How creating affordable, cool urban places can be profitable

By Jim Fried

Two Miami real estate thought leaders recently discussed urban placemaking on my show. Placemaking is a growing trend that looks at an area’s attributes and potential and then uses architecture and design to further promote a sense of well-being with social life in public spaces. My two guests approach urban placemaking in a way that’s both affordable and profitable.

Real estate entrepreneur Avra Jain says location is, by far, the first consideration when she’s evaluating a neighborhood for a new project. That, along with accessibility, infrastructure and zoning. Then comes the “fun stuff,” she says, which means she contemplates the aesthetics of the location – the water, the air, the light, the views.

One of our regular guests, Carlos Rosso, president of the condominium development division at Related Group, says Biscayne Boulevard not only provides the “fun stuff” but also the ability to create units at half the price you’d find near Brickell Avenue.

“We try to understand how cities progress,” he says. “Obviously in Miami, there were some established neighborhoods like Brickell. Edgewater, for us, was the next Brickell, and that’s why we aggressively moved in that neighborhood and now are creating some of the most fantastic projects, including Paraiso Bay, a completely new neighborhood of close to 1,400 units that we are really proud of.”

For Jain, the prospect for adaptive reuse and urban infill also makes a potential project enticing. For example, she transformed The Vagabond, an area landmark, from a decrepit motel to a quaint and popular hotel. “We think there’s a value in recognizing the past,” she says. “We think part of that fun stuff is what I call ‘soul’ and ‘texture.’ Up on Biscayne Boulevard, knowing the history there and being able to take advantage of that, has been fantastic.”

In addition to Biscayne Boulevard, Rosso says Hollywood and the Hallandale area have garnered the attention of Related Group. “We see a lot of value. We see great sites and great locations with amazing access to the same beach, the same sand, that we have on South Beach,” he says. “The only difference is that it’s called ‘Hallandale.’”

Miami once suffered from the so-called “brain-drain” phenomenon. The best and brightest were leaving for greener pastures in more mature and interesting places. That’s changing, Rosso and Jain say. The transformation of Miami into an international business location is causing talented people to stay and return, which, of course, creates an opportunity for lifestyle-oriented development and neighborhood revitalization.

“We’re getting some really interesting jobs here,” Jain says. “I’m finding that a lot of people are moving back to Miami – like kids who had gone away, who had grown up here and are coming back. You’re not seeing that quote ‘brain-drain’ anymore.”

Accordingly, Rosso says Related Group is preparing itself for more sales to local buyers. “We are seeing more and more American buyers,” he says. “It’s interesting what Avra just mentioned because we are looking at other neighborhoods like Midtown or even Wynwood where we think there is a play for the local market. We are designing some very funky buildings for that younger generation that wants to come back to Miami.”

“We can do that in a way that’s affordable,” Jain adds. “When I graduated from college, people picked where they were going to live based on their job offer. These days, the younger people are picking where they want to live and then picking their jobs, because lifestyle is more important than it’s ever been.”

These are just some of the highlights of our discussion. You can hear it all at friedonbusiness.com. Make sure to listen live every Thursday from
6 to 7 p.m. on 880 AM.

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