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Miami condo market up 50%

Miami condo market up 50% as Florida sector fights back

In a recent article published by the Overseas Property Professional Magazine (“OPP”) it was reported that sales of Miami condominiums increased by nearly 50% in May compared to the same month in 2010 as new figures show higher demand in the Floridian city’s market.

Research from the Miami Association of Research showed that condominiums in the Miami Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) increased by 46% in May year-on-year, from 972 in 1,420.

In other property areas the sales of single-family homes rose 20% also. Florida-wide, sales increased 17% to 8,388 for condominiums and 3% for single family homes to 17,228, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“The current performance of the Miami market is exceeding expectations, as we continue to see increased demand for local properties and higher sales levels than we have seen since the boom years,” said Jack H. Levine, 2011 Chairman of the Board of the Miami Association of Realtors.

He told OPP: “Presently, there is only a 7.4 month supply of housing inventory in Miami-Dade County. Both U.S. and international buyers continue to take advantage of record affordability, Miami’s attractive lifestyle and weather, and other enviable local attributes.”

Prices also continue to stabilize in the area as the value of condominiums and single family homes increased by 7% compared to April.

“May figures are very encouraging, as they reflect continued market strengthening and stabilization,” said 2011 Miami Association of Realtors’ Residential President Ralph E. De Martino. “The number of distressed sales dropped by four percent, which means more non-distressed transactions are taking place.”


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Port of Miami rail project expected to boost trade

Port of Miami rail project expected to boost trade – MIAMI HERALD

The rail project is part of a massive port renovation to help Miami attract megaships that will begin crossing the Panama Canal after its expansion is completed in 2014.


Construction has began on a nearly $50-million rail project at the Port of Miami that is critical to the port’s plans to increase trade and attract the super cargo ships that will begin arriving after the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014.

The multi-phase rail project includes repairing a rail bridge out of commission since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, construction of a 15-acre rail yard on the port’s Dodge Island, and renovating Florida East Coast Railway track linking the port to northbound tracks and the FEC rail yard in Hialeah.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and local officials are expected for the Friday groundbreaking for the project, which will reconnect the port to the national rail system.

“This is all about the post-Panamax world,’’ said Bill Johnson, director of the Port of Miami. “This means we’ll be able to connect the port to 70 to 78 percent of the American population by rail in one to four days.’’

So-called post-Panamax ships, which have double the capacity of the largest cargo ships that now call at Florida ports, will be able to traverse the Panama Canal after it is expanded.

As the first U.S. port north of Panama, Miami is eager to take advantage of the increased trade the big ships are expected to generate. But other ports up and down the East Coast also will be competing for post-Panamax traffic.

The rail link is part of a three-prong plan to transform the Port of Miami by 2014.

The other components are a $1 billion tunnel linking the Interstate system to the port and a $150 million project to deepen the port channel to a depth of 50 feet to accommodate post-Panamax ships. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to finish design work for the Deep-Dredge project this fall and construction is slated to get underway in the summer of 2012.

“Without the rail, what does the Deep Dredge mean? Zero,’’ said Johnson.

That’s because the nation’s biggest buyers, companies such as Walmart Stores and Target, want their products to reach market in the shortest possible time and as cheaply as possible.

Cargo moving through the Panama Canal and then via a Port of Miami/FEC connection, port officials said, could reach a number of major Eastern and Midwest cities one to two days sooner than transit through Port of Miami competitors such as Norfolk, Va., and New York that already have channels deep enough to accommodate post-Panamax vessels. Shipping via the megaships also is cheaper.

“Every major port throughout the country has a rail connection,’’ said Husein Cumber, FEC’s executive vice president of corporate development. “With the expansion of the Panama Canal, as additional cargo moves to the East Coast, the only way the Port of Miami was going to continue to be competitive was with this rail link. This gives Miami the ability to compete against ports that are looking to trans-ship Asian cargo.’’

The alternative would be a future as a smaller regional port, said Kevin Lynskey, assistant port director, rather than one that could serve cities ranging from Atlanta to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The combination of a deeper port and rail link, Lynskey said, “should help Florida win back a larger chunk of Asian trade.’’ Now, about 60 percent of container merchandise from China, Japan and other Asian markets consumed in Florida comes from outside the state, he said. Most of it arrives in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Calif., or Savannah, Ga., and is moved by rail and truck to Florida.

Since Hurricane Wilma knocked out the rail bridge to the port, containers have been trucked to Hialeah, tying up traffic in congested downtown Miami and delaying the arrival of cargo at its final destination.

The rail project, which will generate an estimated 822 jobs during the construction phase, is financed by a $22.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, $10.9 million from the Florida Department of Transportation, $10.9 million from FEC and $4.8 million from the Port of Miami.

“You have everyone with skin in the game,’’ said Johnson.

The first two phases of the rail project will include rehabilitating the old bascule bridge and reconstructing a port rail link that would allow cargo to move by train from the port on tracks on the north side of Bayside Marketplace and across Biscayne Boulevard before curving north to just beyond NE 71st Street where it would veer west to the FEC yard near Miami International Airport or continue on to northern destinations. The renovated track would allow trains to move at 25 mph rather than the current 5 mph, said the FEC’s Cumber.

After the port tunnel is completed in 2014, work is expected to begin on the new port rail yard, said Cumber, and on needed modifications at the Hialeah rail yard.

Eventually, about 25 percent of container traffic will move off the port by rail, said Lynskey, but the bulk of cargo — especially that destined for Florida markets — will move through the new four-lane tunnel.

The port projects, said Cumber, “will help diversify the economy and allow Miami to become a true international trade hub.’’
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S. Florida’s global impact expands


Posted on Sun, Jun. 19, 2011


South Florida’s global impact expands

By Jane By Wooldridge



Since the days of Ponce de Leon, South Florida’s economy has largely hinged on geography.

Beaches, warm winter temps, proximity to the Caribbean and Latin America continue to be critical factors. But the past few weeks have underscored Miami’s position as a global player.

Earlier this month, Lufthansa upgraded its Frankfurt-Miami route with a 526-seat A380 – the mega-jet that goes only to three other U.S. airports.  TAP, the Portuguese airline, added service between Miami and Lisbon.

And last week, Sir Richard Branson staged one of his typically PR stunts to celebrate the announcement of Virgin Atlantic’s new service between London and Cancun – a move that could be written off as an excuse to party, save for the fact that Branson is also thinking about building a Virgin hotel here.

What’s more, international trade between South Florida and the rest of the world is on track to hit $100 billion for the first time ever, says Ken Roberts, founder and president of World City, a business publication that focuses on South Florida’s international markets. And that figure doesn’t account for consulting, legal and banking services, points out FIU professor Jerry Haar.

And look at who we’re trading with. While our neighbors Brazil and Colombia rank as our top trading partners, Switzerland and China are right behind.

During the last Asian boom, when Japanese buyers gobbled up land in Hawaii and California, South Florida was out of the mix. But the world is more closely connected than it was in the 1980s. And Miami’s international brand now represents far more than sun, sand and sin.

So, perhaps its no wonder that Hong Kong’s Swire Group — long-time Miami investors — have upped their stake beyond the Mandarin Oriental and Brickell Key with the recently announced Brickell CitiCentre in downtown Miami, valued at $700 million.

And now comes the planned $3 billion mixed-use Resorts World Miami announced by the Genting Group, which paid $236 million for the nearly 14 acres on which the Miami Herald sits.

Questions remain about how quickly – or whether – Genting will build if the state legislature declines to change the law to allow casinos on non-Indian lands. But at a community reception last week, Genting chairman KT Lim – one of Malaysia’s richest men – seemed well on the way as he talked about Miami as a nexus between the continents, and suggested he’d like to convince an air carrier like Cathay Pacific to initiate non-stop service between Miami and the East.

Direct flights to Asia sure would make it easier to get to Art Basel Hong Kong, the new art fair slotted between Switzerland’s Art Basel fair and Art Basel Miami Beach.

Maybe South Florida has finally become the center of the universe – and not just for South Floridians.

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Latinos, first-time buyers key to recovery

WASHINGTON – June 16, 2011 – The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) published a report “The State of Hispanic Homeownership,” that offers data on the Hispanic homebuyer market and why it is poised, due to its population size, high desire and buying clout, to drive first-time homebuyer purchases and accelerate the nation’s economic recovery.

A digital copy of the report in PDF format is available here.

According to the report, minorities and immigrants are expected to drive demand for condominiums, smaller starter homes and first trade-up homes for the next 15 years. They’re also expected to be a rapidly growing segment of the middle and middle-upper markets for housing.

“The Latin boom has been forecasted for years, but we are now seeing the front edge of it; and it has the potential to help the nation’s housing system get back on track if we can create a safe credit environment for new buyers to get into the market,” says Carmen Mercado, president of the 18,000-member trade group.

The report, penned by former housing fellow, researcher and author Alejandro Becerra, cites the following trends:

• Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the nation and represent a growing portion of the 26 to 46 age group involved in most home sales.

• Hispanics have a greater propensity than other population groups to pick up stakes and move to other parts of the country in search of better jobs and more affordable housing.

• Hispanics continue to attain steady gains in income, education and entrepreneurship; and they have a strong work ethic, desire to succeed and purchasing power. Those traits will enable more of them to achieve homeownership.

• The current environment of record low interest rates, government-backed loans and less predatory lending makes sustainable homeownership more affordable.

• Earlier housing surveys show that Hispanics strongly aspire to become homeowners and are more motivated than the general population to buy a home for emotional and financial reasons. Fifty-seven percent of Hispanics consider owning a home a symbol of success, compared to only 33 percent of all Americans.

While Hispanics have been severely impacted by foreclosure, the larger population of potential homebuyers was unaffected by the crisis. However, tight credit, higher fees and stricter underwriting requirements continue to remain barriers. The report says that downpayment assistance and savings programs are crucial.

“In the climate of crisis, we must resist overreaching with regulations that make homeownership more expensive for millions of responsible consumers who have the buying power to revitalize our fragile housing market,” says Mercado. “Homeownership remains a cornerstone of family stability and long-term wealth creation.”

© 2011 Florida Realtors®

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Housing Shortage Likely Coming

Housing Shortage Likely Coming, Report Says

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – June 13, 2011 – Within the next decade, 16 million new housing units will be needed to meet population growth and shifting demands, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in its latest annual “State of the Nation’s Housing” report.

That means household growth, which has dropped drastically in recent years, will need to greatly reverse its trend to meet the forecasted spike in demand. From 2007-2010, household growth averaged about 500,000 per year – less than half the 1.2 million annual pace averaged prior from 2000-2007.

To absorb the current rate of foreclosed and distressed homes plaguing most markets, a more normal rate of household formation is critical, according to the report. However, household growth partially has stalled as young adults have delayed homeownership and immigration has slowed.

As such, in recent years, builders have drastically cut production of new homes.

“With inventories of new homes at historic lows, a turnaround in demand could quickly result in tighter markets,” the report notes. “Over the longer term, the number of younger households is set to rise sharply, supporting growth in the population that fuels growth in both new renters and first-time buyers. The path of the economy and evolution of the mortgage market will determine when and if this increased demand materializes.”

The report predicts a need for greater housing units for several reasons. For example, the report projects demand for 1 million new homes a year is needed to meet population growth in the coming decade. The report also predicts a surge in smaller homes, estimating that 3.8 million baby boomers will be looking to downsize their homes within the next decade. Also immigration growth, the need to replace existing homes, and demand for second homes will contribute to rising demand for housing units, the report notes. Therefore, researchers conclude at least 16 million new housing units will be needed over the next decade.

To download the report, visit Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies website.

Source: “Harvard: Real Estate Recovery Hinges on Return of Demand,” Inman News (June 6, 2011)
© Copyright 2011 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688


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Herald land sold for $236 million

Asia’s third largest casino company paid $236 million for 13.9 acres of waterfront land owned by The Miami Herald, a landmark deal that would remake the northern edge of downtown Miami.
Genting Malaysia Berhad closed on the all-cash deal Friday with the McClatchy Co., The Herald’s parent company. Genting executives said they would spend $2 billion to $5 billion on the project and create thousands of jobs. The surprise announcement makes the Malaysian conglomerate the newest player in downtown Miami’s expanding development scene.

The deal happened quickly, after a long-standing contract to buy The Herald’s parking lots fell through.

“This is probably the highest price, or close to it, per acre and per square foot for a land deal in Dade history,” said Michael Y. Cannon, a Miami real estate analyst. “It’s a wonderful piece of property, on the bay between the MacArthur and Venetian causeways.”

Cannon said the deal wasn’t strictly a land-only purchase, since The Herald building sits on it, but he presumed that Genting would tear it down to develop what the company described as a mixed-use development that would include hotel, shops, convention center and residences.

Cannon viewed the deal as a major endorsement for the area. “Miami has come of age, when you see world investments like this moving in. We are becoming what I call a city-state,” with a major Asian company recognizing Miami’s international potential to attract tourists.

Under terms of the deal, The Herald gets two years to move. Publisher David Landsberg said he would look for a central location in Miami-Dade, but the huge printing presses might end up at a different place from Herald offices.

“It’s a $236 million windfall to our company in total cash,” Landsberg said. “There isn’t much better than that.”

Responding to employee questions at a Friday meeting, Landsberg said the land sale would not affect Herald operations. “We believe it is a completely sustainable business,” he said. “We’re profitable and providing cash to our parent company. … We fully intend to be a newspaper for a long period of time.”

Of the proceeds, $163 million will go to bolster McClatchy’s underfunded pension plan, according to Chief Executive Gary Pruitt. Another $65 million will pay down the company’s debt, with another $2 million going to taxes. McClatchy will receive another $6 million once it vacates the building.

McClatchy, which owns 30 daily newspapers, has also sold buildings in Modesto, Calif., and Fort Worth, Texas, in recent months. The company had a long-standing contract to sell The Herald parking lots — but not The Herald’s main building — for $190 million, but the developer never closed on the deal.

McClatchy stock rose on the news, moving up almost 14 percent at one point during the day to close at $2.95 per share, 6.88 percent above Thursday’s closing price. It was the biggest single day gain since March 21.

The Herald property stretches from Biscayne Bay to Biscayne Boulevard, where the company owns a building called Boulevard Shops. The bayfront location is “not where you would put a manufacturing plant today,” Landsberg said.

The bayfront edge of The Herald property was built-up landfill from construction of the MacArthur Causeway, according to Cannon’s research.

Miami historian Paul George said that the area boomed in the 1920s, when Biscayne Boulevard was extended north. What is known as The Herald property was then filled with restaurants and nightclubs.

In the 1930s, the property was well known for the Little Royal Palm Club. “Legend had it that they had gambling in one of their back rooms,” George said. “The thinking then was tourism was the main business and you needed to give tourists what they wanted.”

The Little Royal was gone by 1951, when The Herald won its first Pulitzer Prize for a crusade against police tolerance of widespread but illegal casinos.

If Genting remakes the property into a “destination resort” that included gaming, “all we’re doing is going back to the future,” said Cannon, the real estate analyst.

In March 1963, The Herald moved into a $20 million headquarters it had built on the property. At the time, the bayfront location made perfect sense because “the cheapest form of delivery of newsprint was by barge,” said Pete Weitzel, a retired managing editor. Those bayside deliveries stopped decades ago.

Among many other things, the building was used for scenes of such movies as Absence of Malice, Mean Season and Big Trouble.

McClatchy Treasurer Elaine Lintecum said Friday that “the transaction came together relatively quickly.” Resorts World President Mike Speller said his company had been working on the deal for no more than 90 days. “It was dizzying the pace they went to acquire it,” Landsberg said.

Under the terms of the deal, The Herald will remain in the building rent-free for the next two years, and is under contract to maintain the structure.

Landsberg said there will be plenty of alternatives for housing the company’s 750 employees. The toughest issue will be relocating The Herald’s huge, high-speed presses that crank out up to 70,000 newspapers an hour.

The Herald has five presses, each 525 tons and 34 feet high, 110 feet long and 18 wide, according to Craig Woischwill, The Herald’s senior vice president of circulation and operations. Woischwill said the company is likely to move only three of the five.

The Herald has already hired a company to work on moving the presses, Landsberg said. The Herald generally doesn’t use more than three of its five presses at one time, he said, meaning it could move presses without having to look elsewhere for printing services.

The Herald building also houses Brown Mackie College. On Friday, its president, Julia Denniston, said, “We were aware that the sale could take place when we agreed to move to this location,” and the college will relocate somewhere else in the Miami area.

The Genting deal comes on the heels of the announcement of a new $700 million urban center planned by Hong Kong-based Swire Properties on the south side of the Miami River that would include residential towers, shopping and a hotel. That deal was believed to be the biggest new project announced since the real estate market crashed five years ago, and the Genting venture is priced at three times that amount. Swire already has a significant Miami presence on Brickell Key.

Cannon said the Genting plans would be a huge boost for the area north of downtown Miami, and on Friday, Mike Eidson, chairman of the adjacent Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, said he strongly supported the Asian company’s plans, saying it will help sustain the tax-funded performance hall. He declined to say whether the Arsht board would support bringing gambling to the neighborhood.

He also said Genting plans to build a 700-seat theater on its property that the Arsht center would manage, a new revenue source for the nonprofit as well as a venue for hosting plays and other performances that aren’t conducive to the Arsht Center’s stages. The resort’s garages would give dedicated parking for the Arsht Center, Eidson said, solving a persistent worry for the downtown venue.

He credited the Arsht Center with sparking the kind of urban revival that attracted Genting’s investment.

“If we hadn’t built the Arsht Center, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do something like this,’’ he said.

Miami Herald staff writer Hannah Sampson contributed to this article.

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New city center on horizon for Brickell area

New York City has Rockefeller Center. San Francisco boasts the Embarcadero Center. Now, Miami could have its version of a vibrant urban gathering place called Brickell CitiCentre.
The developer of Brickell Key has unveiled its long-awaited plans for a nearly $700 million urban shopping and mixed-use development spread over 9.1 acres just west of Brickell Avenue and south of the Miami River.

The project would create 1,700 jobs during construction and more than double that once completed.

Swire Properties will take the first steps this week toward a fast-track government approval process necessary for the 4.6 million-square-foot project that aims to create a retail destination unseen before in Miami’s urban core. The project – designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica – would also include restaurants, a hotel, office towers and apartments or condominiums, spread over a four-block area connected by bridges and covered walkways.

“We really see Miami as about to take the next and final step to become a true urban city, but retail is the missing link,” said Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties. “Retail creates the pedestrian experience. In some ways what we’re trying to create is the Main Street like you have in most urban cities. Our goal is to really become the anchor for the urban area.”

Construction could begin by the end of 2011. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is a major advocate for the project.

It’s the first development of this magnitude submitted under Miami 21, the new zoning code designed to encourage more pedestrian-activity through mixed-use development

That vision is similar to what Swire, the Miami-based development arm of a Hong Kong conglomerate, has had in the works for more than two years. Swire acquired the first parcels of undeveloped land for Brickell CitiCentre in October 2008, just after the nation’s financial markets collapsed amid the worst recession in decades and land prices started to drop.

Conservative by nature, Swire Properties chose to sit out much of Miami’s real-estate boom passing on high-profile sites because it didn’t want to get into a bidding war. The company prefers to buy land in the down market and launch new development just in the early stages of a recovery.

“When markets are over heated we tend to not move very fast because the probability of oversupply is very likely,” Owens said. “One of the keys to building now is to be in position when the markets are robust again. If one waits until the obvious indicators are there, then you have a lot more competitors out there and construction costs increase dramatically.”

Swire’s ambitious plans call for trying to obtain final approval from the Miami City Commission in July and beginning construction by the end of this year or early 2012. The bulk of the project would be built over the course of four years, with a second phase featuring the majority of the office space and a second residential tower scheduled for a later date based on market demand.

While some question the ambitious timetable, they believe Swire is the type of developer that can make it happen.

“The size of this development has got to be over a 10-year program or more,” said Michael Cannon, a local real estate industry analyst. “If anyone has the capital to do it, they do. They have patient capital. They apparently have made a commitment to Miami.”

Swire would likely fund the development itself, if it doesn’t secure traditional financing, Owens said.

Brickell CitiCentre is expected to generate $1 billion in overall economic impact, according to a study by Miami Economic Associates. The benefits would include 1,700 construction jobs for each of the four years of construction, plus 3,800 jobs upon the project’s completion.

The city of Miami would receive $5.4 million in annual taxes from Brickell CitiCentre, while Miami-Dade County would get another $9.6 million in annual taxes.

“This is a huge complex that will bring to Brickell Avenue, downtown Miami and East Little Havana an energy it has never, ever seen before,” said Regalado, who will take the nontraditional step of presenting a developer’s project to the City Commission. “I think it needs to carry the clout of the office of the mayor to send a message that this is a huge project for the city of Miami.”

The last major project of this magnitude was Midtown Miami, but that development is being built in phases and spread out over a larger area. Midtown also includes more residential towers and big-box retail.

Brickell CitiCentre is a natural next step for Swire Properties, which bought the deserted Claughton Island in 1980 and turned it into Brickell Key, a secluded haven of high-end condominiums, office buildings, a Mandarin Oriental hotel and a smattering of retail shops and restaurants. With only one undeveloped parcel left on Brickell Key adjacent to the Mandarin Oriental, Swire set its sites years ago on finding a new venture in the heart of the Brickell Financial District.

Swire paid $41 million in an all-cash deal for the first two undeveloped parcels that form the core for Brickell CitiCentre, straddling South Miami Avenue. The land had been on the market during the boom for as much as $110 million and the original plans for a different version of a mixed-used project with the same name were designed by a group headed by J. Kevin Reilly. But Swire acquired the property after the lender iStar Financial took the property back from Reilly.

The final parcels – the Brickell Tennis Center and the Eastern National Bank headquarters – were acquired earlier this year for a total cost of about $27 million. The additional acreage was necessary to get the site over the nine-acre threshold needed to apply for a special area plan under the terms of Miami 21.

Brickell CitiCentre is modeled after similar projects that Swire’s parent company has developed in Asia, including Pacific Place in Hong Kong. The first phase would include about 500,000-square feet of retail shops and restaurants, a 290-room four-star hotel, two eight-story office towers and a residential tower with about 270 units.

The retail would likely be anchored by at least one department store, plus a mix of luxury and moderate retailers focusing on fashion brands and home furnishings, including national and international brands, Owens said. The project would not contain big-box retailers like Target or Best Buy.

Retail industry experts agree that the dense urban area has enough consumers to support the project. The challenge will be luring retailers away from other shopping centers or persuading them to open an another store.

“It’s certainly going to give Merrick Park a run for its money, as well as Dadeland,” said Cynthia Cohen, president of Strategic Mindshare, a retail consultant with a Miami office.

The key, she said, would be the name-brand anchor stores.

“If you’re going to steal retailers from Dadeland or Merrick Park, you’ve got to make them a better deal. Those better deals have a financial impact on your pocket. They have to be willing to play this out for the long term.”

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Mega Mall Coming to Downtown Miami

Mega Mall Coming to Downtown Miami


By Willard Shepard



A massive new mega mall planned for downtown Miami has local shoppers ready to spend and local politicians seeing dollar signs.

The massive Brickell CitiCentre consisting of more than five towers will rise from the land bordered by Brickell on the East, Southwest 1st Ave. to the west and between Southwest 8th and Southwest 6th St.

The complex will be bigger than the Dolphin Mall’s 1.4 million square feet of retail space, bigger that Sawgrass Mills Mall — in fact about double the size of Sawgrass — at 4 million square feet.

“This is the biggest private works project in the U.S. this year, this is the biggest private works project in America,” said Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff. “It’s going to bring Miami into the epicenter of retail shopping and that includes Coral Gables and even Aventura.”

The project will create 1,700 construction jobs every year for the four years it will take to complete construction. When it’s finished there will be 3,800 permanent full time jobs here.And taxes will bring some $15 million to the city and county.

The City Centre will house not only retail shopping but office space, apartments or condos, and a hotel.”I think that would be great. I don’t thank we have enough along Brickell,” said shopper Caline Assilan.Restaurant operator Alex Pilat is hiring now, and sees a need for more workers and dollars signs.   He just opened his sandwich shop right across from the site of the planned mega mall.  “It’s going to be excellent,” said Pilat. “It’s going to bring more people to Brickell and give people here more choices.”

“This is the biggest thing to happen in Miami in about 12 years,” Sarnoff said.


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Home Sales Up – Brickell Condo, Apartment rents soar


Thursday, May 12, 2011


Home Sales Up


Miami-Dade home sales, including single-family homes and condos, rose 71% in the first quarter, from 3,450 to 5,910 closings.  Sales rose 26% from the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the Miami Association of Realtors and the Southeast Florida Multiple Listing Service.  This first-quarter upward trend marks 11 consecutive quarters since the third quarter of 2008 that sales have climbed.  With international and local buyers continuing to acquire condos, many as investments, condo sales jumped 91% and homes sales 47% compared to the first quarter of 2010.  Statewide, sales of single-family homes rose 13% and condos 29% in the first quarter, the report shows.


Brickell Condo, Apartment rents soar, rising 13% in a year

By Marilyn Bowden


Both apartment and condo rental rates in Brickell are skyrocketing, and brokers say high-quality units are much in demand.  “A lot of people who are moving for the first time to Miami are still under the impression that they can get steals here,” said Douglas Elliman Realtor Associate Dean Bloch.  “That’s really not the case.  But Brickell is still less expensive than rending on South Beach, and you get more for your money.  So students and young professionals love the area.”  The overall average rent in a Brickell apartment project leaped from $1,943 a month in February 2010 to $2,197 this February, said L. Keith White, president of Reinhold P. Wolff Economic Research.  “That is really substantial – a 13.1% hike,” he said.  “That would not be sustainable for a longer period of time.  The market is catching up from the depressed rents of the past few years.”  He quoted current average rents at $1,686 for a one-bedroom apartment, $2,551 for a two-bedroom and $3,038 for a three-bedroom.  “Overall vacancy is quite low – 2.5%,” Mr. White said, a sharp decline from 9.6% a year ago.

The majority of rental opportunities in Brickell these days are condo units, either investor- or developer-owned.  That market, too, said Chris Basick, managing broker of Esslinger Wooten Maxwell’s Brickell office, in “nothing but good.”  Right now, he said, 606 available units with asking rents ranging from $950 – $20,000 are shown in the multiple listing service.  About 53% are two-bedroom units, 33% are one-bedrooms and 10% are three-bedrooms.  “The inventory is not as much as we would expect,” Mr. Basick said, “because many units are being used as second or third homes, so they’re not being rented out.”  The average actual monthly rate comes to $2.18 per square foot, getting closer to the average asking rate, he said, which is currently $2.23 a square foot.  For a long time, actual rents were stuck at around $1.90 a foot.

That’s good news for investors, Mr. Basick said.  “Their expected revenue is higher than it was, and we are able to rent them out faster.”  “The rental market has picked up tremendously over the past year,”  said Ty Forkner, a Realtor Associate at Douglas Elliman Florida.  “One-bedroom units that used to rent for $1,000 are now renting for $1,300 – $1,500.  Good quality inventory has really shrunk.”  Mr. Bloch, who has sold quite a few downtown and Brickell condos to investors, said most plan on renting them out for five to seven years.  “The Icon is renting like crazy,” he said.  “A unit I just sold at The View at Brickell for $215,000 is rented at $2,200 a month, which is a good return.”  Young professionals are big in the rental market, Mr. Forkner said.  So are people who have lost their homes to foreclosures or short sales and who “have to live somewhere.  They can’t buy another house.”  “What is really moving off the shelf is the luxury rental inventory.  People who are downsizing from estates are looking for three to five bedrooms.”


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Unemployment falls in 2/3 of states

Unemployment falls in two-thirds of states

WASHINGTON (AP) – April 20, 2011 – The unemployment rate fell in two-thirds of the nation’s states last month, the latest evidence that the strengthening economy is encouraging many employers to boost hiring.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that the unemployment rate dropped in 34 states in March. That’s the largest number of states to record a decline since June. The rate rose in seven states and was unchanged in nine and Washington, D.C.

Employers hired more workers in 38 states. A government survey of employer payrolls found only 12 states plus Washington, D.C. lost jobs last month, the fewest since October.

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell in March to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, and private employers added more than 200,000 jobs for the second consecutive month. That’s the largest two-month hiring total in four years.

Texas added 37,200 net jobs in March, the most of any state. It was followed by Missouri and Florida, both of which reported strong gains. California lost 11,600 net jobs — the most of any state. Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland and Maine all had large job losses, too.

New Mexico reported the biggest monthly drop in unemployment among all state, falling from 8.7 percent in February to 8.1 percent in March. Florida, Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio posted the next biggest monthly declines.

The Midwest is faring particularly well, said Steve Cochrane, a regional economist at Moody’s Analytics. The region has generated more jobs in the past three months than any of the other three regions. A rebound in manufacturing has spurred hiring in professional services such as accounting, advertising and legal services. New weekly applications for unemployment benefits have fallen to pre-recession levels, Cochrane said, the first region where that has happened.

As a result, the unemployment rate in the Midwest dropped from 8.4 percent to 8.3 percent last month. That’s just above the Northeast’s 8.2 percent unemployment rate — the best among the four regions. The West had the highest unemployment for any region in March, at 10.7 percent, followed by the South at 9.0 percent.

Nevada again had the highest unemployment rate of any state, although it fell from 13.6 percent to 13.2 percent in March. California, at 12 percent, was second, followed by Florida (11.1 percent) and Rhode Island (11 percent).

Florida’s unemployment rate has come down slightly from the 11.3 percent rate recorded a year ago. That’s the state’s first year-over-year decline since November 2006. Some of the drop is because many people who are unemployed have given up looking for work. People without jobs who aren’t looking aren’t counted as unemployed.

“We’re still on the cusp of recovery in the job market,” said Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida.

The Sunshine State has added jobs in health care and in its signature industry — tourism. Snaith said restaurants, hotels and theme parks are adding workers. A new Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios’ Orlando resort has been popular, he said.

North Dakota had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.6 percent. It was followed by Nebraska at 4.2 percent and South Dakota at 4.9 percent.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press, Christopher S. Rugaber, AP economics writer.


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