Q & A with Wexford’s leasing manager for UM Life Science and Technology Park

The area just west of I-95 and north of Overtown is seeing a dramatic change as Miami’s Health district is beginning to come into its own as a standalone, mixed-use neighborhood. At the center of the activity is developer Wexford’s new University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park. The Real Deal talked to Bill Hunter, leasing manager for the project, on the growth of the Health district, how the area is diversifying its tenant base and how hotels and residential properties could be on the horizon.

How is the Health district evolving?

As far as the Health District it’s definitely a thriving, educational district for health and medical-related education. It’s also a research engine. You’re looking at the nation’s leading ophthalmology institute in Baskin Palmer. You’ve got the Diabetes Research Institute. You’ve got world-class research on all fronts. On any given day walking around the district, you’ve got some of the leading minds, not just in the United States, but in the world, focused on their respective research fields. And it’s certainly picked up a tremendous amount in recent years, and we see it growing even further.

What kind of activity have you been seeing at the Life Science and Technology Park?

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We’re about three months away from our grand opening, and we’re in negotiations with almost 200,000 square feet of prospects — both from the region, along with those from the country, as well as international. We’ve actually seen an incredible amount of interest in the retail space we have along Seventh Avenue.

What kinds of companies have shown interest?

It’s really been all across the board. We have interest from all levels of tech companies. We have a company from Europe that is an office-only user, but they’re in the tech field, and it relates to electronic medical records. We have an executed term sheet with them. No deal’s final until it’s a lease, so we’re working through that, but things are going vey well there. We’re also seeing a lot of activity from traditional biotech companies [and] traditional pharmaceutical. A sweet spot has been medical device companies. South Florida is a medical device hot spot, and we’re seeing significant interest both from upstart medical device companies to relatively mature ones.

What kind of development do you foresee for the district?

I think you’re going to find a lot more development on what we’ll call the east side of this Health District. Our campus is the easternmost border of the Health District — it won’t go over I-95. Immediately across the street from us, we’ve got [Lindsey] Hopkins Technical Education, Miami-Dade College, and then it’s just continuing to grow from the western side of the campus to the eastern side. I think in the coming years, you’ll find not only retail but you will find some level of hospitality, and certainly residential as well. What you’re finding is the maturation of what we at Wexford call “knowledge-based communities.” It really is a work-play-live, 24-7 type of community. This area has all of those aspects and components that are necessary for that. You’ll see the various other pieces falling into place over the next few years for sure.