Terra Branches Out

March 30, 2015   |   Miami Herald

With deep roots in Miami, the father-son team that runs Terra is building luxury, low density units throughout South Florida, including in Coconut Grove, Doral, Weston and the northern reaches of Miami Beach.

For a developer, David Martin started young.

He was just 23 when he and his father Pedro, then a partner at the Miami law firm Greenberg Traurig, founded the real estate firm Terra in 2001.

“David and I had been toying with the idea of starting our own company since he was an undergraduate, “said Pedro Martin, Terra’s CEO. “I told him to get an MBA, get a law degree so at least you can have a good profession if it doesn’t work out.”

The younger Martin graduated from the University of Florida with his advanced degrees, and father and son began raising investments from friends and associates.

“I like this business and I work hard. But David, I quickly saw, has an incredible passion for development and working the community”, said Pedro Martin, an engineer-turned-lawyer who was born in Cuba and fled the island with his parents in 1961.

Alicia Cervera, one of Miami’s preeminent real estate brokers, has worked with Terra and said that the two men, while very close, have markedly different styles.

“I think the father has more of the caution of a very god lawyer,” Cervera said. “David is careful, too, but he’s also very much an entrepreneur. He has that clear, focused, driving vision of an entrepreneur.”

The younger Martin’s approach might strike some sports fans as a real estate version of Money-ball, Michaels Lewis’ 2003 book about the Oakland Athletics and the team’s strategy of looking for value in unexpected places.

“I’m always asking myself: How can we find neighborhoods where we can uncover inefficiency or some sort of idea that’s never been executed?” said Martin, now 37 and Terra’s president and chief operating officer.

For Terra, that meant turning its eye away from Miami Beach and looking at the city’s less developed neighborhoods where land was cheaper.

In 2006, the company completed two towers with nearly 400 luxury condos near the Dadeland South Metrorail stop. Called Metropolis, it was an early example of the transit-oriented development now becoming more popular in congested Miami-Dade County.

Terra also decided to become a full-service, integrated real estate firm, keeping some of its most important functions in-house. In 2005, Terra began operating a construction management company. In 2006, it opened a realty firm. In 2007, it launched its own mortgage bank.

“Having these experts inside the company doing business with us on a daily basis helps us make much more calculated, educated decisions,” Martin said.

In the coming years, Terra developed several properties in downtown Miami, finishing them up in the early days of the crash. That allowed the firm some breathing space and enough capital to figure out its next move as the tsunami of the financial crisis demolished South Florida’s real estate market.

“One of the things we realized is that we can’t lose sight of the fact that in Miami we have suburbs, “Martin said. “Investing in suburbs allows us the opportunity to diversify.”

Today, Terra is developing a mixed-use project in Doral, pairing 150,000 square feet of retail anchored by a Publix with 319 single-family homes. Prices for the houses start at $600,000.

The company also paid $30 million for a golf course in Weston last summer, according to Broward County property records, and plans to build a luxury gated community with 125 homes.

Terra now has about $3 billion under development, according to Martin.

But the project that has probably brought the most attention to terra is the Grove at Grand Bay, two ultra-luxury towers going up on the site of the old Grand Bay hotel in Coconut Grove.

The condos recently set a record price for the Grove at an average of $1,100 per square foot. The neighborhood, known for its bohemian reputation and lush vegetation, hadn’t seen a new high-rise in 10 years, completely missing out on the pre-recession boom.

Residents have certainly noticed the new tower, which in an unusual design twist their way 20-stories into the sky. One local blogger compared them to a “stack of bar napkins”.

Terra Aims to do Development its Own Way

May 4, 2016   |   Miami Herald

For a developer, David Martin started young.

He was just 23 when he and his father Pedro, then a partner at the Miami law firm Greenberg Traurig, founded the real estate firm Terra in 2001.

“David and I had been toying with the idea of starting our own company since he was an undergraduate,” said Pedro Martin, Terra’s CEO. “I told him to get an MBA, get a law degree so at least you can have a good profession if it doesn’t work out.”

The younger Martin graduated from the University of Florida with his advanced degrees, and father and son began raising investments from friends and associates.

“I like this business and I work hard. But David, I quickly saw, has an incredible passion for development and working with the community,” said Pedro Martin, a engineer-turned-lawyer who was born in Cuba and fled the island with his parents in 1961.

 

Alicia Cervera, one of Miami’s preeminent real estate brokers, has worked with Terra and said that the two men, while very close, have markedly different styles.

“I think the father has more of the caution of a very good lawyer,” Cervera said. “David is careful, too, but he’s also very much an entrepreneur. He has that clear, focused, driving vision of an entrepreneur.”

The younger Martin’s approach might strike some sports fans as a real estate version of Moneyball, Michael Lewis’ 2003 book about the Oakland Athletics and the team’s strategy of looking for value in unexpected places.

“I’m always asking myself: How can we find neighborhoods where we can uncover inefficiency or some sort of idea that’s never been executed?” said Martin, now 37 and Terra’s president and chief operating officer.

For Terra, that meant turning its eye away from Miami Beach and looking at the city’s less developed neighborhoods where land was cheaper.

In 2006, the company completed two towers with nearly 400 luxury condos near the Dadeland South Metrorail stop. Called Metropolis, it was an early example of the transit-oriented development now becoming more popular in congested Miami-Dade County.

Terra also decided to become a full-service, integrated real estate firm, keeping some of its most important functions in-house. In 2005, Terra began operating a construction management company. In 2006, it opened a realty firm. In 2007, it launched its own mortgage bank.

“Having these experts inside the company doing business with us on a daily basis helps us make much more calculated, educated decisions,” Martin said.

In the coming years, Terra developed several properties in downtown Miami, finishing them up in the early days of the crash. That allowed the firm some breathing space and enough capital to figure out its next move as the tsunami of the financial crisis demolished South Florida’s real estate market.

“One of the things we realized is that we can’t lose sight of the fact that in Miami we have suburbs,” Martin said. “Investing in suburbs allows us the opportunity to diversify.”

Today, Terra is developing a mixed-use project in Doral, pairing 150,000 square feet of retail anchored by a Publix with 319 single-family homes. Prices for the houses start at $600,000.

The company also paid $30 million for a golf course in Weston last summer, according to Broward County property records, and plans to build a luxury gated community with 125 homes.

Terra now has about $3 billion under development, according to Martin.

But the project that has probably brought the most attention to Terra is the Grove at Grand Bay, two ultra-luxury towers going up on the site of the old Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove.

The condos recently set a record price the Grove at an average of $1,100 per square foot. The neighborhood, known for its bohemian reputation and lush vegetation, hadn’t seen a new high-rise in 10 years, completely missing out on the pre-recession boom.

Residents have certainly noticed the new towers, which in an unusual design twist their way 20-stories into the sky. One local blogger compared them to “a stack of bar napkins.”

Prominent architect Bjarke Ingels, who designed the $400 million towers and was recently tapped for Google’s new headquarters, said the innovative, sculptural approach was meant in part to remove any seeming disparity between the two towers.

“We didn’t want to make a good tower in front and a bad tower in back,” said Ingels, who is from Denmark but now works out of New York. “This way, the towers are front and back on the lower levels, but as they go upward, twist and become side-by-side.”

The towers have won some important fans, both among the local buyers who traditionally make up the bulk of the Grove’s market and the Latin American buyers who have fueled Miami’s wider real estate boom but never thought about settling in the Grove.

Ezra Katz, a major South Florida real estate investor, has a view of the Grand Bay towers from his office building in Coconut Grove. (Terra is headquartered in the same building.)

Katz said that building the towers in their unusual style was a big risk — but one that has paid off handsomely, as the record sale price showed.

“I don’t think I would have had the guts to pull the trigger on that kind of design,” Katz said. “It’s one of the most unusual designs I have seen in the United States of America, and I’ve been in the business for 40 years.”

Katz was so so impressed that he and his wife bought a unit in the building.

“Sometimes it takes someone as young as David to be that kind of pioneer,” he added. “He is pushing the limits of design in Miami much further than they’ve ever been.”

The towers are expected to be delivered in the last quarter of this year.

In partnership with the Related Group, Terra is working on another Coconut Grove development, a three-tower project called Park Grove that will cost $680 million and is being designed by another star architect, Rem Koolhaas. About 75 percents of the units there have sold.

The luxury condos are part of a broader resurgence in the Grove, where Martin now lives with his wife and two young children and where he spent much of his time as a teenager growing up in neighboring Cocoplum.

A true Miamian, Martin sometimes peppers his speech with “bro” and “dude,” his expressive eyebrows pumping up and down when he makes a particularly emphatic point like this one: One of Terra’s philosophies is that development should contribute to a neighborhood — enhancing its character without disrupting it.

“Typically in real estate, more density leads to more value,” he said. “And early on in the company’s history, our approach was: Let’s buy the land as cheaply as possible and try to pack as much density on it as we can.”

“But something we learned after the crash was that less is sometimes more,” Martin continued. “People want intelligent luxury now. At the Grand Bay, we were zoned for 440 units, but we only built 98.”

Nasir Kassamali, who owns the Doral-based design firm Luminaire and introduced Martin to the architect Ingels, said Martin’s deep roots in Miami have helped him understand the “ecosystems” of the areas he develops.

“Coconut Grove is not Brickell, it’s not the Beach, it’s a very bohemian village,” Kassamali said. “Their philosophy is to build good buildings with good architecture and improve the neighborhood without overwhelming it.”

Terra is also still developing Miami Beach, where it started out.

Last year, it delivered Glass, an 18-story building in the South of Fifth neighborhood that a previous developer had planned to fill with 45 units. Terra took that down to 10.

In North Beach, Terra has hired the world-famous architect Renzo Piano to design a 20-story tower with 69 luxury condos on the northern edge of a 25-acre park. That project will wrap up in 2017.

For an architect, working with a family-owned company can have major advantages, Ingels said.

“When it’s a family-owned company, it’s not just about the return of investment for shareholders that might have a very short-sighted view,” Ingels said. “It’s really about building a legacy, and if you screw up, you don’t only screw up a company you can walk away from, you screw up your family name.”

Ingels said he hopes to work with Terra again.

“One of the funny and challenging things about David is that — once a direction has been decided for a project — he is incredibly impatient to get things done,” Ingels said. “We would agree on something in Miami, and then he would call me as I was leaving the airport in New York to ask for updates. But it means we make progress incredibly quickly.”

“In other contexts, he might be diagnosed with ADD,” Ingels continued. “But in this case, I think he’s found a very productive way of channeling his urgency.”

 

 

TERRA

Business: Terra is a full-service real estate developer with an in-house construction management company, a mortgage bank and a realty firm. Founded by father-and-son team Pedro and David Martin in 2001, Terra has a diversified approach to real estate, developing luxury condos downtown and on the beach and bringing mixed-use and single-family projects to the suburbs. It also develops commercial and office properties. In recent years, the firm has engaged some of the world’s leading architects, including Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas and Bjarke Ingels. It was an early believer in the promise of the emerging neighborhoods in Miami’s downtown and is also bringing Coconut Grove its first high-rise luxury condo towers in 10 years.

Owners: Pedro and David Martin

Headquarters: 2665 S. Bayshore Dr., Miami

Employees: About 100

Total assets under development: $3 billion

Major luxury towers under development: Grove at Grand Bay and Park Grove (Coconut Grove). Glass and 8701 Collins (Miami Beach).

Major single-family projects under development: Botaniko (Weston); Atlantic 15 (Sunny Isles Beach); Modern Doral, Neovita, Vintage and Doral Cay (Doral).

Number of units under development: 1800

Website: www.Terra.com

Real estate diversifies as developers build for today’s end users

May 31, 2016   |   Miami Herald

The international media’s coverage of The Panama Papers has characterized South Florida’s real-estate market as being dominated by luxury condos owned by absentee buyers. In fact, a deeper look reveals that our housing landscape is becoming increasingly diverse as developers meet demand among actual residents, so-called “end users.”

While the perception is that our market is one-dimensional due to the sheer number of high-rise condos that have been built over the past decade, today there are thriving single-family home and apartment communities under way in neighborhoods like Doral, Weston, Pembroke Pines, and even in and around downtown Miami.

Although we have seen an uptick in condo development in the past three years, the majority of units being built this cycle are selling to owners who will spend all or part of their time here. This marks a shift from the boom-turned-bust of 2008, which was driven by condo developers, their buyers and banks over-leveraging themselves in the name of speculation.

Case in point: In downtown Miami, the center of overbuilding last cycle, 85 percent of the 3,438 condos delivering this year are pre-sold, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s latest market report. The same study found that 94 percent of downtown’s existing units are occupied by full-time residents.

South Florida’s real-estate sector has learned from its past mistakes, and today’s housing market is proving resilient despite economic volatility overseas.

Several factors are fueling this stability.

Enhanced lifestyle offerings are appealing to end users from across the U.S., Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia who want to own a home here, preserve their wealth, start a business or upgrade their family’s quality of life. Our architecture has been elevated. World-class cultural and retail destinations are boosting our standing as a year-round destination. New museums are rising; our public and private schools are improving; and neighborhoods from Wynwood to Coconut Grove are being reimagined as urban and walkable.

Second, our market is on sound financial footing by comparison with past cycles. Because the vast majority of today’s home sales are all cash, developers are insulated from the risks associated with insurmountable debt. Even when lenders finance purchases, buyers are contributing 30 to 40 percent equity, a high threshold favoring residents over speculators. The days of easy-to-access loans are gone, resulting in one of the country’s most under-leveraged markets.

At the same time, we are making important investments in our infrastructure, from creating new parks and public transit options to expanding Miami International Airport and adding high-speed rail service.

Developers are doing their part to lure end-user residents by building low-density projects, prioritizing neighborhoods that foster a sense of community and offering amenities that make people feel at home.

At Grove at Grand Bay in Coconut Grove, set for completion this summer, buyers include local accountants, attorneys and doctors. More than half of the building’s owners are from the U.S., including many empty-nesters relocating from across South Florida.

Nearby, at Park Grove, we’ve sold units to New England transplants and seasonal snowbirds. One of our buyers is a middle-aged couple relocating from Connecticut after years of vacationing on a sailboat in Coconut Grove. 

At Glass in Miami Beach, each of the tower’s 10 units has been purchased by an end user. Residents include a banking executive, a tech mogul, members of a powerful steel family and an Icelandic couple that divides their time between Miami Beach and New York. 

Likewise, the majority of our single-family homes at Modern and NeoVita in Doral and at Botaniko in Weston are selling to existing South Florida families in search of new construction, contemporary home designs, more private space and a suburban community offering a strong quality of life.

After years of enduring criticism as a one-dimensional market overrun by absentee buyers, South Florida’s diverse housing options are increasingly appealing to end users. That’s good news for our real-estate market, our economy and our city’s newest crop of residential developments.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article80426277.html#storylink=cpy

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article80426277.html#storylink=cpy

 

As Coconut Grove surges, developer plans first new office building in decades

February 13, 2017   |   Miami Herald

 

Read on MiamiHerald.com 

BY: NICHOLAS NEHAMAS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The deal between the city’s parking agency and Martin was criticized by some Grove residents for taking away cheap public parking when it was announced two years ago. 

Market fundamentals are driving the move: Coconut Grove has one of the lowest vacancy rates for office space in Miami-Dade County, said Matthew Cheezem, managing director at commercial real estate firm JLL.

“The demand is clearly there because of the cachet of the Grove,” Cheezem said. “But the supply has been lacking. If you were a traditional company and you wanted to be in creative space, you went to Miami Beach or Coconut Grove. And nine times out of 10, Coconut Grove did not have space.”

He said the Grove’s office-space vacancy rate stands at a tight 6.2 percent. Reflecting the high demand for work space, two office towers in the Grove sold for $42 million in 2015 after just three weeks on the market.

The last major new office tower built in the Grove was the SBS Tower in 1989. In the early 2000s, the old Mayfair Center was also converted into office space. High-profile tenants there include Virgin Hotels and Sony Music. Cheezem said the Grove’s major office buildings are between 90 and 100 percent leased.

Revival in the Grove

Developers have returned to the Grove in droves over the last decade, lured by its hip history and proximity to downtown. Martin and other prominent builders are delivering luxury high-rise condos. A major retail firm paid $87.5 million to buy and revive ailing shopping mall CocoWalk. And in the West Grove’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, investors are snapping up properties, leading to conflict and gentrification.

The $16 million sale of the parking garage has also been controversial with some Grove residents, who said it would take away badly needed parking spaces from the central business district. Even Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado criticized the largely autonomous Miami Parking Authority over the deal.

$16 million Sales price for public parking garage that Terra will turn into office space.

“They don’t understand that their mission is to provide parking, not to make money,” Regalado said at the time.

The MPA has recently opened new surface lots near City Hall and also has plans for a 333-space parking garage nearby, according to Miami Today. It is also seeking to build a new garage at the Coconut Grove Playhouse as part of a county rescue plan for the shuttered theater.

Miami Beach voters approve convention center hotel and $439 million in bonds

November 6, 2018   |   Miami Herald

BY KYRA GURNEY

Miami Beach residents will see major changes to the island’s urban landscape following Tuesday’s election. Voters approved a plan to build an 800-room convention center hotel and authorized $439 million in general obligation bonds to finance public safety, infrastructure and parks projects.

Residents also voted to create an inspector general’s office, which will act as an independent watchdog for city hall.

“I am very grateful to the voters in trusting us and we don’t intend to let them down,” said Mayor Dan Gelber. “These are all important projects for the future of our city and I’m glad our voters have made the investment.”

This was Miami Beach’s third attempt in recent years to get a headquarter hotel project off the ground — something city officials and tourism experts have long argued that the city needs in order to compete with other convention destinations. Residents rejected previous proposals due to concerns over the size of the building and potential traffic congestion.

Although the $362 million hotel will be privately funded, the city needed approval from 60 percent of voters in order to lease public land in the convention center district. The project secured nearly 64 percent of the vote. The hotel will be built on a city-owned parking lot adjacent to the newly renovated convention center.

South Beach resident Andres Montejo, 43, said that the convention center hotel was one of the issues that drove him to the polls. Montejo, a businessman who travels frequently for work, said that the other cities he visits already have hotels connected to their convention centers.

“A convention center is great, but without a hotel it’s just another convention center,” he said after casting his ballot at Miami Beach Senior High School. “Anybody that travels ... you know that’s how the game works. It’s like that all over the world.”

Mid-Beach resident Michelle Erez, 42, said she voted in favor of the hotel because she wanted to support the island’s tourism industry.

“Tourism is really important to Miami Beach so we have to keep promoting that,” she said after casting her ballot at Nautilus Middle School.

Other residents said they voted against the hotel because they thought it would make traffic worse in South Beach or because they thought it would put smaller hotels out of business.

“People will end up without jobs,” said Mid-Beach resident Aura Vega, 90, who voted at Nautilus Middle School.

David Harleston, a consultant who lives on Washington Avenue in South Beach, said that after dealing with the traffic and noise caused by renovations to the convention center, he decided to vote against the hotel. Harleston and other residents formed a group called Residents First to oppose the project.

“We have been disappointed throughout the term of the construction with the city’s demonstrable indifference to issues that we have raised relating to the impact of the construction on our lives,” he said. “Based on that indifference, we are unable to place our faith in the representations that the city has made with respect to the construction of the convention center hotel.”

The hotel will connect to the convention center via a pedestrian bridge and include a 53-foot podium containing parking, meeting spaces and ballrooms as well as two 185-foot-tall wings of hotel rooms. Voters authorized the lease of city land and the construction of an 800-room hotel with a maximum height of 185 feet, but specifics of the hotel design will be evaluated by the city’s Design Review Board at a later date.

The hotel ballot question sparked an ugly political fight in Miami Beach. Supporters and opponents spent more than $1.3 million total on mailers, TV ads and text messages, funneling the money through political committees. The opposition committees generated controversy for their lack of transparency and for the false and misleading statements they printed on mailers. One mailer, for example, depicted the parking lot where the hotel would be built as a lush garden and warned voters not to “let our beautiful open spaces turn into ... another Alton Road.”

Opponents also stoked fear about the hotel’s potential traffic and parking impacts and claimed that it would “reduce ground filtration, intensifying floods.” (City officials say that this claim is untrue because the site is currently an asphalt parking lot where there is little, if any, ground filtration, whereas the hotel would collect rainwater on the roof and store it for use in irrigation, toilets and other parts of the building.)

Meanwhile, the group behind the latest proposal — Turnberry’s Jackie Soffer, Terra Group’s David Martin, Miami Design District developer Craig Robins and architecture firm Arquitectonica — emphasized that the hotel would be roughly 100 feet shorter than the previous proposal and include six times more space for cars to queue on the property so that they don’t spill onto the street.

Political committees funded by the developers also promoted the hotel as a financial windfall for Miami Beach. The hotel will have to pay the city either fixed rent totaling $16.6 million over the first 10 years or a percentage of hotel revenue, whichever is greater, according to the terms of the lease agreement. Miami Beach estimates that the city will collect $96 million in taxes from the hotel over 30 years.

“This is the right project for our city at the right time, and Jackie, Craig and I look forward to working with the community to deliver a hotel that will make Miami Beach proud,” developer David Martin said in a statement.

On a related ballot item, residents voted to earmark the guaranteed hotel rent payments for traffic reduction measures, stormwater projects and education initiatives, rather than sending the money to the city’s general fund where it could be used for a broader range of expenses.

Voters also authorized Miami Beach to issue general obligation bonds to fund three categories of public projects: $169 million for parks and beaches, $198 million for infrastructure and $72 million for public safety improvements.

The bonds, which voters approved by a wide margin, will be used to finance a range of projects including a $53.8 million park, library and aquatic center in North Beach, stormwater and flooding mitigation, sidewalk repairs, replacements for two fire stations and a new public safety radio system. A complete list of projects can be found at www.gomb2018.com.

María Elena Alvarez, a Republican retiree, said she voted for the bond program “because we need it.”

Alvarez said she thought Miami Beach was doing a good job dealing with flooding and wanted to see the city continue those efforts through new mitigation projects funded by the bonds.

Other voters said they had approved some of the bond ballot measures while rejecting others.

South Beach resident Montejo said he voted in favor of the parks and infrastructure bonds, but against the public safety bonds. He said he thought the city should invest in public safety as the need arises, rather than through a bond program.

“I feel that if there’s a real urgency for that, that will be addressed at that point,” he said.

Montejo said that Miami Beach needs to invest in infrastructure and parks to remain attractive to tourists and to draw new residents to the island.

Maria Portilla, 31, a South Beach resident and business manager, had the opposite view. Portilla said she voted to approve the public safety and parks bonds, but not the infrastructure bonds because she didn’t see the need for those.

“I think we’re good with infrastructure,” she said.

Miami Beach will pay back the bond debt over 30 years through the money it collects from property taxes, which means that residents will see a tax hike. City officials have said that they plan to issue the bonds over 10 years, which would make the tax increase more gradual. After all of the bonds have been issued, residents can expect to pay an extra $82 per $100,000 in taxable property value.

Miami Beach plans to create a resident oversight committee to monitor the bond program’s progress.

The new inspector general’s office, which voters overwhelmingly approved on Tuesday, will also help oversee the bond program.

The office will have the ability to perform investigations and subpoena witnesses and will be tasked with scrutinizing city spending in order to make the government more efficient.

The new office could cost as much as $1.1 million a year, depending on the number of staff, but Miami Beach may add a surcharge to city contracts to help cover the costs.

 

‘Mega-traffic’? Hundreds of jobs? The truth about Miami Beach’s convention center hotel

October 25, 2018   |   Miami Herald

By Kyra Gurney

In the weeks leading up to the November election, Miami Beach residents have been flooded with mailers, text messages and TV ads for and against a proposed convention center hotel, which is on the ballot.

Mailers covered in images of traffic jams warn that the “mega-hotel” will back up traffic for miles. One ad includes a fake check and claims that taxpayers will be on the hook for millions if the project fails. Other mailers show pictures of smiling children and hotel workers and promise that the hotel will deliver hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue that can be used for local schools, flood mitigation and public transportation.

It’s enough to confuse even the savviest of voters. Although the hotel would be privately funded, the city needs approval from 60 percent of voters in order to lease public land in the convention center district.

And there’s a lot at stake. Tourism experts say that Miami Beach needs a hotel connected to its newly renovated convention center in order to compete with other cities. Two previous proposals failed to win public support in part due to concerns over traffic and the size of the hotel.

The newest proposal, created by Turnberry’s Jackie Soffer, Terra Group’s David Martin, Miami Design District developer Craig Robins and architecture firm Arquitectonica, features a 185-foot tall, 800-room hotel connected to the Miami Beach convention center via a pedestrian bridge. The facade includes a 53-foot podium with two taller wings of hotel rooms stretching behind.

Both sides are spending a lot of money trying to convince voters. Friends of Our Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel, a political committee funded by the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and companies linked to Jackie Soffer and David Martin, has so far spent more than $940,000, much of it on ads. Supporters created a second committee this week, which has not yet reported any contributions.

Opponents have also financed two political committees. The first, Preserve Miami Beach’s Future, abruptly closed down in September amid questions about its financial backers. It’s unclear who was funding the committee because it has yet to file its final financial report, which was due Oct. 5.

The second opposition committee, Floridians for Veterans Service, has spent more than $61,000 in recent weeks, more than half on ads. All of its recent donors are other political committees, whose donors are also mainly political committees. The treasurer and chairman, South Florida lawyer Jason Blank, did not respond to questions about the committee or the claims on its mailers.

J.C. Planas, an attorney representing Terra, filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission against Floridians for Veterans Service for failing to register in Miami Beach and for failing to state that it’s advocating against the hotel referendum in its election paperwork. Planas said he’s also referred the committee to the state attorney’s office for allegedly accepting a straw donation.

So what impact would the hotel actually have on Miami Beach? The Miami Herald fact-checked claims made by both sides and here’s what we found:

Traffic

With numerous events held in Miami Beach and droves of tourists visiting every year, residents are sensitive to anything that could make the island’s traffic worse. Mailers warning of massive traffic jams in South Beach have likely scared more than a few voters.

Developers say that they have built in plenty of space for cars to queue on hotel property, however, rather than spilling into the street. Their plans include a three-lane pick-up and drop-off system similar to an airport, including one lane dedicated to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The parking garage would only be accessible from hotel grounds to keep cars from backing up on nearby streets as they wait to enter.

“We have prepared an excellent parking and traffic analysis with engineers to make sure we can contain all of that drop-off action inside the hotel and not spill into the streets of the city,” said Bernardo Fort-Brescia, co-founder of architecture firm Arquitectonica.

Construction, which will take an estimated two years, won’t require any daytime lane closures and construction workers will use a service road for cranes and equipment, Martin said.

As for the hotel’s long-term traffic impacts, Miami Beach staff believe it will ultimately reduce the amount of traffic generated by the convention center. Without a headquarter hotel, the convention center will attract consumer and trade shows whose attendees drive in from nearby areas, City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote in a memo to the City Commission, whereas with a hotel it would attract more conferences and conventions with out-of-town attendees who fly in and stay at the hotel, enabling them to walk to their meetings.

“This should reduce the traffic impact of the convention center by reducing the number of daily trips,” Morales wrote.

Parking

Mailers against the convention center hotel claim that it would take up limited parking in South Beach. The proposed site for the hotel is a parking lot adjacent to the convention center with 160 public parking spots.

The 800-room hotel would include 320 on-site parking spaces, which Martin said is in keeping with the standard room-to-parking spot ratio in the hospitality industry. These spots would be open to the public as well as hotel guests.

Miami Beach has seen a 25 percent decrease in demand for public parking in recent years, a phenomenon the city attributes to a number of factors including the popularity of ride-sharing services.

Flooding

Some mailers claim that the hotel would “reduce ground filtration, intensifying floods,” but the site is currently an asphalt parking lot where there is little, if any, ground filtration, according to city staff. The hotel would include water retention components, as well as other eco-friendly features such as solar panels, according to Walter Meyer, an urban designer who developed the hotel’s resiliency features.

The hotel’s roof would hold rainwater for up to 24 hours and cisterns would store the water for longer periods for use in irrigation, toilets and other parts of the hotel, said Meyer, the co-founder of Local Office Landscape Architecture. The hotel landscaping was also designed to absorb water, and planting areas would be set lower than nearby surfaces so that the plants could absorb water from the street.

“We’re going to reduce groundwater flooding because ... what we’re doing is increasing porosity,” Meyer said.

Joyce Coffee, the president of Climate Resilience Consulting, said that although she wasn’t familiar with the details of the project, cisterns are a “proven means to manage stormwater.”

“And if the cistern is designed to water landscaping, the infiltration opportunities still exist,” she said in an e-mail. “For a variety of reasons, that is a preferable means to increase water infiltration than runoff from an asphalt parking lot. Asphalt is not known to improve water quality.”

Coffee and Meyer both served on a nine-member panel convened by the Urban Land Institute that has advised Miami Beach on resiliency issues.

Financial impact

Opponents of the proposed hotel claim that it risks taxpayer money because the public would “foot the bill if the project fails,” while supporters say the hotel would generate millions for the city.

The $362 million hotel would be entirely privately funded with no taxpayer subsidies. According to the terms of the lease agreement, the hotel would have to pay the city either fixed rent totaling $16.6 million over the first 10 years or a percentage of hotel revenue, whichever is greater. If the project fails and the mortgage lender fails to take responsibility for the hotel, the lease stipulates that the property would be returned to the city. Taxpayers wouldn’t assume any of the risk for the project.

Financial projections from Miami Economic Associates, which were commissioned by the developer, show that the hotel could generate up to $225 million in today’s dollars in lease payments and taxes for Miami Beach over the course of the 99-year lease. The hotel would also generate tax revenue for the county, the state, the school board and The Children’s Trust. These financial projections are consistent with Miami Beach’s analysis of the project.

Voters will get to decide how the money is used. One item on the ballot asks voters whether the guaranteed hotel rent payments should be earmarked in equal portions for traffic reduction measures, stormwater projects and education initiatives. Otherwise, the money would go into the city’s general fund where it could be used for a broader range of expenses.

The mailers against the project also claim that it would “consume public space that is key to economic development and environmental sustainability.” The parking lot where the hotel would be located currently generates just $104,000 a year in revenue, according to city figures. In addition to rent payments and taxes, Miami Beach estimates that the hotel will generate more than 700 full-time jobs and that construction will generate approximately 1,900 jobs.

Both city staff and the visitors bureau argue that the convention center needs a headquarter hotel in order to compete with other cities for conventions. The convention center, which just underwent a $620 million renovation, has lost at least $130 million in bookings since 2015 because it lacks a headquarter hotel, according to the visitors bureau. “The headquarter hotel will now ensure the investment in the Miami Beach Convention Center will produce a higher return on investment,” said William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the visitors bureau, in an e-mail. “A headquarter hotel will certainly help retain and attract high-profile meetings and conventions to the destination.”

Views

Mailers opposing the hotel claim that it would block views for nearly 200 feet. The hotel’s neighbors would include City Hall, the convention center and the New World Center as well as some apartments. A city spokeswoman said that “a very limited number of buildings and apartment units on Washington Avenue, one block away from the Hotel, would be partially impacted in terms of views.”

The hotel would be roughly 100 feet shorter than the previous proposal, however. Fort-Brescia said that the hotel’s design pushes the taller wings as far back from the street as possible in order to keep the front of the building consistent with the height of neighboring structures.

 

The luxury office market in Coconut Grove is booming. Here are the latest tenants

October 2, 2019   |   Miami Herald

BY RENE RODRIGUEZ

Make room, Brickell. Another Miami neighborhood is making a run at the lucrative market of prime office space.

Three new Class A office buildings — new or renovated construction featuring luxurious amenities, professional security, high-tech infrastructure and desirable locations — are either under construction or nearing completion in the historic Miami neighborhood of Coconut Grove:

The Related Group, the biggest real estate developer in South Florida, is building a new eight-story Class A office building at 2850 Tigertail Ave., adjacent to the Park Grove luxury residential towers, which Related developed in joint partnership with Terra Group.

Related will relocate from its longtime home base in downtown Miami and take over the top two floors of the 105,000-square-foot building. Construction is scheduled to be completed in late 2020.

Mary Street, a joint venture between Terra and the boutique luxury brokerage firm Mayfair Advisors, has received its temporary certificate of occupancy, which allows tenants to begin the build-outs of their individual spaces.

The five-story building, located at 3310 Mary St. and designed by Touzet Studio architectural firm, is an adaptive reuse of a former parking garage into 77,840 square feet of office space. The building is already leased out. The CPA firm Kaufman Rossin will move nearly 300 employees into 64,666 square feet of space in the building by mid-2020. Terra’s corporate office will occupy the remaining space.

One CocoWalk, the five-story Class A building that forms the office component of the redeveloped CocoWalk, has leased out 65 percent of its available 85,762 square feet. Signed tenants include the co-working company Spaces, which will occupy the second and third floors with its ready-to-go office spaces, and the investment firm Boyne Capital, which will occupy 11,600 square feet.

The Related Group’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters is surprising, since the company is best known for its extensive development in the Brickell and downtown corridors. But Related Group CEO and chairman Jorge Pérez has long made the Grove his primary residence, and his company has outgrown its longtime headquarters at the base of the One Miami condo towers at 315 S. Biscayne Blvd., which Related built in 2006.

“We had already expanded to additional office spaces at 444 Brickell Avenue,” said Nick Pérez, vice-president of The Related Group. “Brickell and the downtown area will always be the main urban cores of Miami. But the Grove has a unique personality — it was the original neighborhood of Miami — and we’ve always had a connection with this area, as professionals as well as a family.”
Perez said that unlike the company’s other projects, which are usually launched with a splashy ad campaign, construction of the 2850 Tigertail office building began without fanfare. The property is being marketed via a “whisper leasing campaign” using one-on-one appointments with brokers and tenants, to be as selective as possible.

“This building is boutique in nature,” he said. “We want tenants who have an appreciation of fine art — my father’s collection will be rotated in and out of the lobby — but also wants exclusivity and luxury.”

Unlike other office markets around Miami-Dade, Coconut Grove developers can afford to take a soft-sell approach with their product, because the Grove’s zoning codes do not allow for the kind of height and density that would result in a critical amount of oversupply.
According to the Colliers International Miami-Dade County Office Forecast report for second quarter 2019, more Class A office space was vacated (added to the market) in the Grove than was leased during the second quarter of 2019. But the surplus was only 4,398 square feet, which is modest compared to other areas such as Kendall, which had a surplus of 32,574 square feet.

Class A office rents in Coconut Grove are currently at an asking rate of $41.38 per square foot, according to Colliers. That is lower than nearby areas such Brickell ($51.38), downtown Miami ($45.72) and Coral Gables ($47.66).

“People are wanting to get out of the Brickell area, where it’s very congested,” said Tom Roth, principal of Grass River Property, which is developing One CocoWalk. “Coconut Grove is much more manageable. It’s similar to Coral Gables. And the supply of total square footage is pretty limited. The three buildings you are looking at combined add up to half the size of one Brickell skyrise.”

While residents in the mostly black West Grove struggle to stave off rising prices and retain the neighborhood’s identity, development in the East Grove continues to attract major investment.

In July, former New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez acquired 12,700 square feet of office space at the Grove on Grand Bay condo to consolidate the various operations of his investment company A-Rod Corp into the same space (the sales price was not disclosed).

Sony Music Latin America and the advertising firm SapientNitro are among the businesses that left their former Lincoln Road location for the Grove over the last five years. General Electric also has a sizable office presence there.

“What you see in the Grove is a little more authenticity than other parts of Miami and a neighborhood that is growing hotter,” said David Martin, president and co-founder of Terra Group. “We have a high walkability index, we have a village feel, we have a great tree canopy. The Grove lost a lot of its excitement in 1995 when South Beach happened. But a lot has changed since then. The Grove has again become a place that people who are new to Miami can discover.”

Miami Beach gives initial green light to new convention center hotel plan

July 2, 2018   |   Miami Herald

BY KYRA GURNEY

Miami Beach gave an initial thumbs up to the newest proposal for a convention center headquarter hotel, the city's third attempt in recent years to select a design capable of winning voter approval.

On Monday, the City Commission unanimously voted to allow city staff to negotiate a lease for the hotel, putting in motion a process that developers hope will culminate in a proposal on the November ballot.

The new design, unveiled in late June, features a 185-foot tall, 800-room hotel connected to the Miami Beach convention center via a pedestrian bridge. The facade includes a 53-foot podium containing parking, meeting spaces and ballrooms — a design developers said was an effort to keep the front of the building consistent with the height of neighboring structures. Two taller wings of hotel rooms stretch behind the podium. The hotel roof contains solar panels and water absorption components, features designers hope will make the building more resilient to the effects of climate change and hurricanes.

In response to concerns raised about previous proposals, the new hotel would be roughly 100 feet shorter than the previous plan, include approximately six times more space for cars to queue on the property, and wouldn't impact the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, which would remain at its current location. (An annex building at 555 17th St. would be torn down.)

Although commissioners were not voting on the specifics of the design, which will be discussed at a later date, they largely praised the plans.

“I think this is a very evolved and informed project," said Mayor Dan Gelber. "I think our job is to give our voters the best possible version of this thing so that when they look at it they can make their decision."

Developers Jackie Soffer, of Turnberry, and David Martin, of Terra Group, said they plan to hold numerous public meetings to discuss the design. On July 25, the City Commission votes on whether to place the proposal on the November ballot. That date is the commission's last scheduled meeting before the county deadline to put measures on the ballot.

"This is the start of a process of working with the city, working with the community, and we're committed to working with them to see this through," Martin told the commission.

Page 2

The proposal was the only bid submitted in response to a request for proposals Miami Beach issued in May. The developers, who submitted their plans under the name Miami Beach Connect, worked with Miami Design District developer Craig Robins and architecture firm Arquitectonica. They estimate that the hotel would cost between $348 million and $362 million to build, but aren't asking the city for capital contributions.

There are still some potential sticking points. Commissioner Michael Góngora raised concerns about the number of hotel rooms, which he said could be a hard sell for residents, who rejected previous proposals because of concerns over size and potential traffic congestion. "We're going to have to do a better job of explaining to residents who ultimately vote on this why this is a better project," Góngora said.

The date of the referendum is also up for discussion. Commissioner Mark Samuelian said that while he supports the proposal, he thinks the city would have a better shot at securing the approval of 60 percent of voters — which is the minimum required to authorize the project — if the referendum were held next year.

"We need a convention center hotel. We build hotels all the time and this is the hotel that would do the most public good," he said. But, he added, "60 percent is a very difficult threshold."

William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, urged commissioners to move ahead with the 800-room project, which he argued addressed the concerns raised in previous iterations. He said the bureau gets daily phone calls from meeting planners asking about a convention center hotel. "It's the meeting planners who are asking for this. All of our competition has that amount or higher," he said, referring to the number of hotel rooms. "Let's complete the job. We've been doing this for 15 years."

A city evaluation committee gave the proposal high marks when it was unveiled on June 21. City Manager Jimmy Morales recommended the commission authorize city staff to begin negotiations.

Miami Beach voters to decide on new convention center hotel plan

July 25, 2018   |   Miami Herald

By Kyra Gurney

The future of Miami Beach’s convention center hotel is once again in voters’ hands.

On Wednesday, the City Commission approved a development and lease agreement with the developers behind the newest plan for a Miami Beach Convention Center headquarter hotel and voted to put the proposal on the November ballot. This is the city’s third attempt in recent years to find a design residents will support.

The newest proposal features a 185-foot tall, 800-room hotel with two wings of hotel rooms stretching behind a 53-foot podium containing parking, meeting spaces and ballrooms. The hotel would be connected to the convention center via a pedestrian bridge.

The group behind the new plan — Turnberry’s Jackie Soffer, Terra Group’s David Martin, Miami Design District developer Craig Robins and architecture firm Arquitectonica — hopes the latest iteration will address residents’ concerns about size and traffic, which have derailed previous attempts to build a headquarter hotel. Their proposal is 100 feet shorter than the previous plan and creates approximately six times more space for cars to queue on the property. With a hotel, city officials say, the convention center will attract more “fly-in” conference attendees who won’t necessarily need a car to get around, rather than people driving in from nearby areas.

If voters approve the project, developers anticipate that the hotel would open in September 2022, according to information from the city manager’s office. City officials and tourism groups say Miami Beach needs a convention center hotel in order to compete with other convention destinations. The Miami Beach Convention Center is currently undergoing a $620 million renovation, but has lost $130 million in bookings since 2015 because it lacks a headquarter hotel, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The timing is right, the size is right, the team is right,” said William D. Talbert III, president and CEO of the visitors bureau. “The industry is ready for the new building, for the new hotel.”

According to the terms of the lease agreement approved by the City Commission, the hotel will pay the city either fixed rent totaling $16.6 million over the first 10 years or a percentage of hotel revenue, whichever is greater. The city plans to ask voters whether the guaranteed rent payments should be earmarked for traffic reduction, stormwater or education initiatives. Miami Beach estimates that the city will collect $96 million in taxes from the hotel over 30 years. The city won’t provide any public funding for the project.

“It seems to me we have a great economic component here for the city that’s going to help us accomplish all of our goals going forward,” said Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán.

City commissioners largely praised the project, but commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Michael Góngora cautioned that some residents are frustrated with the amount of tourism-related development on the island, which they say brings traffic headaches. While both officials voted in support of the project, they said the city needs to take a look at the overall amount of construction and tourism-related development in Miami Beach.

“That’s really the number one concern that residents have and that I have is do we really need another large hotel? Is this going to pile on a lot of cars back in this area?” said Góngora. “I am concerned for the residents in the neighborhood that have suffered through a lot of construction,” he added.

The proposal has the support of the hotel worker union Unite Here Local 355, which recently signed a labor agreement with the developers. The project will need approval from 60 percent of voters in order to move forward. On the ballot, voters will be asked to authorize the lease of city land — a parking lot adjacent to the convention center — and the construction of an 800-room hotel with a maximum height of 185 feet. The specifics of the hotel design will be evaluated by the city’s Design Review Board at a later date.

Miami’s original hip hotspot lost its spunk. Now a comeback is afoot.

August 13, 2018   |   Miami Herald

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI

To anyone who’s been around long enough, it’s an astonishing sight: Half of CocoWalk, the open-air mall that was once the toast of Miami, reduced to rubble to make way for the newest thing in pleasure-seeking Coconut Grove.

Offices.

Just as the faux-Mediterranean mall redefined the Grove in the ‘90s as a magnet for mass tourism and big-chain shopping, food and fun, the cleanly contemporary new CocoWalk that will rise from the dust of demolition augurs yet another turn in the quaint hamlet’s never-ending series of transformations.

The Cheesecake Factory, Fat Tuesday and Victoria’s Secret are vamoose (though the Gap and the Cinepolis movie theaters remain). In their place will be an entirely fresh roster of restaurants, mixed with new boutiques and personal services like a spa and hair salon. Those will be located in half of the original mall, radically refaced and redubbed Two CocoWalk. A glassy five-story office building, One CocoWalk, will be set across a tree-shaded public plaza that’s to replace the mall’s ungainly old central pavilion.

But it’s not just CocoWalk that’s getting a reset.

Big changes are afoot all across the Grove’s compact commercial heart, a one-time redoubt of Bohemian chic that in recent years has experienced a sharp, unhappy comedown. Overshadowed by the hip, youthful allure of Brickell, Midtown and Wynwood, the Grove commercial district had become a maze of vacant stores, shuttered restaurants and lifeless sidewalks.

Now the cool and the interesting are popping up all around, as long-in-the-making plans by new property and business owners begin to bear fruit. The upshot, they say, will be a Grove revitalized by a blend of renovations and denser, infill construction — an urban work-and-lifestyle village with a distinctly local focus.

And while not everyone in the often-cantankerous Grove is happy about the alterations to the landscape, others have embraced the changes as long overdue.

“I don’t think anyone can say the Grove five or 10 years ago was a place anyone wanted to be,” said Michael Comras, a developer and broker who helped engineer the revival of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road and is now significantly invested in the village center’s turnaround.

“In two years, it will be transformed. It will be vibrant. A place where people want to go. All that’s happening, it’s lifting the whole village.”

The most obvious signs of change center around its principal intersection, where CocoWalk sits and Main Highway, Grand Avenue and McFarlane Road meet.

A new office building and public plaza will replace the north wing and central pavilion at the CocoWalk mall in Coconut Grove. The rest of the Mediterranean-style open-air mall is being refaced in a modern look.

CocoWalk

Kitty-corner from CocoWalk, on the corner of Main and McFarlane, a set of revamped shops is now home to new-breed retailers Bonobos and Warby Parker, which essentially function as showrooms; clothes and eyeglasses are delivered to shoppers’ homes.

Next door is a brand-new, two-level outlet of Miami literary stalwart Books & Books, with a coming wine bar. Mere steps away is another newcomer, Belgian boulangerie Le Pain Quotidien. They join a lineup carefully picked by their landlords, the family of Grove-based architects Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear, with the help of Comras. Other outlets include Panther Coffee, Juicense and chef Michael Schwartz’s Harry’s Pizzeria.

Now under construction behind the shops: A hotel on stilts that will bear the Mr. C brand, an offshoot of the Cipriani family of Venice fame. It’s the first new hotel in the Grove in years, and the first of what could be three new boutique hotels in the center Grove catering to upscale, urbane visitors. A few blocks east, the Ritz-Carlton hotel is set for a $10 million refresh under a new owner.

When it opens this winter season, the 100-room Mr. C Coconut Grove, designed by Fort-Brescia’s and Spear’s Arquitectonica and developed by a family company, will boast a rooftop pool, restaurant and cabanas overlooking Peacock Park and Biscayne Bay. At ground level, beneath the elevated hotel, will be a garden courtyard and lobby and bar.

Fort-Brescia’s hope is that Mr. C, in conjunction with the adjoining shops, will serve both as a full-fledged urban waterfront resort for guests — there will be a motorboat for their use at nearby Dinner Key — and as a hangout for Grove residents.

“It’s almost like a club for the neighborhood where people can just stumble in and relax,” Fort-Brescia said. “There is no place like that in Coconut Grove. It’s a restaurant that happens to have a hotel.”

By the same token, said Comras, who is also a minority partner in the CocoWalk redevelopment with Maryland-based Federal Realty and the Grove’s Grass River Property, the overhauled mall would again become “the place to be” for locals, though the focus will be far less on tourists than it once was.

A new office building and public plaza will replace the north wing and central pavilion at the CocoWalk mall in Coconut Grove. The rest of the Mediterranean-style open-air mall is being refaced in a modern look.

Across Grand, a Blue Bottle cafe, for fans with a refined coffee palate, is widely expected to open in a now-gutted corner building that once housed a hamburger chain outlet, though RFK, the broker for the building, did not respond to a request for confirmation.

That means Groveites will have their pick of caffeine and cafe culture within a few steps.

Starbucks just moved from CocoWalk to the opposite corner, across from Panther Coffee and Le Pain. A few more yards down Main Highway from the new Starbucks is The Bookstore and Kitchen, newly renamed and relocated from Mayfair on the edge of the village center. The former Bookstore in the Grove now occupies separate but adjoining cafe and shop spaces.

Comras professes to be untroubled by the close profusion of coffee choices. More businesses draw more people, and everyone benefits from the additional foot traffic, he said.

Perhaps the most thoroughgoing change — the addition of 250,000 square feet of office space in three new buildings, including One CocoWalk — will only augment that critical foot traffic, Comras said. Developers like Comras and his partners are seeking to capitalize on the successful conversion of the long-troubled Mayfair luxury shopping mall into a place for business at a time when the Grove’s Class A office-vacancy rate sits at a minuscule 1.7 percent, according to a report by real estate advisers JLL.

On Main Highway, on what had been a desolate row of restaurants that failed in the wake of the closure of the Coconut Grove Playhouse a decade ago, a five-story building now under construction directly behind Grove mainstay GreenStreet cafe will further boost the neighborhood’s stock of office space. The redevelopment may already be helping stem that end of the village: A block south, Miami River seafood purveyor Casablanca is opening a restaurant in one of those vacant spaces, behind the legendary Taurus watering hole.

At the edge of the business district, David Martin of Grove-based Terra Group is adding offices atop the former city Oak Avenue garage, which the parking authority controversially sold to him for $16 million. The expanded building, sheathed in glass and renamed Mary Street, will incorporate ground-floor restaurant and shop space and retain two popular existing tenants, a gym and physical therapy center, Martin said.

The under-construction Mary Street complex overlooks a small corner park Martin built as part of his three-tower Grove Park condo project, developed in partnership with the Related Group and designed by the firm of superstar architect Rem Koolhaas. A new full-service restaurant by Schwartz, the chef, will open out into the park.

Residents are moving into the first two Grove Park towers, joining new condo dwellers at a another nearby Terra 90-unit condo project. The twisting twin towers of Grove at Grand Bay, designed by former Koolhaas disciple Bjarke Ingels, opened in late 2016. When finished, Grove Park will have 263 condos.

Directly behind CocoWalk, a 52-unit, five-story condo, Arbor, is under construction.

Village merchants say an influx of new business from the luxury condos is not yet evident, but say they’re banking on it materializing soon.

Like the addition of affluent new Groveites, the expansion of the Grove’s work space will be critical to the economic survival of the village center, developers and supportive residents say, and the proof is in Mayfair. The hundreds of new office workers brought in by tenants such as Sony BMG Music and the Sapient marketing group starting in 2014 have brought new life to formerly sleepy sidewalks, and help keep nearby restaurants in business, especially in the daytime.

On nights and weekends, thriving new restaurants are again turning the Grove village center into a playground for locals — and what developers and business owners hope will be a sophisticated tourist crowd looking for an authentic, picturesque Miami experience in the city’s oldest neighborhood.

The counter-intuitive trend, perhaps the biggest change over the Grove of old, is driven by Miamians weary of fighting traffic and who now wish to live as locally as possible for everything, from work to cafe, culture and home — preferably within easy strolling distance of all of it.

That close-to-home lifestyle is increasingly sought out by the professionals and young families who seek out the Grove’s lush residential neighborhoods and can afford the high and rising home prices, say developers.

“It brings people into the Grove during the day and at night,” Comras said. “Businesses can’t be sustainable on a few hours a day.”

It may also represent Miami’s urban future: a connected series of such villages where no one has far to go for work and school, or to work out or eat out.

Those include Coral Gables’ downtown, with its recently revamped Miracle Mile and its extensive infill redevelopment; Doral with its new, small-town-style downtown; and surging Wynwood, where developers are rapidly adding offices, condos and apartments to complement the shops and restaurants that have filled block after block of renovated industrial warehouses.

“The only way to save the Grove, or any other community in Miami-Dade, is to make pockets of living areas where you don’t need to leave, where you have shopping, school, church, parks in one neighborhood,” said Marcelo Fernandes, a Grove activist and homebuilder who serves as chairman of the Coconut Grove Village Council, an elected body that advises the city. “I think offices is good. Retail is good.”

Such development fosters increased walkability and walking, a critical element in reducing automobile use, planners and developers emphasize.

“More people walking promotes more people walking,” Terra’s Martin said. “That’s one feature of the Grove we’d like to see more of.”

But Fernandes, echoing a broad consensus among longtime Grove residents, also warns that too much development in the village center could obliterate the small-scale charm that makes the place so appealing in the first place. Fernandes said the city needs to be vigilant and close zoning loopholes that permit occasional abuses by developers.

Because zoning across much of the commercial center allows buildings up to five stories, he said, developers could in theory replace much of its mostly one- and two-story fabric with denser construction. Or they could seek waivers to go even higher — though that would likely ignite a political firestorm from Groveites, known for zealously guarding the neighborhood’s historic feel.

“There’s a finite number of buildings and people that can occupy the Grove. If everything gets built that’s allowed as of right, we’re going to get killed,” he said. “It’s getting to be a bit much. Most people are a little surprised there is so much density going in. The idea is not to stop it, but to keep it from steamrolling us.”

It’s not just the increased height and density that sends some Groveites into conniptions, though. It’s also the sleekly modern architectural style that Arquitectonica exemplifies and that Grove developers have embraced. It’s meant the replacement of some old buildings made of stucco, brick and masonry with steel and glass.

By far the most controversial is Miami-Dade County’s planned redevelopment of the historic but long-shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse in the village center. The county plan, which goes to a key vote before the city planning board Sept. 5, would restore the theater’s wing-shaped front building but replace its auditorium with a smaller, minimalist stand-alone theater designed by Arquitectonica.

“The Grove is being ruined,” groused longtime resident Harry Gottlieb, who said contemporary architecture is fine — somewhere else. “Some of us who have been here 30 years don’t like the changes.”

The issue, he noted, is that only one building in the village center, the long-shuttered Playhouse, is protected by historic designation by the city. The commercial center needs more designations and better architectural controls for hew construction, Gottlieb said.

“Coconut Grove is one of the most historic neighborhoods of Miami, but nothing is designated, so anything can go up,” he said.

Not to mention that everything has gotten expensive, including lunch, he said. The prices and the affluent-hipster approach in combination with the physical changes, conspire to alienate many oldtimers, he acknowledged.

“It’s hard to find a hamburger and a beer for less than $20 in the Grove,” said Gottlieb, who recently moved into the historically black West Grove from the South Grove in search of an affordable rental. “The Grove has gotten beyond me. It’s all millennial stuff. I’m not a millennial. So I don’t come into the Grove so much, even though I want the Grove to succeed.”

To be sure, new property and business owners are consciously catering to the well-to-do. The area, including adjoining Coral Gables, South Miami and Pinecrest, has some of the highest household incomes in Miami-Dade, Comras noted.

Terra’s Martin defends the choice of contemporary architecture as a reflection of evolving tastes, in particular among the younger bunch now making the Grove home. But he noted that the Grove has a long history of eclectic architecture, including some modern and cutting-edge designs.

“The market dictates a lot of it,” Martin said. “It’s the architecture of the time.”

Fort-Brescia and CocoWalk’s new owners say they’ve been mindful of the scale around them and sought to respect it. Chris Weilminster, executive vice president of principal owner Federal Realty, says that, to succeed in the Grove, new development must fit in.

The original CocoWalk faded despite its initial roaring success as tourists migrated elsewhere, and the new one won’t thrive without local patronage, he and Comras said. To that end, the redeveloped enclave will have a layout and access significantly more open and connected to surrounding streets.

That planning approach should provide an experience much more in keeping with the essence of the Grove than its predecessor did, and contributed to a lack of opposition from residents when the new plan was unveiled, Weilminster said.

“We’re happy we could do all this without creating a hornet’s nest in the community,” he said. “We’re going to work really hard to make sure the scale is right and the community embraces it.”

Still, significant obstacles could slow or crimp the village center’s resuscitation.

Traffic and parking woes have been worsened, at least temporarily, by the spate of construction and the loss of the Oak Avenue garage. The city parking authority is building a new garage on the waterfront and trolleys will eventually run into the village center from there, but a planned new garage at the Grove Playhouse is mired in the planning stages amid heated debate over the fate of the theater project.

A new centralized valet system established by the Grove Business Improvement District helps, but the service is hampered by the shortage of parking garage space, which forces long waits for cars, business owners complain.

And more development inevitably means more cars, no matter how pedestrian-friendly it is.

To blunt traffic, the city and the Business Improvement District, an agency that uses a special tax on property owners, financed the $400,000 purchase of two trolley buses to serve new Grove routes that connect to the Grove Metrorail station on South Dixie Highway and Coral Gables’ trolley line. The agency has also made a deal that brought the on-demand Freebee electric golf-cart service to the Grove.

Many also complain that stretches of the center Grove center remain dingy, especially the narrow, badly buckled and sloppily patched brick sidewalks on Main Highway. The BID is focused on a project to replace the sidewalks and spends $200,000 a year on greening and maintenance of the business district, said new director Nicole Singletary.

Perhaps the biggest hindrance to the Grove’s comeback, though, may be the persistence of vacant storefronts. In some cases, critics complain, investors and speculators — some of them from outside Miami — sit on properties while waiting for the value to rise before flipping them, or demand exorbitant rents.

And values are indeed increasing sharply as developer interest in the center Grove rises. Grove real estate investor Peter Gardner’s group sold the Grove Corner property to be occupied by Blue Bottle for $23 million last year to Chicago investment firm L3 Capital after paying $10.3 million for it in 2013. Gardner, who was traveling abroad last week, could not be reached.

One consequence is that some shops, particularly on Commodore Plaza, have been empty for years. That’s left the charming street, where wider new sidewalks installed by the city a couple of years ago to spur their reopening, in a peculiar state: The street’s four corners are the liveliest in the village center, with restaurateur Sylvano Bignon’s GreenStreet and Lulu’s on one end, and on the other end relative newcomers Maurizio Farinelli’s Strada and Farinelli, and LoKal hamburgers and beer and Atchana’s Homegrown Thai.

So successful has Farinelli been that he’s just opened a third Commodore Plaza dining spot, the French bistro La Rue. He came in at a low point, but said he sensed Groveites were hungry for better food, service and ambience, and he was able to snag advantageous leases.

But the center of Commodore Plaza remains a forbidding bank of long-vacant storefronts and, with the closing of the Academy of Arts and Minds charter school, an entire empty multi-story building.

“The speculators are hurting this community,” Bignon said. “We cannot allow buildings to stay empty. It’s about caring. No community will go anywhere with empty buildings. Empty buildings kill communities. It’s a political and money issue.”

The prospects for a turnaround on Commodore Plaza are uncertain. Federal Realty and its partners have bought the rundown former Moe’s, with plans to divide it into three restaurant spaces, but nothing is leased yet, Comras said. Meanwhile, a developer announced plans for a boutique hotel in the tiny parking lot next to GreenStreet, though Bignon said he heard that deal may be off.

The issue, Terra’s Martin said, is how to weave businesses that are doing well together cohesively into a whole, encouraging new business and development to fill in the existing gaps — such as parking lots and empty storefronts that deaden street life, discourage foot traffic and hurt businesses.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity,” Martin said. “The debate is, how do we piece everything together? The idea is that we need the entire Grove to succeed.”

The key, said restaurateur Farinelli, will be vigilant balance to retain the village’s historic charm and ambience. There’s no Grove without that, he said.

“Some of the residents don’t want anything to change in Coconut Grove. Unfortunately, life changes,” Farinelli said. “This place is going in the right direction. But you don’t want massive amounts of building. If they pay attention to how to develop properly, it can only get better.

“But it has to retain the village feel. That’s the essence of Coconut Grove.”

 

Miami Beach wanted a new vision for convention center hotel. Only one group made a bid.

June 15, 2018   |   Miami Herald

By Rene Rodriguez

After years of failed attempts, a Miami Beach Convention Center hotel is edging closer to reality with a proposal submitted by two South Florida real estate heavyweights.

David Martin, president of Terra Group, and Jackie Soffer, chairman and chief executive of Turnberry, have joined forces and filed a proposal under the entity name Miami Beach Connect. The bid is sealed. Under the terms of the Request for Proposal, the hotel would be located on a parking lot adjacent to the convention center.

The proposal filed by Martin and Soffer would not be associated with their respective companies.

Theirs was the sole response to an RFP issued in May by the Miami Beach City Commission. The proposal must address development, financing, design, construction and operation of a full-service convention hotel.

Under the parameters of the RFP, the hotel would be financed entirely by the developer. Other requirements include an enclosed overhead pedestrian walkway that would connect the hotel to the convention center. It must have between 550 and 800 rooms and be no taller than 185 feet.

"The completed Convention Center District will create a gathering place, fuel a key economic engine, deliver reliable long-term revenue to the City, and provide a vital connection point for several Miami Beach neighborhoods," Miami Beach Connect said in a response to the Herald. "It will also ensure Miami Beach remains competitive in attracting the world’s most important events and the economic impact and community benefits they bring."

Martin and Soffer declined to comment.

According to the proposal, Miami's Arquitectonica would oversee the hotel's architecture and design. Dacra Development — run by Miami Design District developer Craig Robins, who is married to Soffer — would handle the urban planning. New York-based Rockwell Group would oversee the interior design, and Raleigh, N.C.'s Kimley-Horn would manage the traffic and mobility engineering. Miami's Coastal Tishman would serve as the general contractor on the project.

The proposal also guarantees that The Fillmore at the Jackie Gleason Theater would be preserved and untouched by construction of the new hotel.

The RFP was issued May 16 with a June 14 deadline for submissions. The details of the submitted bid will be revealed during a presentation to an Evaluation Committee at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, June 21, at the Wolfsonian-FIU museum on Washington Avenue. The committee will ensure the proposal meets the requirements of the RFP and make its recommendation to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

If approved, the proposal could go before voters in November.

Roots in South Florida
Terra Group, which was founded in 2001, has developed more than $4 billion in real estate projects, including the twin Metropolis condo towers near the Dadeland South Metrorail station, the Doral Commons shopping center at Northwest 107th Avenue and 74th Street, and the 20-story luxury Grove at Grand Bay residences at 2669 S. Bayshore Drive. Terra's assets include a mortgage bank, a construction management company and a realty firm.

Turnberry owns and operates hotels including the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and JW Turnberry Marriott Miami and recently completed the first phase of a $214 million expansion of Aventura Mall. The company is a partner in the ongoing development of a 184-acre site in North Miami, called SoLē Mia, that will include more than one million square feet of retail, 4,000 residences and 37 acres of parks.

Previous attempts to build a hotel next to the Miami Beach Convention Center have failed over concerns about traffic congestion and the sheer size of the proposed structures. In 2016, voters nixed a proposal by an Atlanta-based developer for a $400 million, 800-room hotel with a height of 288 feet.

Proponents of the hotel argue Miami Beach needs one to remain competitive and attract citywide conventions. A $600 million renovation of the 61-year-old convention center is nearing completion and is expected to be done in time for this year's Art Basel Miami Beach, which will be held Dec. 6-9.

Convention hotel and a $439M upgrade for Miami Beach? Voters will decide in November

September 15, 2018   |   Miami Herald

By Kyra Gurney

Miami Beach voters face some big questions about the city’s future on the November ballot.

Residents will be asked to authorize $439 million in general obligation bonds to fund public safety, infrastructure and parks projects, approve a plan to build an 800-room convention center hotel, and create an inspector general’s office to act as a watchdog for city hall.

Early voting begins Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 4. The election will be held on Nov. 6. Here’s what you need to know about the six ballot questions in Miami Beach:

General obligation bonds

Miami Beach wants to upgrade aging infrastructure, improve public parks and invest millions to prepare for sea level rise, but the city doesn’t have enough money to cover all of the costs. That’s why city officials are asking voters for permission to issue $439 million in general obligation bonds to fund projects that are grouped into three separate items on the ballot. The bonds would fund $169 million for parks and beaches, $198 million for infrastructure and $72 million for public safety improvements.

The highlights in the parks and recreation category include a $53.8 million park, library and aquatic center in North Beach, a new $15.7 million park at the site of the former Par 3 Golf Course in Mid-Beach, and $15 million to complete a pedestrian path that runs along Biscayne Bay. In the neighborhoods and infrastructure category, the city wants to finance stormwater and flooding mitigation projects, repair sidewalks, repave roads and create new protected bicycle lanes, among other projects. The public safety investments would include replacing two fire stations, buying more license plate readers and security cameras, and creating a new public safety radio system. A complete list of projects can be found at www.gomb2018.com.

If voters authorize the general obligation bonds, the city would pay back the debt over 30 years through the money it collects from property taxes. That means residents would see a tax hike. The city would likely issue the bonds over 10 years, so the increase would be gradual. After all of the bonds have been issued, residents could expect to pay an extra $82 per $100,000 in taxable property value.

Property tax rates in Miami Beach are currently the lowest they’ve been in at least 50 years, according to the city’s finance department, and the city has a good credit rating, which means it will pay less in interest than cities with weaker ratings. These are both factors city officials say will minimize the bonds’ financial impact on residents.

At a MidBeach Neighborhood Association meeting in September, Commissioner Mark Samuelian said the city needs the bonds because it has “a lot of pent-up needs.”

“While we have had sufficient funding to operate the basics of the city, for these type of projects, capital projects, park projects, public safety projects, beachwalk projects, we have not sufficiently funded them,” Samuelian said. “At the end of the day, this is about an investment in the community.”

But not everyone is enthusiastic about the proposal. Some residents have questioned whether Miami Beach is moving too quickly and whether all of the projects have been thoroughly vetted.

“I’m not saying we should not invest in our city and I’m not saying that there aren’t portions of this proposal that in general should be moved forward on,” said Wayne Roberts, a local businessman who spoke to a South Beach neighborhood group in September about his concerns. “What I’m saying is that there wasn’t enough preparation, there wasn’t enough planning, there wasn’t enough details,” he added.

City officials have argued that all of the projects were vetted by city staff and an advisory panel composed of residents representing various sectors. The city also got input from residents at a series of meetings before the list of projects was finalized by the City Commission. Samuelian described the process as “very in-depth.”

If voters authorize the bonds, the city plans to create a resident oversight committee and post project updates online so that citizens can monitor the program’s progress. Each of the three bond categories needs a majority vote to pass.

Convention center hotel

Miami Beach is asking residents to approve the construction of a convention center headquarter hotel on a plot of city-owned land in South Beach. The hotel would be privately funded, but the city needs approval from 60 percent of voters in order to lease public land in the convention center district.

The proposal features a 185-foot tall, 800-room hotel with two wings stretching behind a 53-foot podium containing parking, meeting spaces and ballrooms. The hotel would be connected to the convention center via a pedestrian bridge. More information about the proposed design can be found at miamibeachconnect.com.

City officials have long argued that Miami Beach needs a convention center hotel in order to compete with other convention destinations. The Miami Beach Convention Center has just undergone a $600 million renovation, but has lost at least $130 million in bookings since 2015 because it lacks a headquarter hotel, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Proponents of the hotel argue that the economic benefits would extend far beyond attracting conferences to the island. If voters approve the proposal, the city estimates that it will collect $96 million in taxes from the hotel over 30 years. The hotel will also pay Miami Beach either fixed rent totaling $16.6 million over the first 10 years or a percentage of hotel revenue, whichever is greater, according to the terms of a lease agreement approved by the City Commission.

Previous attempts to find a design for a hotel that residents will support have failed over concerns about the traffic impacts and the size of the building. The group behind the latest convention center hotel plan — Turnberry’s Jackie Soffer, Terra Group’s David Martin, Miami Design District developer Craig Robins and architecture firm Arquitectonica — hopes its design will address residents’ concerns. The proposed hotel is 100 feet shorter than the previous plan and includes six times more space for cars to queue on the property without spilling onto the street.

On the ballot, voters will be asked to authorize the lease of city land — a parking lot adjacent to the convention center — and the construction of an 800-room hotel with a maximum height of 185 feet. The specifics of the hotel design will be evaluated by the city’s Design Review Board at a later date.

Another ballot item will ask voters whether the guaranteed hotel rent payments should be earmarked for traffic reduction measures, stormwater projects and education initiatives. Otherwise, the money would go into the city’s general fund where it could be used for a broader range of expenses.

Inspector general’s office

Miami Beach is also asking voters to create an inspector general who would serve as a watchdog for city hall and work to make the government more efficient.

The inspector general’s office would operate independently and scrutinize city spending and programs, including projects financed by the general obligation bonds, if they’re approved by voters. The inspector general would have the ability to perform investigations and subpoena witnesses.

The new office could cost the city as much as $1.1 million a year, depending on the number of staff, but Miami Beach may add a surcharge to city contracts to help cover the costs. The city is also looking at whether the inspector general’s office could be combined with the city’s existing internal audit department to reduce personnel costs.

 

Most real estate developers have hit pause. Why Terra’s David Martin is forging ahead.

August 17, 2020   |   Miami Herald

By Rene Rodriguez

Most college students use coffee to power through all-night cram sessions. As a University of Florida undergrad, David Martin used coffee in a different way — to launch his business career.

Starbucks had started sprouting up around the country in 1995, but none had yet reached Gainesville. So Martin signed onto his AOL account and went online to find out why so many were buzzing about the company.

“I had always been very entrepreneurial as a kid, so I took out a $50,000 line of credit from SunTrust Bank and opened a coffee and bakery shop on campus called Java Lounge,” he said. “It was open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. and it grew so fast I ended up with 25 employees. I learned a lot about operating a business and having a responsibility to your customers. It also taught me how to deal with city government and getting permits.”

Two years before he graduated in 2001, Martin sold the coffee shop for $450,000 to Einstein’s Notes, a local Gainesville business. 

“That coffee shop is a good example of what makes David a successful developer,” said Keith Kurland, Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of New York Capital Markets for the financial firm Walker Dunlop. “He saw a need for a coffee shop and he filled it. That’s akin to what he does as a developer — understanding what his end users want and need, from office to retail to residential.” 

In the ensuing 19 years, Martin, 43, has become one of the most prolific and respected developers in Miami’s real estate market. His firm Terra, co-founded in 2001 with his father Pedro Martin, a former partner at the Greenberg Traurig law firm, has completed or is currently developing 8.6 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail spaces throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, valued at a total of $7.24 billion.

“Under David’s leadership over the past 10 years, Terra has grown into an internationally respected development firm that is reshaping the face of South Florida’s communities and the broader real estate landscape,” said Pedro Martin, who remains active with the company. “I am incredibly proud that David has stayed true to our founding principles even as the company has grown. He understands that the work we do at Terra can be a part of the solution for the many challenges our city faces, and I know he will be making an impact in this community for decades to come.”

Read full article: 

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article244797697.html?

A road map to regional resiliency: solving climate change with capitalism

December 17, 2018   |   Miami Herald

BY DAVID MARTIN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD


South Florida’s real estate community will play a pivotal role in our region’s efforts to become more resilient. Our industry has enjoyed decades of growth and prosperity despite currency fluctuations, natural disasters and economic volatility. We now face our most significant challenge yet: showing the world how we will ensure long-term viability by hardening our infrastructure and adapting to climate change.


Local governments across South Florida have been studying solutions for protecting against climate change for years, but our real estate industry has historically been sidestepping the issue. That pattern of neglect must end now. The candid discussion among members of our real estate community during the Herald’s “Florida Priorities Summit” was an important step in the right direction.


Florida is among the most susceptible states in the U.S. when it comes to sea level rise, but we are not alone. Climate change is a global phenomenon and its effects are far-reaching, from stronger storms and forest fires, to hurricanes and heat waves. Like Miami, coastal cities such as New York and Boston are tackling geologic challenges and rising seas.


The newly released National Climate Assessment, which surveys nationwide risk, encourages immediate action against climate change if we are going to “avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being.”


Fortunately, South Florida is time battle-tested. Our region has been one of our country’s most resilient dating back more than a century, when our earliest cities rose out of unforgiving terrain. Since then we have weathered category five hurricanes, tidal flooding and droughts, leaving us well-suited to identify and implement solutions while serving as a role model for other cities. 


As a community, we need to embrace creative approaches to development and infrastructure upgrades while rethinking the way we plan our cities, accounting for hydrology, technology, sustainability and economic resiliency. These factors must also be a priority throughout all layers of municipal government.


At our firm, Terra, we have long believed that smart development can be an integral part of confronting climate change. Making our communities more resilient will take investment, political resolve and public advocacy. It will also require partnership between government, the private sector and academia to match real-world solutions with necessary funding. The tax revenue derived from sustainable development will be integral to ensuring those dollars exist.


There is no panacea for solving the climate change conundrum, but here are three basic development principles that we are adopting at our firm:


▪ Moving density away from vulnerable areas: Long-term viability means bringing people and commercial density to higher ground while reducing exposure in low-lying areas. This is a departure from the decades-old development model in South Florida, which was based on extracting as much value as possible from environmentally sensitive areas, such as land adjacent to the Everglades. At the same time, the public and private sectors must collaborate to ensure workforce and market-rate housing opportunities are available in high-lying zones. 


▪ Bringing people closer to mass transit: A surge in carbon emissions may be fueling climate change, but it’s not too late to reverse the trend by reducing dependence on cars. Developers and local governments can improve access to transit by linking multiple forms of mobility with commercial and residential uses. Our firm is doing this now, in partnership with Miami-Dade County, at our newest project in Coconut Grove. Grove Central will combine 330 market-rate and workforce apartment units, retail stores, and an improved Metrorail station that will connect with the Miami trolley system, County buses, and the Underline linear park. 


▪ Embracing innovation and resilient building techniques: Grove Central will include a rooftop solar trellis — creating Florida’s first “microgrid” within an urban development — capable of powering the project in its entirety. Rainwater will be used for irrigation and wastewater, and groundwater will be harvested to keep public spaces climate-controlled. The development, which is set about 12-feet above sea level, will also feature porous building materials designed to stave off flooding during heavy rains.
From coexisting with uninhabitable swampland, to protecting against hurricanes with the country’s most stringent building code, resiliency is part of South Florida’s DNA. The full extent of our climate change challenge will unfold over the next 10, 20, 50 years and, once again, we are in position to serve as an example for the world. Our real estate community has an opportunity — and a responsibility — to lead that charge.

David Martin is president of Terra, an integrated development firm in South Florida focused on creating sustainable, design-oriented communities.

 

Despite economy, construction has started on tony Mr. C Residences in Coconut Grove

July 31, 2020   |   Miami Herald

BY REBECCA SAN JUAN

Some developers are holding off new projects as the economy slows.

But Coconut Grove-based development firm Terra has started construction on the $185 million Mr. C Residences Coconut Grove, according to a press release.

The waterfront condo tower, at 2655 S. Bayshore Drive, will rise 20 stories and have 118 residences.

It is the first residential project for Mr. C, the upscale hospitality brand created by the fourth generation of Italy’s Cipriani family. The nearby Mr. C hotel, designed by Arquitectonica and developed by principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia, opened in 2019.

“Mr. C Residences will reflect Terra’s commitment to design excellence and connectivity in one of South Florida’s most walkable neighborhoods,” said David Martin in a press release, the president of Terra.

The units start at $600,000 for a 650-square-foot one bedroom, one bathroom condo. Amenities will include a gourmet market, juice bar, Bellini Bar, 24-hour doorman and security, 24-hour valet, pool, Billiards room, library, cinema and business lounge.

The project is Terra’s second launch this month; just last week, the firm started construction of Canopy Park, part of its 500 Alton development in Miami Beach.

Martin told the Miami Herald last week that he remains bullish on the condo market, pointing to condo sales for Park Grove — another Terra project — totaling $300 million in the last 60 days.

Read full article:

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article244479172.html

Construction has started at 500 Alton. Phase One is an $8 million park.

July 25, 2020   |   Miami Herald

by Rebecca San Juan

An outdoor living room is under construction in Miami Beach, steps from the South of Fifth neighborhood.

Construction started on the three-acre Canopy Park in late July, according to David Martin, president of Terra. Canopy Park is a key feature of 500 Alton, the 330-unit project between 600 and 700 blocks of Alton Road by development firms Coconut Grove-based Terra, Edgewater-based Crescent Heights and Buena Vista-based New Valley.

Canopy Park is the first of three phases of construction for the development, which includes a residential tower, retail space and bridge. The approximately $8 million park is expected to be completed by summer 2021.

“Green space is integral to making a community special. This will add value for the residential tower and the community,” Martin said.

Construction on the approximately $150 million residential tower and adjacent two-story, 15,000-square-foot retail pavilion is expected to start during the first quarter of 2021. Developers have yet to determine whether the tower will be a condominium, apartment or a hybrid of both, Martin said.

Read Full Article:

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article244468177.html

As Miami’s real estate and cultural landscapes evolve, public art is springing up from the sands and sidewalks

November 28, 2019   |   Miami Herald

INDULGE MAGAZINE
by CHRISTIE GALEANO-DEMOTT

Vibrant outdoor museums fill our city with color, life and delight. A simple walk down the street can transform into a stroll through a compelling gallery or fascinating design wonderland. Public art makes art accessible to all of us.

But Miami’s infatuation with public art isn’t new. Miami-Dade Art in Public Places program ordinance, established in 1973, is one of the first in the country and requires that 1.5% of the total construction budget be allocated to public art.

Today, with the help of social media, progressive regulations and private financial support, public art is exploding around us with diverse pieces from a variety of talented local and international artists. While we couldn’t highlight every neighborhood’s contribution to enhancing our city’s arts scene, we’re thrilled to be spotlighting a few of the leaders here.


COCONUT GROVE

Known and admired for its bohemian vibe, this historically quaint neighborhood is elevating its public art installations to improve the quality of life for its residents and tourists alike while adding value to the area.

“Public art is a way of expressing ourselves as a city,” says Commissioner Ken Russell, the BID’s board chair. “As changes come with developments and as high-rises move in we’re set on retaining our spirit.”

Coconut Grove’s nine-member BID oversees a yearly public art budget used to commission murals and installations, including 2,000 native orchids that are painting the non-floral trees throughout the city. Another piece is Korean artist Gimhongsok’s interpretation of Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture as a crumpled stainless-steel version.

The neighborhood even sparkles in the evenings with two glistening light installation. Peacock Park’s trees are aglow with dozens of LED-lit spheres made from grape vines hanging from branches. Jaume Plensa’s The Poets in Bordeaux, located outside of Park Grove, are three resin sculptures that sit on top of 35-foot poles and alternate colors like beacons in the night.

The Grove has been a leader in supporting the local arts scene, decades before Art Basel and Wynwood, by hosting its annual arts festival for
nearly 60 years. More recently it established a historic preservation district for 25 Bahamian wood-frame shotgun homes — just another way to preserve the city’s history and architecture.
 
Read Full Article:

Coconut Grove continues to attract world-class residential brands with Mr. C Residences by Terra

November 9, 2020   |   Miami Herald

The village of Coconut Grove is experiencing a new wave of arrivals of some of the most elite brands and high-design builds, eloquently set within the beloved nature of the esteemed neighborhood.

 

With its ample lush greenery, parks and top-rated schools, the Grove has formed a tight-knit community made up of Miami’s elite and families who choose to be away from the endless action of the buzzy surrounding zip codes like Brickell, Wynwood and Miami Beach.

 

More recently, the Grove and its residents have welcomed an influx of award-winning architects designing a sophisticated skyline that has propelled commercial redevelopment plans attracting a diverse selection of upscale office and retail tenants. Together they are creating a vibrant, walkable destination for working, socializing, dining and shopping.

 

Terra is leading the Grove’s resurgence with a mix of high-design residential and commercial developments including Park Grove designed by Rem Koolhaas, Grove at Grand Bay designed by Bjarke Ingels, Mary Street designed by Carlos and Jackie Touzet and more. The development firm’s latest venture, Mr. C Residences Coconut Grove, is set to further elevate the area with a new concept of residential serviced living, rooted in the Mr. C tradition of cuisine, design and hospitality. The 20-story tower marks the first large-scale residential project for the Mr. C brand founded by fourth generation Cipriani brothers Maggio and Ignazio.

 

“As a resident of Coconut Grove, myself, I’m dedicated to the growth of the community and bringing in the highest-quality experiences for locals and visitors,” says David Martin CEO of Terra. “Mr. C Residences exhibits the best the Grove has to offer, from impeccable design to excellent dining and services, and this project will elevate the lifestyle offerings in the area.”

 

Mr. C Residences embodies an Old European elegance and maritime influence that is synonymous with the Grove’s unique allure. Positioned in one of the last bay-front lots in the area, the development’s sail-like exterior, designed by Coconut Grove-based Arquitectonica, is inspired by the surrounding nautical environment. For the interiors, Terra tapped the world-renowned Meyer Davis studio, which is working closely with the Mr. C brand to conceptualize the design of the residences and common areas.

 

Just steps away from the development are some of the most highly anticipated commercial redevelopment plans coming to the neighborhood, including Grove’s central shopping and dining complex, CocoWalk, and the waterfront Regatta Harbour, both set to become open-air havens for retail and entertainment. Additionally, CocoWalk is adding a new wing of dedicated office spaces that is attracting first-rate companies to the centralized location surrounded by affluent suburbs. Directly adjacent to Regatta Park and across from Mr. C Residences will sit Regatta Harbour, a new development that is bringing the Grove a lively waterfront destination for dining, shopping, fitness and outdoor events with boating access.

Mr. C Residences is at 2640 S Bayshore Dr., Miami
(adjacent to Fresh Market).
For more information, call 305-351-1772, email Info@MrCResidencesCG.com or visit mrcresidencescoconutgrove.com.

VANISHING POINT

January 3, 2016   |   Miami Herald

by Alastair Gordon
 

“It’s a building that tends to disappear,” said architect Rene Gonzalez, leaning over the seventh-floor balcony of 120 Ocean Drive, an 18-story residential tower that recently came to completion in South Beach. This is not just another building wrapped in glass, but rather a nuanced celebration and reappraisal of a material and its inherent virtues of transparency, reflectivity and enigma.

Indeed, the official name of the building is “GLASS.” It evokes the Glasarchitektur of Bruno Taut and the Crystal Chain of German architects in the early 20th century, in which the magical qualities of the material were treated with a cult-like obsession. Taut and his circle envisioned an all-glass architecture that dematerialized itself through a kind of alchemical process. Buildings would become aerial hovering elements that, in turn, could liberate humanity from earth-bound gravity and all the tragic weight of the past. “Caryatids can be seen summoning hope,” wrote Herman Finsterlin, poet-mystic of the Crystal Chain. “Clouds carry away their burdens.”

This is more or less the ideal for a waterfront architecture in Miami Beach in which the illusion of preternatural suspension — a limitless merging of sea and sky — is the desired effect and has been for developers and architects since the 1920s. (Tourists and part-time residents really don’t want to know about sea-level rise or social unrest.)

Approaching it from the north, 120 Ocean Drive casts a pagoda-like silhouette, rising as a distinctly cool presence among a jumble of architectural styles, mostly older Deco and post-modern buildings with eclectic roof lines, jutting balconies, pastel-colored slabs. In contrast, the 18 stories of 120 Ocean Drive convey a quality of “least resistance” to both the street and surrounding buildings as they reflect the gray-blue hues of sky and an occasional passing cloud.

David Martin, president and COO of the Terra Group, which developed Glass, is standing on the verge of the balcony, smiling like a gleeful child with a sparkling new toy. Martin has been making a bid to be Miami’s leading curator-developer with a string of projects by brand-name architects like Rem Koolhaas, who designed Terra’s Park Grove towers in Coconut Grove; Bjarke Ingels of BIG, who designed Terra’s twisting glass towers for the Grove at Grand Bay; and Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who recently completed plans for Eighty Seven Park on Miami Beach. Considering such an all-star lineup, it’s encouraging to see a developer like Martin reach out to a locally based but accomplished firm such as Rene Gonzalez.

The building is set back from the street in deference to the historic context of the neighborhood. The Century Hotel, a Deco gem from 1939 designed by Henry Hohauser, lies just to the north of 120 Ocean Drive. The 1915 Brown’s Hotel, considered the first lodging in Miami Beach, lies to the south.

While sheer and crystalline, the exterior surface of Glass is surprisingly active, even agitated in places. Glass panels are suspended from minimal metal brackets and work something like translucent veils that alternate with vertical aluminum louvers designed to conceal the garage level. Indeed, some of the building’s finest moments are the painstakingly rendered details of the outer membrane and how it attaches itself to the structural core.

Glass panels have been etched or “fritted” with as many as 60 variations of vertical patterning that resemble streaks of rain. While this pattern is quite dense near the bottom, it opens up as the building ascends, further accentuating the dissipation of mass and the sense of a vanishing perspective.

With some tweaks to the details, Miami Beach approves redesign of Oceanside Park

February 5, 2021   |   Miami Herald

BY MARTIN VASSOLO

One of Miami Beach’s biggest parks is getting a makeover. 


North Beach Oceanside Park, a 28-acre lush woodland along the beach between 79th and 87th Streets, will undergo a $12.8 million transformation that includes a new playground, renovated dog park, expanded walking paths and improved lighting. 


The plan, which has been years in the making, aims to address safety concerns while revitalizing the park. Proposed changes also include renovating the restrooms and pavilion areas, constructing new decorative entrances to the park and replacing the current fencing with hedges and lower fences.  


The city’s Design Review Board unanimously approved the project on Tuesday after hearing largely supportive comments from Miami Beach residents who called into the meeting to discuss the redesign. 


It is not clear when construction will begin at the park, which would require it to be closed. The city has considered setting up a temporary dog park across the street on Collins Avenue. 


“This is good for the neighborhood,” North Beach resident Sandra Stendel said after the vote. “I think it’s going to be nice.” 

A rendering shows the proposed 79th Street entrance to North Beach Oceanside Park as part of a redesign of the Miami Beach park.  CALVIN, GIORDANO & ASSOCIATES VIA THE CITY OF MIAMI BEACH 


Stendel, who frequently visits the park, said she has followed the project’s progress since around 2017, when she participated in community meetings on the issue. The first iteration of the plan, which the city approved that year, involved relocating about 800 trees, which Stendel said she and others opposed. The city backed away from that approach last year when bids for the project came in over budget. The new plan reduces tree impact by about 85% and relies on raising the crowns of the trees to provide more visibility. 


“What we felt was that we don’t need another South Pointe Park,” Stendel said, referring to the more exposed South Beach park. 


The expanded walkways will connect to the recently approved North Beach beachwalk extension, a paved multi-modal path that will connect South Pointe Park to North Beach Oceanside Park along the city’s seven-mile Atlantic coast. 

Miami Beach to continue uninterrupted beachwalk through North Beach. Miami Beach is one step closer to having an uninterrupted beachwalk along its seven-mile coast, which will give pedestrians and bicyclists a single, paved pathway that will run from South Beach through North Beach. BY DANIEL A. VARELA 


As part of construction on the beachwalk, 183 palm trees and 82 others will be removed from the park, but the city will plant 433 new trees. 
In addition to approving the park project, the board also recommended Tuesday that the city try to preserve the massive pile of sand at the southeastern edge of the park — known affectionately by residents as “The Hill” — which is currently planned to be taken apart for use in the beachwalk project. 


Several residents at Tuesday’s meeting urged the city to build around the hill or at least build a similar elevated structure to rival the ocean views one can see from the hill, which is a city stockpile of sand meant for use in public projects. 


“It is the only place in North Beach or Mid Beach where you have any elevation to view the ocean,” said resident Tanya Bhatt, a member of the activist group Miami Beach United. 

The main objection to the park plan came from a married couple who own a condominium at Eighty Seven Park, a property that adjoins the park and contributed funding for its redevelopment. They favored the 2017 plan because they said the large-scale relocation of trees would have made the park safer. 


“It is beautiful, but it’s overgrown,” resident Brian Rounick said prior to the meeting. “I am an environmentalist, as anyone would be, but not at the expense of human lives when we’re living in an urban area.” 


Rounick, who lives part-time in Miami Beach, said he has been woken at night by homeless people gathered in the “overgrown jungle” below. He said the thick canopy of the park, and its blind spots, “could cause a human being to lose their life.” 


The new plan was recently endorsed by Miami Beach Police, but Rounick said additional police and community vetting is needed before the project can go forward. 


“The security concerns have not been addressed,” he said. “This is about allowing the community to have the time to vet the plan.” 

Since the inception of the project, city contractor Gianno Feoli said his team has worked with police to ensure the park would be safe. 


The current proposal incorporates police recommendations, like trimming the underbrush of trees to increase visibility and connecting the park through walkways to limit dead ends, said Feoli, the director of landscape architecture and urban design at Calvin, Giordano & Associates, at Tuesday’s meeting. 


The original plan to relocate hundreds of trees was not proposed as a safety measure, he said. 


Although the original proposal involved relocating trees, the “density of the canopy of the park was going to remain the same,” Feoli added. 
“I think it’s important to recognize that the [original proposal] did not relocate trees as a function of safety, they were relocating trees as a function of creating views, which is what we’re doing today in the proposed plan that we’re providing,” he said. 

 

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article248975375.html