As the Biscayne Lady coasts up the Miami River, local historian and Miami Dade College professor Paul George, facing the boat’s starboard side, pointed to a townhouse development on Northwest North River Drive that was completed in 1980.
“You could have picked up one of those units for $100,000 back then,” George said. “The building right next to the townhouses is a product of the last boom. Units there were going for $789,000. But the developer couldn’t sell anything following the market collapse.”
George shared his vast knowledge about the Miami River’s history with more than 100 real estate professionals and members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce during a boat tour of the primarily commercial waterway Thursday afternoon. The tour’s goal was to show participants how new development is once again sprouting along the riverfront, said David Restainer, managing director of commercial real estate at Douglas Elliman Florida.
“Miami has come back stronger than any place in the world,” Restainer told The Real Deal. “It’s a testament to the people, the diversity and the climate that we have here.”
Restainer, who is chairman of the chamber’s real estate committee, said the organization wants the public to discover the river as a place they can live, work and play. “It seems not enough people throughout our community know that our waterfront is accessible to the public,” he said. “We want people to walk up and down the river.”
During the two hour boat ride, Miami River Commission managing director Brett Bibeau pointed to several new developments underway, as well as sites for future mixed-use projects on the table. Among the projects he identified included the new home of Apex Marine, a yacht service facility that relocated to the south fork of the Miami River; the revamped Miami River Inn by developer Avra Jain who recently reopened the historic bed and breakfast; CG Florida Properties’ development site where the company is building 1,678 residential units, 330 hotel rooms, restaurants, and retail stores; and One River Point, a residential project featuring 400 luxury residential units, 20 hotel rooms, restaurant and nightclub being built by Kar Properties.
Restainer said investors interested in the Miami River are individuals who understand that most major cities develop on a river. “It takes someone with fresh eyes and a worldly perspective to understand what will be happening in the future,” Restainer said. “You see folks who are familiar with life in Chicago, Istanbul and all these wonderful cities along a river.”
Cary Cohen, Blanca Commercial Real Estate’s executive vice president, said seven years ago, following the crash, brokers could not sell anything along the Miami River. “Now the market is incredible,” he said.
Cohen told TRD that he sold a few land sites on the river to developers at the end of last year. He could not provide details because the deals have not closed, he said. “It is interesting what the chamber is doing,” Cohen said. “It provides you a perspective you won’t normally see. You can drive around it 300 times and you won’t see it this way.”