The Real Deal Miami

South Americans hit commercial market, too

By Alexander Britell | August 02, 2011 05:38PM


Brickell Bay Office Tower

While much has been made of the surge
of Latin American homebuyers
in Miami, that inflow has started to
spill over into the commercial market.

Many South Americans, drawn to
Miami for second homes, whether a house or a condominium unit, are now
beginning to move portions of their home businesses to Miami offices,
looking to begin with small spaces and get a feel for the market.

“We’ve
been seeing a lot of Brazilians,” said Christian Driussi, vice
president and general manager at Brickell
Bay Office Tower
. “They started purchasing some condo units, and
then wanted to open a business here in Miami.”

Driussi said that of the leases his building had signed in the last year, about 20 percent involved Brazilian, Latin American and European buyers.

The trend of Latin American companies generally isn’t new to the market — it’s why former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre first called the city the “gateway to the Americas” in the 1970s, said Wiliam Holly, executive director at Cushman and Wakefield.

“I think we’ve seen Latin American companies coming here my entire career — I haven’t seen a big change in the last year or two, positive or negative,” he said.

What has changed, however, is the trend Driussi discussed above — where foreign homebuyers, who once merely kept their properties as second homes and stayed on the business sidelines, are now entering the commercial market.

“We see people who, previously, had just kind of bought a house or bought something as an investment and not been here or lived here, they’re now opening offices and testing the business waters,” he said.

Right now, the trend for these kinds of tenants is not for major deals, but graduated growth beginning with small leases in the range of 1,000 to 5,000 square feet, or even 750 to 1,500 square feet, he said. In the last eight weeks, Driussi said, he leased five spaces in the latter range.

Holly said he was seeing these kinds of tenants take spaces in Brickell and Coral Gables, typically in executive suites around 1,500 square feet.

The Latin American wave is even starting to reach the retail market, according to Mike Comras, president of Miami Beach-based Comras Company, though some would-be tenants haven’t yet bought a home in Miami.

“We have a tremendous influx of South Americans and Europeans coming in and basically buying second homes and opening businesses; we’re also seeing that from Venezuela and Colombia,” Comras said. “We get calls every day from tenants who have businesses in 10 stores in Venezuela and want to move their life and their family over here.”