School board puts downtown Miami land up for bidding, Galbut preparing proposal

Miami-Dade County School Board's parcel outlined in red, and developer Russell Galbut
Miami-Dade County School Board's parcel outlined in red, and developer Russell Galbut

After three disappointing bid cycles stretched out over five years, Miami-Dade County’s School Board is again placing a piece of its sizable downtown Miami land holdings up for grabs.

Though the process is under a cone of silence, at least one developer has said he plans to enter the running: Crescent Heights’ Russell Galbut.

The school board’s announcement came through a request for proposals for its parking lot at 1370 Northeast Second Avenue, which measures 49,018 square feet. In exchange for the land, the board wants fair market value in cash to help finance the construction of a new office building. The RFP also said bidders can build the school board up to 180,000 square feet of offices as payment, either at a different site or within any project built on the parking lot.

Marcus & Millichap’s Ryan Shaw pegs the land’s value at $16 million, based off the price per square foot from a similar land purchase by the Melo Group in December. But he cautioned a lot has changed in Miami’s real estate market since then, with a glut of residential supply looming over Miami and construction financing becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

Rendering of what could potentially be built on he land from architect Jorge A. Gutierrez

Rendering of what could potentially be built on he land from architect Jorge A. Gutierrez

Regardless, he said, it’s prime real estate: the lot’s T6-24A-O zoning allows for heights up to 48 stories and 446,582 buildable square feet, including a 30 percent bonus from the city’s public benefits program.

“It’s a full city block in downtown next to the Performing Arts Center; somebody’s going to want it,” he said. “I just don’t think development is going to happen immediately.”

Galbut agrees — at least with the land posing a good opportunity for development.

He told The Real Deal that he would combine the school board’s land with his 49,610-square-foot parking lot next door to create a more than two-acre development site. Galbut’s plan, though still in the preliminary stages, would include two residential towers with ground-floor retail and parking. He said it was too early to tell how many units the towers would house or how tall they would be.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

“There’s no better location than this,” he said. “It has to be perfect.”

Other major developers in the area told TRD that they’re not interested.

Melo Group and Related Group both declined to comment, while Gregg Covin, a principal on the One Thousand Museum development team, said through a spokesperson that he’s too busy to bid.

Nir Shoshani, a principal of NR Investments, which is building the Canvas condominium nearby, also said his firm wouldn’t bid. He said the school board should take a more creative approach to developing the land rather than selling it to the highest bidder.

He told TRD that NR Investments had previously approached city officials with the idea of building a cultural hub on the school board’s 10 acres akin to the Teacher’s Village project in New Jersey, including residences, a tech-oriented middle and high school and business incubators.

Ultimately, he said, there wasn’t enough interest to have the concept go forward.

“We were a bit disappointed that the city and the school board are looking at this land as a potential moneymaker instead of looking at it from a more creative point of view,” he said. “The last thing the city needs, in our opinion as developers, is another 3,000 condo units.“

The school board has had little luck with past bid attempts. According to a May 2015 Miami Herald article, the district’s holdings were opened for bidding twice in 2011 and once in 2014. But a lack of interest from developers caused the board to close those rounds without any activity.

For this latest bid, proposals are due by Feb. 2, at which point they’ll become available to the public. Until then, the school board and bidders are under a cone of silence.