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Check out this upcoming meeting co-hosted by Transit Miami friends: the ULI Young Leaders, the Townhouse Center Blog and Miami Urbanist (among others). Meetings like this help spread the word that urban infill is the way to go….

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On Tuesday night I attended a ULI Young Leaders steering committee meeting at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar with about two-dozen local real estate professionals.  Transit Miami friend Andrew Frey has organized this group in an effort to bring together forward-looking professionals with diverse backgrounds.

Some of the industries present at the meeting were land use and real estate attorneys, urban planners, developers, architects, commercial real estate brokers, private bankers, and an FEC representative. As diverse as the backgrounds were, there was a common trait among these professionals:  They all want to see their city develop into a transit-friendly, mixed-use and walkable metropolis. They also want to see Miami grow-up to become a non-auto centric world-class city that attracts businesses and entrepreneurial professionals alike.

This group will continue to meet once every couple of months and in the very near future will organize panels (as well as a networking happy hours) to discuss topics such as:

  • Streetscapes; why they should be improved and their economic benefits
  • The effect of gambling and casinos on Miami
  • The link between jobs and transportation

Elected officials and developers should take note and tap into the resources that this highly energized, educated, and entrepreneurial group has. They are not living in the Miami of yesteryear and they want to help build a more competitive city that will encourage businesses to relocate to the Magic City.

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Check out Pimco’s June 2010 US Commercial Real Estate Project. Looks like there will continue to be trouble ahead. U.S. consumers have curbed their unsustainable spending habits and increased their savings rate. Continued high employment will also help drag down CRE.  According to this report, we may not see peak 2007 prices again until 2020.

Certain retail properties could also struggle in the New Normal. Many retail properties built in anticipation of large housing development will simply suspend operations, because sustained reductions in the home ownership rate mean that many planned housing developments will not restart for years.”

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Some bad economic news was reported yesterday. According to the New York Times article new home sales dropped by 33% in May:

The new housing market has never been this bad, at least not since the government started tracking such things in 1963.”

New homes declined by a record amount in May to a new low.”

In a separate report, New Urban News reviewed William Lucy’s new book, Foreclosing the Dream: How America’s Housing Crisis Is Reshaping Our Cities and Suburbs. Mr. Lucy is a professor of urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia.

According to New Urban News, Lucy’s analysis of data he collected suggests:

• “As the percentage of households with children declines, and that of singles, empty-nesters, and elderly increases, housing demand will increase in cities and inner suburbs, and demand in outer suburbs and exurbs will level off or decline nationally.”

• “Suburban decline will accelerate in middle-aged housing, but that won’t be uniform; demand for housing in some inner suburbs will rise.”

• “Demand will increase for transit serving more areas more frequently.”

• “Demand for more mixed use and walkable neighborhoods will increase, and prices in these areas will escalate as supply lags behind demand.”

He (Lucy) rejects the idea that rapid, continuing, outward development is inevitable because of the nation’s growing population and a scarcity of room for development in cities. If we choose to make it happen, he says, “a tremendously high proportion of our future growth as a nation could easily occur within already developed areas: in, or on the edges of, big-city downtowns; on busy corners of city streets away from downtown; and in new urban villages close to high-speed transit stations in suburbs.”

How each region responds to the challenges of transit and development will vary, producing contrasting results. Greater Atlanta and greater Washington, DC, illustrate the two extremes, in Lucy’s view. “Washington, DC, and some suburban cities and counties planned for transit-oriented development, and use of transit rose to the second-highest level in the United States,” he notes. “Atlanta’s transit use lagged, which may be one reason why Atlanta has the most declining suburbs in the country.”

The gap between city and suburban growth has narrowed dramatically. From Foreclosing the American Dream: How America’s Housing Crisis is Reshaping Our Cities and Suburbs

I don’t think the decline in new-home sales is a total anomaly. New home builders, particularly those that build single family homes in new suburban and exurban communities are going to have a difficult time going forward. Real estate developers that focus on infill and mixed use development as well as TOD should perform better. We are reaching the tipping point; people are leaving the suburbs and returning to the cities.

Apparently blogging your opinion on a local condo development could get you fired, sued, or both! Lucas Lechuga, of Miami Condo Investments, was the lucky recipient of a $25 million defamation lawsuit from Miami developer Tibor Hollo for writing:
”My opinion is that this development is doomed…”

And:

“This developer went bankrupt in the 1980’s and I think we’ll see a repeat performance within the next 6 months. What do I know, though? I’m no real estate oracle.”

Apparently Hollo didn’t go bankrupt in the 80’s and wants to set the record straight. Meanwhile EWM’s Ron Shuffield felt the blog illustrated a negative connotation and plans to review with their 800+ Realtor staff the do’s and don’t of blogging…

I believe this whole thing has been blown disproportionately out of the water, starting with an exorbitant $25 million for defamation. How can anyone quantify that much in damages to begin with? Luckily for Lechuga, the lawsuit likely won’t hold much water in court according to herald interviews with local attorneys. From what I can tell, this has the appearance of a glorified publicity stunt amid a crumbling housing market. Who am I to say anyway? Only time will tell…

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At the forefront of Miami’s residential development boom, stand the designs of the local, ambitious architect Chad Oppenheim. The young Cornell Graduate, only 34, has made a splash in the architecture scene with his innovative modern designs and latest plans for energy efficient buildings. The soon to be completed Ten Museum Park is his first major contribution to the Miami skyline. Of all the buildings rising along the “Miami wall” (Biscayne Boulevard Condos,) Ten Museum Park will have the greatest effect on the skyline despite being the shortest of the five towers rising. I found the following pictures on an online forum I frequently visit, they were originally posted by Edrag Tnava and provide us with some exclusive first looks at the inside of one of our most innovative condominium towers thus far:

Bathroom:

View of Biscayne Boulevard beautification project:

Interesting Windows minimize the impact of the neighboring towers currently rising:

The Loft:

Can’t wait to see how quickly this house falls in value when the owners realize they built under a TV Tower…

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I went to Knaus Berry Farm recently in the Redlands to savor Miami’s best milkshake and to buy some fresh, locally grown produce. Although the drive is long, the tastes and sweets are well worth the effort. I’m no longer as phased as I used to be about the amount of new development I encounter along the way. Our land use is absurd and we’re swallowing precious farm land (and the whole Miami-Dade farming industry) at an alarming rate. Part of becoming a sustainable city includes retaining enough farmland so that a considerable amount of our produce can be grown locally. As it pertains to agriculture, sustainable describes farming systems that are “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely (Definition via National Agricultural Library.) The costs (and tastes) of locally grown produce are far superior to that of any import and the energy wasted in transportation is much less than conventional methods, making the whole process greener for our local economy. I’ve digressed…
So, we’re managing to pave over our precious farm land at an astonishing rate. Cut-rate houses are rising on lots far too small for the house size and whole neighborhoods are springing up around a road network better designed to handle cattle and tractors rather than soccer moms and minivans. The whole thing is quite a mess really and it’s rather disappointing to experience. The lack of infrastructure is incredible and the fact that so much development has already occurred or has been approved is quite disturbing. It’s only a matter of time before strip shopping centers prevalent in America as Suburban eyesores begin to dot the landscape, bringing with them total chaotic growth and congestion.

I was most in shock to see the size of the houses rising beneath the massive NBC radio guyed mast tower. These houses make the houses built in the 1970’s in cocaine alley look like shacks (no, I’m not implying that these houses too are funded by illegal activities.) The fact that anyone would spend the kind of money to construct these multiple thousand square feet houses miles from nowhere was shocking. I took a few pictures which failed to capture the magnitude of these houses, but luckily I found an ebay listing for the lots next door, selling for over $800k and touting the absurd immense houses rising in full view of the property. Here are some pictures and quotes from the listing:

BUILD YOU DREAM MANSION OR TWO ON THIS 5 ACRE PARCEL OFFERED AT $819,000.00, LOCATED IN MIAMI (REDLAND), FLORIDA. INVESTOR’S DREAM! OWNER FINANCING AVAILABLE

MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR MANSIONS ON EVERY CORNER! THIS VACANT AND FLAT 5 ACRE LOT IS ZONED AGRICULTURE AND YEARLY TAXES ARE $244.00. INCOME FROM PROPERTY CAN EARN $250,000/YEARLY IF USED AS A NURSERY, ACCORDING TO NEIGHBORING NURSERY OWNERS. THE LOT ALSO ALLOWS ZONING FOR TWO HOMESITES TO BE BUILT, AS SEEN IN NEIGHBORING PROPERTIES. PROPERTY IS LOCATED MINUTES FROM EXECUTIVE AIRPORT, PRIVATE GOLF&COUNTRY CLUB, MIAMI-HOMESTEAD MOTORSPORTS SPEEDWAY & THE FLORIDA KEYS.
The first of several hideous houses which initially caught my eye, I believe the architecture style is more commonly referred to as gaudy Miami or just plain ugly. This house rests just yards away from the base of the guyed mast and seemingly straddled between two of the anchoring cables. These people will be in shock the day they decide to sell this house and realize it isn’t worth anything near what they expected…
This was just the entrance to the house across the street. King Louis the XIV can be found somewhere in the chateaus (yes plural) in the background… Some of the surroundings, just waiting to be bulldozed and have some more McMansions or “affordable housing” built upon them…Another house, designed in the gaudy Miami style, still under construction…McMansions piled upon each other despite the amount of land available nearby… The ebay listing was far too childish and poorly written to be taken seriously, “Oh, Mansions!” but the construction occurring in this part of the county is undeniably genuine. The area will continue to explode if growth continues to be unchecked, bringing it with it more of the same suburban sprawl that plagues most of our city. The county will have to fund massive overhauls in the area to deal with the influx of residents while damage to the everglades ecosystem nearby and the disappearance of Miami’s farming will continue at an alarming rate unless we pro actively take measures to heed the advancement of greedy development…

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