When Avra Jain bought the Vagabond Hotel in Miami’s MiMo district two years ago, she couldn’t capture the interest of traditional real estate investors. Comparable rates along Biscayne Boulevard were $60 a night — or $20 an hour, she quipped. Now, after redeveloping the property into a boutique hotel with financial backing from friends and family, off-season rates stand at $159 a night, and the coming season will command $229 to $259 per night.
Changes taking place in the commercial real estate market in neighborhoods like MiMo and Wynwood are spurring widespread revitalization in Miami and creating other newly emerging areas, panelists said Friday at the Miami Association of Realtors’ RCA Super Conference, held at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
In MiMo, Jain realized that dilapidated motels were hurting the area, so she purchased seven motels along the Biscayne Boulevard strip and shut them down. “And that is when the neighborhood started to change,” she said during a panel, “Emerging Miami: Miami River, Lemon City & Little River.”
Much more change is on the horizon. In a year, the MiMo District “will be lit up with neon and restaurants and will surprise everybody,” she told more than 100 conference attendees. Retail rents are rising rapidly, and now stand at about $50 to $70 per square foot, and $45 for second floor office space, Jain said.
Meanwhile, as Miami’s once gritty Wynwood transforms and rents there rise as well, art galleries, local businesses and creative types are being priced out, and are moving to more affordable and newly emerging — yet historic — areas like Little River and Lemon City, the panelists said. That’s where Thomas Conway’s MADE, a new co-working space for creative entrepreneurs, has recently opened.
Creating a sense of place is key, the panelists said. “We’re basically being the stewards of revitalizing these neighborhoods,” said Tony Cho, founder and CEO of Metro 1.
With investors redeveloping property, Wynwood has quickly become a thriving neighborhood, with a curated collection of new shops, restaurants, bars and breweries that attract a pedestrian crowd at all hours of the night. “It’s remarkable,” Cho said of the transformation. “It has exceeded my original expectations.”
Along with that, commercial rents are now as high as $80 per square foot on Northwest Second Avenue in Wynwood — compared to $10 per square foot 10 years ago, Cho said.
In fact, Starbucks and other national retailers are starting to look into the area.
That poses a challenge to retaining the neighborhood feel, the panelists said. “People are fearful that it will turn into Lincoln Road,” Cho said.
The speed of transformation is accelerating, and with so much commercial activity in Miami, Jain said she does not worry about a downturn similar to what South Florida experienced in the last cycle..
“I don’t think Miami necessarily has to be roller coaster any more,” she said, citing commercial markets in Miami that are still underserved and the continuing demand for boutique hotels. “I’m starting to see it differently.”