Execs aspiring to build 13M square feet in Miami dish on projects

Executives from Dacra, Swire, Florida East Coast Industries and Miami Worldcenter spoke at GMCC luncheon

Feb.February 25, 2015 05:30 PM

The developers of four of Miami’s largest projects shared details on their plans — and their predictions and aspirations for Miami’s future  during a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.

The featured speakers at the luncheon, held at the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel and moderated by Bilzin Sumberg attorney Suzanne Amaducci-Adams, were Dacra COO Steven Gretenstein, Swire Properties Senior Vice President Christopher Gandolfo, Florida East Coast Industries CEO Vince Signorello, and Miami Worldcenter Managing Principal Nitin Motwani. The companies of these four executives aspire to build at least 13 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, hotel, and convention meeting space south of NE 40th Street within the city of Miami.

One of the more provocative statements of the luncheon came from Signorello, whose company plans to build a $2 billion Miami Central Station project just blocks away from Miami-Dade County hall, as well as a passenger rail line connecting Miami to the downtown areas of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando, known as All Aboard Florida. When Amaducci-Adams asked Signorello his one wish, his answer: “My wish would be that the city’s business leaders take control of the city back from the grip of the politicians.”

Not that he disliked Miami’s politicians, Signorello elaborated. There are some who are great visionaries, he said. However, Signorello added, “all too often I see smart business people waiting at the foot of government, as opposed to leading the dialogue and engaging politicians to create a road map [to the future].”

Signorello also worried about people’s ability to even get into Downtown Miami in the future. “Miami is becoming an awfully expensive place to live,” he said. “People are going to live away from the city and they’re going to need to get into the city.”  Also the more expensive Miami becomes, “the more difficult it’ll be for businesses to come to downtown.”

Most of the luncheon was dedicated to the developers talking about their projects. Gretenstein of Dacra, for example, announced that his company — in partnership with luxury retailer LVMH— just completed building 600,000 square feet of mixed-use commercial space on 28 acres of land in the Design District. Another 200,000 square feet will be completed in 18 months. And that’s just the beginning. “We have another 1.5 million square feet of additional development rights we are still figuring out what to do with,” he said.

Miami Worldcenter, in partnership with other developers — and the assistance of at least $88 million in tax rebates from the Southeast Overtown Park West Redevelopment District  is building on 28 acres of land west of the American Airlines Arena that, Motwani admitted, is primarily used for parking during Miami Heat games. Worldcenter related projects include the 765,000-square-foot Mall at Worldcenter that will be built by Forbes and Taubman, Daniel Kodsi’s 60-story Paramount Miami Worldcenter, and the massive 2,000-room Marriott Marquis Hotel and Convention Center that will be built at the former site of the old Miami Arena. Motwani said more projects, including a luxury boutique hotel, will be announced “very soon.”

Swire Properties’ Gandolfo discussed how his company is building 4.5 million square feet of hotels, condos, office, and retail space within the four-acre project just south of the Miami River known as Brickell City Centre. The project will include the first EAST hotel to be constructed in North America, the first Cinemex luxury movie theater in the United States, and an open air luxury retail center that will utilize a state-of-the art “climate ribbon” to create a comfortable environment for shoppers, he said.

Signorello, meanwhile, said Flagler will target young working professionals as part of its first phase of residential development at Miami Central Station. That first phase will consist of studio and one-bedroom residences ranging from 700 square feet to 800 square feet in size. The creation of a “physical connection” between the future Marriott Marquis Hotel and Miami Central Station will also be a priority, Signorello added.

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