Developers eyeing Doral, as land elsewhere scarce

Downtown Doral and Armando Codina
Downtown Doral and Armando Codina

Known mostly for industrial warehouses and suburban gated communities, Doral in Northwest Miami-Dade is undergoing an urban transformation fueled by a strong office market, as well as massive mixed-use projects like Downtown Doral and CityPlace Doral.

“The growth has been phenomenal,” said Armando Codina, executive chairman of Codina Partners, which is building Downtown Doral. “What we are doing is creating the heart of the city. It’s the only true infill project in Miami-Dade.”

After acquiring 31 buildings centrally located in Doral, Codina Partners retained renowned urban planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk to develop a master plan for a new downtown. The company knocked down most of the buildings and began redeveloping the properties into Codina’s vision, which calls for eight to nine mid-rise condo towers, 70 retail stores and restaurants, and more than a million square feet of office space in four buildings along a new Main Street.

His firm has finished two rental buildings and two office buildings so far, Codina said. Codina Partners also has built a new $20 million Doral City Hall and a village green.

“The office buildings are 95 percent leased,” he said. “And the apartment buildings have waiting lists. We’re in the process of building 85 townhomes and the first condo, which is 90 percent sold.”

In addition, he said, his company expects to fully lease the 200,000 square feet of new retail space by the time construction is finished in November. Codina Partners is also partnering with Lennar Corp., the country’s largest homebuilder, to bid on the White Course, a 100-acre golf course near the Trump National Doral Miami.

“I’m not investing or buying suburban office buildings,” Codina said. “I’m focusing on creating places where people want to live, work and play.”

The Downtown Doral project has helped the city attract other developers, from established brands like The Related Group to Venezuelan investors drawn by Doral’s heavily South American population.

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Ronnie Fieldstone, an attorney representing Riviera Point Development, which is building a $9.5 million office condominium at 9000 Northwest 89th Court and Northwest 15th Street in Doral, said the city offers attractive real estate investment opportunities because of its location. “You have easy access to several major expressways such as state roads 826 and 836, as well as the Florida Turnpike,” he said. “Doral is also home to the Miami Free Trade Zone.”

Riviera Point, which is partly financed by Venezuelan investors with EB-5 visas, believes it can fill a demand for live-work spaces for professionals who are being priced out of Brickell, downtown Miami, Midtown and the Design District, Fieldstone said. “The buyers looking at Doral are not speculative,” he said. “They are looking to occupy a place to run a business for a long time. They come to Doral because of its unique location, the amount of commerce in the city, and the competitive prices.”


Rendering of Rita Gardens Office Center

Ben Hoffman, a broker with Fortune International Realty, represents a developer who began construction four months ago on a seven-story medical office building, Rita Gardens Office Center, on Northwest 58th Street and Northwest 102nd Avenue. His client, Venezuelan entrepreneur Alfredo Reviati, recently finished a shopping center next door to his new project that is 100 percent leased.

“He and his partners really believe in Doral,” Hoffman said. “They are paying for the construction out of their own pockets. It is all funded privately.”

Once the shopping center was finished, Reviati studied the market and determined Doral needed more medical tenants such as family physicians and clinics. “With all the new residential and retail being built, he sees how it is creating an influx of people,” Hoffman said. “He saw a lack of Class A medical office space and wants to fill it.”

Even Doral’s developers who traditionally build industrial warehouses are getting into the office game. Jose Hernandez, president of The Easton Group, said the company picked up two office buildings in December for $17.15 million. One of the properties is a 119,443-square-foot building at 3401 Northwest 82nd Avenue.

“It’s not our area of expertise, but we are growing our presence in that area,” Hernandez said. “We are value players. When we see a good opportunity, we jump on it.”