UPDATED Nov. 3, 11:20 p.m.: The top executive of All Aboard Florida’s parent company warned Miami business leaders on Wednesday that the glut of luxury condominium projects in downtown Miami is making it nearly impossible to attract middle class professionals to the city’s urban core.
“When the conversation is about development and all the wonderful things happening, it seems we are talking about the movie we want Miami to be, rather than the Miami we actually live in,” said Vincent Signorello, CEO of Florida East Coast Industries, or FECI. “If we are honest with ourselves, I am not not sure Miami gets a high grade in affordability and creating a place where everybody can enjoy this incredible environment.”
Signorello was the keynote speaker at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Trustee Luncheon on Jungle Island. All Aboard Florida is the FECI subsidiary developing Brightline, a $3 billion express-train service from Orlando to Miami, that also includes MiamiCentral, a massive train depot with residences, restaurants, shops and offices in downtown, that is expected to be completed by mid-2017.
Brightline’s ultimate goal is to connect urban centers in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, and Orlando, Signorello said. However, downtown Miami still lacks a critical mass of people that will spur the type of density and activity needed to support a retail and mixed-use environment.
“I don’t think downtown Miami needs another condominium,” Signorello said. “The condo environment has driven land prices up so much in downtown that you can’t do anything but a condominium.”
For downtown Miami to truly develop into a live, work, and play community, real estate development has to include people making less than $100,000 a year, Signorello said.
“All too often what is happening is that a condo is not occupied or it is occupied as a third, fourth or fifth residence,” he said. “What concerns me is that we are creating a zombie of a downtown when we only focus on those types of projects.”
He suggested politicians and policy makers provide developers with incentives, such as tax abatements, to set aside a percentage of units for workforce housing.
MiamiCentral’s transit hub sits on 9 acres that will connect to an existing Metromover station at Government Center. Three mixed-use towers will sit above the project’s elevated rail tracks that are composed of a class A office building with 190,000 square feet of space and two rental buildings with 800 combined units. The project also includes a separate 12-story tower with office space, parking and a major grocery tenant.