The Real Deal Miami

Q & A with chairman of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce

Jason Loeb talks about foreign buyers, a thriving tourist market and new retail
By Alexander Britell | October 10, 2011 09:09AM

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Jason Loeb
Miami Beach’s residential
market
, which has managed to maintain high prices, and some astronomical
sales
, in the years leading out of the downturn, is developing into
a year-round destination, according to Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce Chairman  Jason Loeb. Loeb, who is the founder of tri-county dry
cleaning and laundry firm Sudsies, has overseen the chamber in a period
of significant growth for the city, particularly in the hotel market,
which has seen a number of new hotels pop up. Loeb talked to
The Real Deal about the continued
wave of foreign homebuyers in Miami Beach [which he spoke about last
month at a Miami Association of Realtors panel], the surging hotel
industry and how Miami Beach is not just a winter town anymore.

How would you describe the real estate market right now in Miami Beach?

It is, I think, an anomaly. We had our best tourist summer ever, and the reason why is people are still coming here — our room rate and occupancy was the best the hotel industry had seen in the summer. We’re building the whole environment — we’re constantly seeing buildup, and getting more people that come here that are tourists, and say, “Oh my god, this is great here, and I’m from Brazil and I can get a great condo here in Miami Beach. Why am I going to wait?” I think people are coming here, enjoying their vacations and just deciding to stay behind.

How has the tourist factor impacted real estate?

The average number of days of people are staying in Miami Beach has gone up, and the growth was exponential this summer. Tourists stayed longer in Miami Beach, and they came from places like Brazil and other South American countries, occupying our hotels and enjoying the quality of life, even in summer, when they wouldn’t even come here [normally], and longer than the typical tourist — some as long as 10 nights over the summer.

A developing trend in Miami has been Latin American companies setting up small offices or branches of their home companies to test out the market. Is that something you’ve been seeing?

What I’ve seen also is that they buy a place to live here, or buy their second home, and say to themselves, if they’re going to spend three months or six months here, they set up shop and do work here and make it a local business, an extension of their business. I’ve noticed a lot of that as well, or foreign buyers that say, “I have an office on Lincoln Road,” and now want to try to diversify their business. They’re here anyway, so why not grow their business in this market?

How much has the hotel market changed in Miami Beach over the last several years?

The hoteliers [just] had their best summer ever — that sums it up. What’s happening here is, the people are coming here, and we’re not a winter destination anymore. People are coming here to enjoy the quality of life year-round.

Are there any submarkets in Miami Beach that are doing better than others?

I think the entire [city of] Miami Beach, from 1st to 99th streets [is performing well]. But the density of South Beach continues to grow, with a spillover into Mid Beach and North Beach. Once again, it’s everybody that is participating in that growth — and the more people that come here to stay the more everybody enjoys it.

Have you seen new businesses taking offices in Miami Beach — foreign or otherwise?

For one, FHM is coming to Lincoln Road, which is tremendous, and they want to make it their flagship store to open up to the South American market — they’re already under construction. Milos [a New York-based Greek eatery] is moving to South of Fifth Street, and are going to be building there. We have development going on on 17th Street, and people still want to come here and open up their secondary and tertiary businesses in Miami Beach. And obviously they see the value — Miami Beach is still a flagship city and people still want to come and be here. It’s a branding issue. they want to say they have a store on Lincoln Road. It raises their brand.