Next Up from Swire

Developer shows no signs of slowing as Stephen Owens steps down

By Kevin Gale

Stephen Owens

Stephen Owens

Brickell City Centre developer Swire Properties has land for a major project in Fort Lauderdale across the street from the Brightline high-speed rail station.

Stephen Owens, president of Swire’s U.S. real estate subsidiary, mentioned the project during a May 24 panel discussion at Mandarin Oriental, Miami on Brickell Key, an island that Swire developed. The discussion was sponsored by Baker Tilly, a global accounting alliance.

Owens also talked about how bullish he was on Miami. “Miami is the most exciting place I know of at the moment,” said Owens, whose retirement next January was announced the day after the seminar. “My only regret is I wish I was 20 years younger.”

In response to a question, Swire said the Fort Lauderdale property is on the south side of Broward Boulevard just west of the downtown area in the Arts & Entertainment District. Part of it backs up on Himmarshee, which has a row of bars and restaurants.

Owens’ description matches parking lots near the Revolution Live music venue and the Museum of Discovery and Science.

A restaurant area at Brickell City Centre

A restaurant area at Brickell City Centre

The Brightline station is being built on the north side of Broward Boulevard and will offer roughly 30-minute trips to downtown Miami and downtown West Palm Beach.

Don’t expect Swire to rush to do a project, though, because the firm tends to take a long-term view toward development opportunities. The company bought the land on Brickell Key in 1979 and still has one parcel left to develop. It bought the Brickell City Centre site after the real estate bust in Miami and construction of the $1.05 billion project has been underway for four years.

Swire has a temporary occupancy certificate on three out of seven buildings and expects to open the rest at the rate of one building every other month, Owens said.

The company recently released renderings for the 500,000 square feet of retail space at City Centre and a ribbon-cutting was held for City Centre’s EAST hotel on May 23. The Akerman law firm previously moved into City Centre’s first office tower.

Conception for a book store

Conception for a book store

The second phase will be nearly as big as the first, with a $1.5 billion development. Owens expects a much taller building with mixed-use space plus two other residential towers. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved an 80-story tower.

Swire, which has 136,000 employees on five continents, has invested
$2.5 billion in Miami and it’s paid off very well, Owens said. “We have plans to increase that substantially going forward.

“There is no other city in North America that has a chapter to be played like Miami,” said Owens, adding that you can’t mention Miami without talking about the future of Cuba these days.

The integrated Metromover stop

The integrated Metromover stop

Owens, who has spent 40 years with Swire, will continue to serve on the board of the company, where he will provide counsel on its U.S. development and investment operations. He will be succeeded by Kieran Bowers, who joined Swire in 1998.

Bowers is currently general manager of Cityplaza in Hong Kong, a 3.27 million-square-foot mixed-use development featuring Hong Kong Island’s biggest shopping mall, three office towers and a lifestyle business hotel, and is linked by metro and road transport. Bowers has served in senior roles in both mainland China and Hong Kong. He worked for Cathay Pacific, Swire’s aviation arm, prior to joining Swire Properties.

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