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Transit, Smaller Apartments Needed For Downtown Lure

A host of Downtown Miami's most prominent real estate pros are calling on the region to improve transit options to fight a traffic “crisis.”

The need for more transit options has much to do with the generational shift of preferences that Millennials—who have been moving into the downtown area—are seeking, says Miami DDA's Alyce Robertson. “A lot of these Millennials don't have the patience for sitting in the car for two hours a day going to South Timbuktu,” Alyce says. And Miami is a young city—120 years old by her count—and grew in the age of the car. Hence why Miami-Dade is so spread out. “Urban sprawl does not make for a conducive environment for public transportation,” she says. “That's why you see it's such a crisis now.”

Alyce was part of a panel of Downtown Miami experts that included Bilzin Sumberg's James Shindell (our moderator), One Real Estate Investment's Jeronimo Hirschfeld, Royal Palm Cos' Dan Kodsi, Blanca Commercial Real Estate's Danet Linares and 13th Floor Investments' Arnaud Karsenti at Bisnow's Evolution of Brickell & Downtown Miami event last week at 90 Southwest 8th St in Brickell.

Arnaud says Millennials are valuing time more than ever. “You don't hear a lot of people value their time in their car,” he quips. And transit is giving people more time to do more with their lives. As Florida focuses more on transit systems like Metromover and Metrorail, Arnaud says he's seeing more people choose to live close to those stations. “We believe very strongly in our firm about transit-oriented development.” And he says companies like Uber and Lyft have been an answer to that “last mile” transit option that could allow people to never have to use a car.

Jeronimo (second from right) notes that as more Millennials flocked to Downtown and Brickell (47% of area residents fall into the Millennial generation), developers had to answer to offering smaller for-rent apartment units to keep costs affordable. But the trade off is Millennials expect first-class amenities and common areas. Dan echoed those sentiments. “The unit sizes have to be smaller. Just when you're pro-forma'ing a deal today, you have to hit a certain rent per SF. To get there sometimes you have to build smaller units, more efficient units. Especially when you're building high-rise. It's very expensive to go vertical,” he says.

Dan says Miami WorldCenter will be on par with European plazas, where the public gathers. “We're putting in the urbanistic principles: Large plaza, 13-foot sidewalks with shade trees. So now you're creating walkability. You're creating destinations. You're creating gathering places,” Dan says. “It's going to create a certain vibrancy that you've never seen in Miami before.” And a lot of that activity will benefit not only residents, but also visitors, thanks to a host of new hotels coming up. “The fact that there's thousands of hotel rooms going up, that's going to drive a lot of the retail,” Dan says.

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