SheridanMiami_1_250Downtown Miami is hot—again.

Hong Kong–based Swire Properties is planning Brickell CitiCentre (BCC), a nine-acre (3.6-ha) mixed-use development in the heart of Miami’s Brickell Financial District that is scheduled to include some 4.6 million square feet (427,354 sq m) of mixed-use development and incorporates retail, office, residential, and hotel components. Designed by Arquitectonica, BCC is believed to be the largest registered urban mixed-use LEED neighborhood development project currently being planned in the United States.

“Brickell CitiCentre will be a game-changer for downtown Miami, enhancing its emergence as a vibrant urban core,” says Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties. “The project will bring significant retail opportunities to the area and activate our streets with a pedestrian-friendly experience.”

In May, Genting Malaysia Bhd announced plans to build Resorts World Miami after buying a 13.9-acre (5.6-ha) piece of land. “Downtown Miami has experienced dramatic residential and commercial growth in recent years, and we believe the addition of a large-scale mixed-use and entertainment complex will be a welcome addition, further elevating the area’s status as a global destination,” says Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Genting Malaysia’s chairman and chief executive.

If you thought of downtown Miami as a sea of empty buildings and see-through condominiums, think again. “There’s a lot happening in downtown Miami,” says Neisen O. Kasdin, managing shareholder at the Miami office of national law firm of Akerman Senterfitt. “Miami is one of the strongest real estate markets in the U.S. Thousands and thousands of people have moved into downtown. Miami is considered a major global gateway city like Singapore and Hong Kong. In the long run, cities in that position will be the ones to prosper the most.”

SheridanMiami_4_351Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, notes that downtown Miami’s fast-growing residential population has been a shot in the arm for the area’s business community. “As more and more people move into downtown, we will only continue to see heightened demand for goods and services, as well as more commercial activity,” she adds.

For years, says Tere Blanca, founder, president, and CEO of Miami’s Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Inc., Miami was a poster child for urban sprawl. “Today, we are seeing that inventory rapidly diminish on the residential side, continues Blanca, a member of ULI’s Southeast Florida/Caribbean Council advisory board. “The area’s growing population has lured businesses that are coming to downtown to serve new residents and visitors. The news of Swire’s Brickell CitiCentre project and Genting’s Resorts World Miami development is a positive sign that well-capitalized, multinational developers are now looking to Miami as a viable target for inbound investment. Master-planned projects like these have the potential to change the face of downtown Miami for generations.”

As developers began concentrating on vertical development in Miami’s urban core, she explains, “We experienced heightened demand for urban living that has grown downtown Miami’s population by 80 percent in a decade. We are seeing this have a net-positive impact at office buildings such as 1450 Brickell, where nearly half of the 34 leases we have finalized are with tenants new to the Miami market.”
Kasdin, a ULI trustee who is on the Institute’s Public/Private Partnership Council and also vice chairman of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, notes that the Miami area is a dynamic and growing center where foreign investment is tremendous. “Miami is the city of the future,” he predicts.

Adds Robertson of the Miami Downtown Development Authority: “Downtown Miami is now emerging as one of the country’s fastest-growing urban centers, which is a product of the vertical development that has taken shape, the affordability that exists, and a demand for urban living that we have never before seen in our city.”