.

By comparison, the average year-over-year condo price increase during that same eight-month period was 19 percent in downtown West Palm Beach; 13 percent in Sunny Isles Beach; 12 percent in Miami Beach, downtown Fort Lauderdale and Beach; 11 percent in greater downtown Miami. In the Boca Raton-Deerfield Beach market, the sales price dropped by 21 percent.

The only market to outperform Coral Gables was Hollywood-Hallandale Beach, which experienced a year-over-year average condo transaction price increase of nearly 25 percent.

In addition, tenants are proving by their strong monthly leasing activity that they want to live in Coral Gables despite rising rents.

Currently, Coral Gables has only about 40 days of residential rental properties available for lease at a median asking price of $2.07 per square foot monthly, according to data from the Southeast Florida MLXchange.

Tenants leased more than 700 residences at a median price of $1.96 per square foot month in Coral Gables in the first eight months of this year. Back in 2010, tenants leased just as many residences in Coral Gables but at a median price of $1.37 per square foot monthly.

Today’s median rental price represents a 43 percent increase in the last five years.

All of these market factors have spurred developers, who have announced nine new condo towers with nearly 1,100 units in Coral Gables since 2011, according to the preconstruction condo projects website (Full disclosure: my firm operates the website.)

The new Coral Gables condo projects are slated to range from the five-story Biltmore Park Condominium, with 32 units on Valencia Avenue, to the 18-story Miracle Residences, with 282 units slated for development on an existing Publix Super Market on LeJeune Road.

The city is an attractive market for condo developers, as both primary residents and second-home buyers are actively involved in this residential real estate market.

Coral Gables has distinguished itself as a wealthy enclave where multinational corporations – and their employees – locate to utilize the city’s public services, schools, restaurants, retailers and proximity to major transportation arteries.

As a result, Coral Gables is a multilingual city where 38 percent of the residents are foreign born, and more than 60 percent of the residents speak a language other than English at home, according to the Census Bureau.

The median household income in Coral Gables is nearly $85,200 annually — almost double the Miami-Dade County average of about $43,500.

Not surprisingly, the median value of an owner-occupied residence in Coral Gables is nearly $615,000 — compared to less than $222,000 in Miami-Dade County.

Despite the wealth, Coral Gables is a younger city than many may realize. Nearly 18 percent of the residents of Coral Gables are under the age of 18, while less than 16 percent of its residents are older than 65, according to the data.

By comparison, less than 21 percent of Miami-Dade County’s population is under 18, while 15 percent is over the age of 65.

The unanswered question going forward is whether buyers, sellers and developers can continue to operate at near market equilibrium in Coral Gables as the residential real estate conditions change in surrounding neighborhoods of South Florida.

Peter Zalewski is a principal with the Miami real estate consultancy Condo Vultures. Zalewski, a licensed Florida real estate professional since 1995 and founder of CVR Realty and Condo Vultures Realty LLC, advises developers, lenders and institutional investors. Zalewski also runs the preconstruction condo project website in conjunction with the Miami Association Of Realtors.



Source: Miami Herald, Peter Zalewski

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Friday, June 27, 2014

South Florida ranked second in the nation in the amount of abandoned homes facing foreclosure – or “zombie foreclosures,” a new report from RealtyTrac shows.

The region had nearly 13,000 so-called zombie homes during the second quarter of 2014. Only New York City, which had 13,574 vacant residential properties in foreclosure, ranked higher in RealtyTrac’s report. Of South Florida’s 70,909 homes in foreclosure, 18 percent were abandoned. On a positive note, zombie foreclosures in the region dropped by 7 percent year-over-year.

A key reason for the amount of vacant homes is the glacial pace of foreclosure cases in Florida. An average foreclosure in the state lasts 411 days, according to the South Florida Business Journal. Only New York, at 418 days, has a longer average span. [South Florida Business Journal] — Eric Kalis

Friday, October 25, 2013

Miami Herald, The (FL)

Coconut Grove waterfront plan goes to Miami voters


On Coconut Grove's picturesque but cluttered waterfront, a ramshackle marina, a seafood restaurant well past its prime and a funky if beloved watering hole known as Scotty's Landing today occupy seven acres of choice public land next to Miami City Hall.


Now their leases are up and their long run is over. And what's in the offing to replace them could forever change the spot's simple, old-Grove vibe, which is sticking in the craw of village denizens with long-held Bohemian views and a default antipathy toward glitz and development.


The city and developers who won a bid to remake the place have ambitious plans for it: The developers would spend $18 million in private money to sweep away much of what's there now, reconfigure and expand boat racks, and build a Shula's steakhouse and two other new restaurants. They would also put a marine store in a refurbished hangar dating from the days when Pan Am flew seaplanes out of Dinner Key next door.


Their site plan would do something else Grove residents have long clamored for: open up water access and direct vistas from South Bayshore Drive to Biscayne Bay by creating a pedestrian promenade that would end at a new public pier.


The so-called Grove Bay proposal, which goes to Miami's voters on the Nov. 5 ballot, is only one piece of a larger blueprint, years in the making and almost universally well received, that aims to revitalize and open up the historic village's public bayfront, much of which now lies hidden and disconnected from the rest of the Grove by a jumble of buildings and boats and a series of asphalt parking lots.


A second, separate piece of the broader plan is slowly and simultaneously now getting under way as well. The city is tearing down the closed Grove exhibition center, a vast concrete fortress that blocks off Biscayne Bay from South Bayshore Drive, and will replace it with a 17-acre park, the new waterfront's centerpiece.


A third piece hinges in part on voters' approval of the Grove Bay proposal. The developers would be required to contribute $5 million toward construction of a three-story city parking garage, to be lined all around with 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The narrow, 39-foot-tall garage would replace the surface lot fronting South Bayshore, as well as Expo center parking to be converted to parkland, and would sit well back from the waterfront so as not to obstruct water views, the city and the developers say.


Backers of the Grove Bay plan say it would make the Grove waterfront significantly more accessible and inviting to locals and visitors alike. They say it could also help boost the village's nearby commercial center, which has been struggling in the face of competition from South Beach and South Miami's resurgent downtown, by improving pedestrian connections and capitalizing on a unique water's-edge allure.


"Miami is desperate for places where you can be by the water, to have a bite or a drink,'' said Michelle Niemeyer, a neighborhood activist and member of the Coconut Grove Village Council, an elected advisory group that endorsed the Grove Bay proposal. "There will be more green space and broader and better pedestrian connections. It greatly improves what we have.


"Part of what's really beautiful with this plan is that it redirects marina forklift traffic so that, going to the restaurants, you will no longer be walking through puddles of oil.''


But the Grove Bay bid, which has the backing of Mayor Tomas Regalado and was approved by the city commission and various advisory boards in a series of public hearings, has run into an angry, last-minute blast of opposition from some Grove residents. In often-hyperbolic terms, opponents have branded the plan a "give-away,'' a "scam'' and, inaccurately, "a 120,000 square foot shopping mall.'' The retail space, though substantial, is in fact half that amount.


The critics have also suggested the Grove Bay developers could build a casino on the site, seizing on a standard clause in the lease meant to stop anyone leasing city property from installing a gambling establishment without the commission's OK.


A band of longtime Groveites, spearheaded by architect Charles Corda and Mango Strut co-founder Glenn Terry, has formed a political action committee to fight the measure.


Businessman Steve Kneapler, meanwhile, has filed two lawsuits claiming the city violated open-meeting laws and procurement rules in awarding the bid to the Grove Bay group, which also developed the Fresh Market and Grove Harbour Marina project just to the north. The suits are pending. Kneapler holds the contract for food and beverage sales at nearby Monty's Restaurant, which could face competition from the Grove Bay restaurants, backers of the plan note.


Critics of the Grove Bay plan say it's too slick, would overwhelm the site and block rather than open up water views. They contend the restaurants' glass-and-steel design, by the renown Grove-based Arquitectonica, doesn't fit in with the tree-shaded neighborhood. And while not everyone calls for keeping Scotty's Landing - something city officials say they can't legally do long-term without competitive bidding - they argue it's better to leave things more or less as they are, or turn the whole area into a low-key park.


"The Coconut Grove waterfront is so cluttered with boats, and where's there's no boats there are mangroves, and you can't see the water,'' Terry said. "This is the prettiest spot in Coconut Grove. And it will be occupied by a Shula steakhouse with a banquet facility upstairs. This is not what people in the Grove want. It doesn't have to be Scotty's. But we can do better.''


The opponents have also lashed out furiously at City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, a Groveresident, who has actively championed the project, directing insults at him and Grove Baysupporters in public meetings, in e-mail blasts, and in comments posted on the Coconut GroveGrapevine blog. The blog, written by Tom Falco, who opposes the plan, has become the site of warring, sometimes blistering comments both pro and con from Grove residents.


In an email to city attorney Victoria Mendez, Kneapler used an obscenity to refer to Sarnoff, drawing a rebuke from her.


The opposition has also led to some unruly public behavior. Some Grove Bay opponents became outraged when Sarnoff did not attend a meeting last week of the central Grove residents' association at which he was expected, though the topic wasn't on the agenda. Several people, at least some of whom were clearly inebriated, began shouting at and interrupting association board members, who vainly pleaded for order.


"We're trying to save our neighborhood!'' one man shouted before he was removed by police from the meeting room at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.


Sarnoff, who sent a staffer to answer questions in his place, said he was at another residents' association in nearby Brickell dealing with another contentious issue, the replacement of trees on the avenue's median. Grove Bay opponents accused him of ducking them. But some Sarnoff allies said he was right to stay away, describing the meeting as "a mess.''


The venom has extended to Scotty's owner Scott Wessel, who issued a letter endorsing the GroveBay plan only to be publicly labeled a "sellout'' by some opponents. Grove Bay developers have pledged to rehire Wessel's restaurant and marina staffers.


Some Grove Bay critics decry the boorish behavior. But they say longstanding mistrust of Sarnoff and other city leaders, who many in the Grove believe have often engineered sweetheart deals with developers that mess up city waterfront land, is playing into the opposition.


"They have a history of botching up public land. They've done such a poor job of developing theGrove bayfront in a poor and uncohesive way,'' said Terry. "There seems to be no appreciation for open space.''


Regalado, Sarnoff and the developers, however, say the opposition has grossly misrepresented the proposal, exaggerating its size and footprint while failing to mention the creation of the adjacent new park. The critics have insisted the Grove Bay plan violates the broader 2008 master plan for the waterfront, known as the Sasaki plan for the prominent landscape architecture firm that designed it. But firm managing principal Mark Dawson has written a letter endorsing the GroveBay plan and noting that it improves on the Sasaki blueprint in some aspects.


"People are speaking from passion,'' Sarnoff said of the plan's critics. "People are not speaking from facts.''


The Grove Bay group submitted a bid in response to an advertised request by the city, and won when its sole competitor dropped out. This was the city's second attempt to secure a redevelopment plan for the site after an earlier effort fell apart. The group would get no city money, and would guarantee a minimum annual rent payment of $1.4 million to the city, with payments going up during the 50-year lease span if the project succeeds.


Under a legally binding proposal, the group would demolish the existing Chart House restaurant and Scotty's and replace them with two mid-sized eateries, the Shula's and a Peruvian seafood restaurant, within the same footprint. A canopy would join the two restaurants, framing an open view of the water and the new pier. A banquet hall and open-air public terrace would go on top. A new casual restaurant, mostly open air, would be built just to its south, where the companion marina's storage racks now stand.


The choice of glass and metal for the buildings is not arbitrary, the developers said: It's meant to echo the construction of the historic Pan Am hangars on the site, and provide customers and visitors with clear, panoramic views of the water.


The racks would be moved next to the developers' Grove Harbour Marina just to the north, consolidating the industrial side of the operation and making pedestrian access cleaner and safer, they say. All trees on the site would be saved and supplemented with additional green landscaping.


The two Pan Am hangars on the site, both now badly deteriorated, would be renovated. One will continue serving as boat storage. All new buildings, including the garage, would be lower than the hangars so as not to obscure the protected historic structures.


Retail at the parking garage would likely consist mostly of stores to serve residents and park users, including a convenience store, yoga studios and bike rental outlets, the developers say.


Critics note that, with the exception of the successful Fresh Market, retail on the waterfront has not fared well. But the city and the developers say they expect sharply increased foot traffic and retail demand from park users, restaurant patrons and residents of the new ultra-luxury condo towers going up across South Bayshore.


"Our goal from the beginning was to bring people to the waterfront,'' said Grove Bay principal Jay Leyva. "Our offices are right here, and I look out every day and see there is no one out there. We want to open it all up to the public.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

South Florida condo developers have been on a binge, proposing an average of nearly 1,000 new units monthly for the tri-county coastal region since October 2012.

After needing 20 months to reach the 10,000-proposed-condos threshold east of Interstate 95 in South Florida, developers have taken about half of that time to eclipse the 20,000-new-units level for the tri-county region of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.

Since the fourth quarter of 2012, developers have announced nearly 90 new buildings with a combined 9,500 units in coastal South Florida.

The total number is expected to rise in the upcoming weeks as at least three additional condo high rises with an estimated 1,200 units in the planning stages, according to public records.

Taken together, South Florida could soon have at least 145 towers and nearly 20,700 units proposed for Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

Contrast this total with the last South Florida condo boom that began in 2003 and ultimately resulted in 245 towers with nearly 49,000 units in the tri-county region’s seven largest coastal markets.

The rush to build new projects comes as less than 2,150 new condos — about five percent of the total developer inventory from the last South Florida real estate boom — were unsold as of March 31.

At the current transaction pace, nearly all of the oversupply of the developer units from the 2003 boom — and subsequent bust of 2007 — could be sold by the second half of 2014.

The reduction in unsold developer units combined with a competitive cash-dominated condo resale market — where less than 18,400 units are for resale in all of South Florida — and strong rental rates are prompting many buyers to seriously consider purchasing condos during the preconstruction process that can take up to three years.

As with South Florida’s last condo boom, Miami-Dade County has the greatest concentration of proposed projects with more than 90 towers and nearly 15,285 units planned as of July 17.

Broward County ranks a distant second with 26 towers and less than 2,125 units proposed. Palm Beach County is a third with 23 towers and nearly 2,100 units proposed.

On a market-by-market basis, developers in Greater Downtown Miami — the epicenter of South Florida’s last boom-and-bust cycle — are proposing at least 35 new towers with nearly 9,850 units and counting.

Developer created 84 towers with more than 22,200 units during the last boom-and-bust cycle that began in 2003 but only 600 new units remain as of March 31.

In anticipation of an eventual sellout in Greater Downtown Miami, South Florida developers have recently filed applications with the Federal Aviation Administration — the governmental entity that governs airspace — to obtain approval to assemble construction cranes within the next 15 months to build a 713-foot-tall tower with at least 60 stories at 600 Biscayne Blvd., a 710-foot-tall tower with at least 60 stories at 700 Biscayne Blvd, and a 610-foot-tall tower with 55 stories at 24 SW 4th St. on the north bank of the Miami River.

The total number of condo units to be featured in these three condo projects is unclear as the respective developers all said they were in the planning stages.

The Hollywood and Hallandale Beach market in Southeast Broward County ranks second based on 11 towers with nearly 1,450 condo units proposed. Sunny Isles Beach on the barrier island in Northeast Miami-Dade County ranks third with 10 towers and nearly 1,200 units slated to be developed.

Rounding out the top five markets for proposed condos are West Palm Beach with seven towers and nearly 1,170 units announced and the city of Miami Beach with 17 towers and nearly 1,100 units planned.

It is worth noting the Bal Harbour, Surfside, and Bay Harbor Islands market in Northeast Miami-Dade County has 14 condo towers proposed with nearly 1,000 units.

Despite the quantity of proposed projects and memories of the recent crash, talk of another South Florida condo boom-and-bust cycle on the horizon appears to be premature at this time given the current market trends of cash buyers and limited financing options.

Conditions in the South Florida condo market, however, have a history of changing rapidly.

The biggest difference in this new South Florida real estate cycle is the lack of construction financing available to date. Condo construction financing for new towers has been provided in only a few instances in South Florida, and even then the loan amounts for most of the projects have been only a fraction of the overall development costs.

Given the resistance by lenders to finance the building of new condos in South Florida, developers are approaching their next generation of projects with the expectation that only those towers that can collect sizeable buyer deposits of 50 percent of the purchase price are ultimately going to be constructed.

Contrast the current deposit structure with the 20 percent down payments that were commonly required during the last condo boom in South Florida.

Developers are optimistic that larger deposit requirements this time around will result in a stronger pool of buyers who ultimately have the financial wherewithal to purchase their respective preconstruction condo units regardless of market conditions.

Despite the level of deposits required, developers have already completed one tower and are currently constructing an additional 24 towers with nearly 3,800 units in coastal South Florida.

Going forward, the unanswered question is whether the financial requirements of developing new condo projects in South Florida will remain at the current stringent levels or eventually be weakened to appeal to a broader market that includes less qualified buyers.

Peter Zalewski is a principal with the Miami real estate consultancy Condo Vultures. Zalewski, a licensed Florida real estate professional since 1995 and founder of CVR Realty and Condo Vultures Realty LLC, advises developers, lenders and institutional investors

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Source: Miami Herald

Credit given to Peter Zalewski

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Tags:   Miami Real Estate

The housing recovery continues to pick up steam, as home prices jumped in April, and new home sales hit a five year high in May.

But a recent increase in mortgage rates could soon put the brakes on housing.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was up 12.1% in April, compared to a year ago, in the 20 top real estate markets across the nation. That was the biggest annual jump in prices in seven years. Prices climbed 2.5% from March, posting the biggest one-month rise in the 12-year history of the index.

New homes sold at an annual pace of 476,000 in May, according to a separate government report. That's the best reading since July 2008, just before the global financial meltdown slashed homebuyers' access to credit. The pace of sales was up 2.1% from April, and up 29% from a year ago.

Related: Surging home sales, prices raise new housing bubble fears

The median price of a new home sold in May was $263,900, down 3.1% from April, but those month-over-month comparisons are often volatile. Even with the monthly decline, new home prices were up 10.3% from a year earlier

A drop in foreclosures, coupled with a tight supply of homes for sale and mortgage rates that hit record lows, have fueled the rebound in housing over the last 11 months.

But the 30-year mortgage rate has risen to nearly 4%, up from 3.35% at the start of May. While that is still low by historical standards, it's trimmed about $12,000 off of an average buyer's purchasing power. Mortgage rates began to climb in May, after April's sharp jump in home prices was recorded.

"Home value appreciation in some of these areas will have to slow down, or potentially fall, as higher prices are no longer masked by rock-bottom mortgage rates," said Stan Humphries, chief economist of home price tracker Zillow.

Indeed, the rapid rise in home prices that's fueling the housing recovery could actually help derail it, as it makes purchases more difficult for potential buyers. Even the National Association of Realtors warned last week that "home price growth is too fast," and said that the market needs significantly more home building and better access to credit for buyers.

Related: Is a neighbor hurting your home's value?

"In general, the national housing recovery is strong and sustainable, but pockets of volatility will emerge," said Humphries. "Buyers expecting home values to continue rising at this pace indefinitely may be in for a shock."

Still, higher costs for home buyers shouldn't derail the recent recovery, according to Joseph LaVorngna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank.

"Affordability remains near historic highs, despite the recent rise in rates and home prices," he said. And while banks might be charging higher rates, they are likely to ease lending standards for mortgages due to the stronger prices. That should make it easier for some buyers to qualify for home loans.


Source: CNN Money

Friday, June 7, 2013
Tags:   Indian Creek Homes, Miami Beach Homes

Driving the streets of Edgewater recently, Martin Melo eased the accelerator of his Porsche Panamera to point out large swaths of land his family-run firm has cobbled together for high-rise development in one of Miami’s most rapidly emerging neighborhoods.

“This four-block area is ours,” said his brother Carlos, whose Melo Group has seven condominium and apartment projects lined up in the area. “We bought [the lots] one by one. It’s hard work.”

The buzz of activity at Melo Group — headed by their father Jose Luis Melo, who moved from Buenos Aires in 2001 — comes as the transformation of Miami’s funky Edgewater district has shifted into high gear.

Developers have been snapping up parcels and keying up high-rise projects in the bayfront neighborhood. Land prices are soaring.

The revival of construction — which sputtered during the real-estate crash — is poised finally to remake the character of the once-blighted city neighborhood, which unofficially stretches from Northeast 17th Street north to the Julia Tuttle Causeway at 36th Street and from Biscayne Bay west to the railroad tracks. (Some draw the western line at Biscayne Boulevard.)

“Edgewater has become one of the hippest, most chic places to live, driven by its proximity to the Design District and Midtown. It’s a place people want to be,” said Jaret Turkell, a director with HFF, which recently brokered the sale of 4.5 acres of bayfront property to Jorge Pérez’s Related Group and a partner.

Miami-based Related paid $29 million for the prime site at Northeast 31st Street, land that sold in 2012 for $11.5 million. Related plans to erect a high-rise condominium on the spot, where plans to build in the last boom were scuttled.

Separately, Related broke ground a few weeks ago on Icon Bay, a luxury condominium at 428 NE 28th St. Related launched pre-sales of units last September and “is basically sold out,” said Carlos Rosso, president of condo development for Related.

Edgewater’s big draw, of course, is the bayfront.

Developers continue to bask in robust demand from foreigners willing to pony up 50 percent or more of the price for a pre-construction condominium near the water in South Florida.

Brickell and downtown, where the resurgence of condo construction began after the crash, are nearly built out. But Edgewater has land for projects that can provide spectacular views of Biscayne Bay at a lower price.

“We’re looking at a couple more deals in the area. We have sites under contract. The views of the water are something in really high demand. It’s something everyone wants and expects in Miami,” Rosso said.

Edgewater’s layout works well for high-rise condos, Rosso said. Running parallel to the bay is the major thoroughfare of Biscayne Boulevard with shops and restaurants. “It’s an attractive area,” he said. “It’s got good bones.”

Other developers have noticed. “There are probably a dozen groups that have multiple parcels they’ve assembled and a lot of single owners,” said Ryan Shaw, a senior associate with Marcus & Millichap, which has a listing at 28th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. “It’s starting to really heat up.’’

A key lure for developers: permissive zoning allows for high-rise buildings. And the area borders trendy Wynwood and the Design District, which is on the rise thanks in part to DACRA’s venture to bring in luxury retail icons like Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

In March, GTIS Partners, a New York-based real-estate private-equity firm, and Eastview Development of West Palm Beach acquired a 2.65-acre bayfront site between 29th and 30th streets with plans for a 42-story condominium with 394 units.

“We like special sites — not ‘shoulder-shruggers,’ ” said Rob Vahradian, senior managing director of GTIS, touting the “fantastic views” along the 335 feet of bayfront.

Vahradian sees Edgewater as “a transforming market, but not a pioneering one.” He points to the strong prices for the already-built Paramount Bay tower and for pre-sales of Related’s Icon Bay project.

Along the bay, Margaret Pace Park, once a hangout for drug users and the homeless, is abuzz with mostly young residents, walking dogs, riding bikes, and playing volleyball. A new Publix supermarket with a second-floor parking garage opened at 1776 Biscayne Blvd. last year, and restaurants and shops have been moving in nearby. A trolley runs through the area.

“It’s definitely gentrified. There is less crime, fewer homeless. There are more amenities,” said Richard Strell, who has lived in Edgewater for 12 years. Still, Strell, like some other locals, is frustrated that one major amenity envisioned for the area — a baywalk along Biscayne Bay — appears to remain an elusive dream.

“It went from a place you would not want to go walking at night to something fairly safe,” said Norman Wartman, president of the condo association at Onyx on the Bay. “And it’s getting better.”

Last fall, the National YoungArts Foundation acquired the Bacardi Tower at 2100 Biscayne Blvd. as its new home for fostering young artists, adding to the neighborhood’s cachet.

More condominium owners are living in their units instead of renting them, according to Craig A. Werley, president of Coral Gables-based Focus Real Estate Advisors. “Two particularly notable trends during the last 12 months are the percentage of renter-occupants declined from over 60 percent to 50 percent of area residents [and] owner-occupants/full-time residents increased from 24 percent to over 40 percent of area residents,” Werley said.

In the “Edgewater East” area, east of Biscayne Boulevard, the average sales price of condos built since 2003 soared to $454,317 in the first quarter of 2013 from $236,649 in 2009, at the depths of the downturn, according to Focus Real Estate Advisors.

Developer Carlos Melo said Edgewater, where Melo Group has its offices, was blighted when his father began pioneering new development there in 2001. “This area was a disaster. People were sleeping in the streets. There was prostitution and drug dealing.”

Melo said the family business, which also acts as general contractor on its projects, has sufficient land for 2,800 residential units in the area.

Within a few weeks, Melo expects to top off Skyview, a 32-story, 258-unit rental apartment at 425 NE 22nd St. The new apartment tower dwarfs an old two-story apartment complex next door, underscoring the transitional feel of the neighborhood.

In September, Melo plans to break ground on BayHouse, a 36-story condominium with 164 units at 600 NE 27th St., a one-acre site purchased last year for $5.5 million — far above some earlier deals. Units will range from about $500,000 to about $1.5 million.

For many of the parcels, the current flurry of development in Edgewater marks a new lease on life.

AXA Developers and Strategic Properties Group recently paid about $20 million for a two-acre site at 545 NE 32nd St., once intended for a project called ICE, with plans to build a condominium.

Aventura-based mckafka Development Group, founded by principals Stephan Gietl and Fernando Levy Hara, bought a note from a bank two years ago for about $2.1 million and foreclosed on a site at 623 NE 27th St.

“At that moment, things didn’t look so optimistic,” said Levy Hara, who has previously developed real estate in Buenos Aires and Miami. Levy Hara and Gietl, an Austrian, are preparing to file condominium documents with state regulators soon and are working on construction drawings for a 90-unit building called The Crimson, near Icon Bay. Prices are expected to average about $435 a square foot, putting units in the range of $330,000 to $1 million.

“We were taking some risk buying this land,” Levy Hara said. “But waterfront land in Miami is becoming very scarce. So we knew at some point this would be very valuable.”

Source: Miami Herald 05/12/2013

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LeBron James' $17 Million Grove House is Still Available
We haven't heard about it much lately, so here's a quick update. Just over four...

January Miami-Dade priciest condo sale
Miami, Miami Beach and Aventura topped the list for January’s most condo sales...

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