TRD‘s Miami event tackles sea level rise, new development, Moishe Mana and more

Thousands attended day-long event with five panels, 46 exhibitors

The Real Deal South Florida Showcase & Forum (Credit: Instagram @claudio.california)
The Real Deal South Florida Showcase & Forum (Credit: Instagram @claudio.california)

More than 4,500 real estate brokers, investors and developers flocked to The Real Deal’s Fourth Annual Miami Real Estate Showcase & Forum on Thursday to get the latest intel from the industry’s movers and shakers, including Moishe Mana, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid and Art Falcone.

Forty-six exhibitors, including new development projects, lenders and brokerages, lined the path to the panel room at Soho Studios. Fortune International Group showcased its “Very Important Properties” with a VIP champagne lounge, while boutique development 303 Surfside enticed attendees with a chocolate fountain. Tesla displayed its Model X on the showcase floor, as attendees networked.

Moishe Mana sounds off
The event, held at Soho Studios in Wynwood on Thursday, kicked off with a one-on-one by TRD South Florida Managing Editor Ina Cordle with developer Moishe Mana, who stood up to condemn President Trump and his “destructive” actions. “When he was chosen to be the Republican nominee, I declared it the moral bankruptcy of America,” Mana said, drawing applause.

The Israeli investor began exploring Miami neighborhoods in 2011 as he was traveling back and forth to Asia, he told the crowd. In Wynwood, Mana has assembled 40 acres where he plans to build the Mana Wynwood Americas-Asia Trade Center & International Financial Center, a trade hub and cultural campus set to break ground next year. He expects to bring Chinese partners and companies to the city. “There is no reason Miami can’t become the Hong Kong of the future,” Mana said.

Is South Florida drowning?
The controversial topic of sea level rise packed the forum with attendees hungry for intel on how it will impact South Florida real estate.

Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez, former U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy, city of Miami Beach Engineer Bruce Mowry, and architect Kobi Karp spoke candidly about encouraging resilient buildings, changing city codes, engaging politicians and more to combat climate change. TRD‘s Editorial Director, Digital Hiten Samtani moderated the panel.

“Florida is at the forefront of design, innovation and code,” Mowry said. “Every developer wants to be on the cutting edge of that.”

Sea level rise, he said, is nothing to be afraid of but something to prepare for.

Over the next 15-20 years, if sea level rise continues at its current pace, Murphy asked, what does that mean for underground parking garages, streets and for real estate investment?

“What can I sell that for if there’s no place to park my car, [if I] can’t get to the streets? If that starts to happen, we have a big problem here in South Florida,” he said.

In Miami Beach, the city has been investing millions in raising streets – a measure that has drawn controversy as well as support. “At least we’re taking a step forward,” Mowry said. “Is there resistance? Yes. Are we making mistakes? Yes.”

Suarez, who’s running for mayor of Miami, is planning to propose incentives to reduce the carbon footprint within the city, including for owners of homes with solar panels and drivers of electric cars.

Commercial’s hot pockets
Miami is somewhat immune to the doom and gloom that retail across the U.S. is facing, top brokers said at TRD’s last panel of the day.

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But there are concerns about vacant storefronts and high rents, Chariff Realty Group’s Lyle Chariff said. He was joined by Tere Blanca of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Avra Jain of the Vagabond Group and Jonathon Yormak of East End Capital. Cordle moderated the panel.

“As retail changes and fashion retailers change, we’re seeing a different trend. I believe the spaces we have will get filled up,” Chariff said.

Jain, who focuses on submarkets like MiMo and Little Haiti, said developers and brokers are working harder to keep their tenants. “When is it retail and when is it office? We’re seeing that there’s a shift and having adaptable spaces certainly helps,” she said.

Affordability on the retail side is almost as important as affordability on the rental side, Yormak said. His firm owns the Wynwood Arcade in Wynwood, home to the popular Salty Donut cafe. Food and beverage is a dominant force toward creating successful tenant mixes.

“How many retailers generate enough sales annually? We have to be very focused as we’re building on how much we’re going to change,” he said. “We’re at risk of destroying the fabric of what the community [Wynwood] has been as national retailers enter the market.”

Developers on moving product, launching new projects and more
A trio of developers joined TRD for the “Sizing up the development cycle” panel. Edgardo Defortuna of Fortune International Group, Terra’s David Martin and Miami Worldcenter developer Art Falcone discussed the challenges they’re facing in a stagnant residential market with moderator Samtani. Defortuna spoke candidly about the slew of condo projects and the expectation that the market would have stayed hotter for longer.

In 2010, “there was a lot of need and a lot of demand and we all thought it was going to last for a long time,” he said. Since early last year, fewer projects have launched. Some developers are holding onto their land and some are forging ahead, like Falcone, who said he’s in his 14th year of working on Miami Worldcenter.

Issues like sea level rise and the further limits on legal immigration could hurt development, Martin added.

Tackling a shifting resi landscape
South Florida’s top residential brokers led the panel on “Finding the buyers,” moderated by TRD’s Editor-in-Chief Stuart Elliott. EWM Realty International’s Ron Shuffield, Douglas Elliman’s Jay Parker, Cervera Real Estate’s Cervera Lamadrid, Coldwell Banker’s Nancy Klock Corey and Miami Real Estate Group’s Andres Asion were quick to acknowledge slow sales this year and an especially sluggish September thanks to Hurricane Irma.

Asion said social media images of flooded streets in Miami’s Brickell area belied the limited property damage in South Florida due to Hurricane Irma.

Pricing correctly is also key to closing a deal in this market, otherwise six months of work could amount to nothing, Shuffield said.

Elliott also surveyed panelists on sexual harassment in the industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein firestorm. They spoke of the importance of responsive leadership, reporting abusers and the frequency in which it happens.

Lamadrid’s advice to women: “You are who you are. You’re going to stand your ground the way you think you should stand your ground. It doesn’t matter how they want to treat you. It’s how you’re going to respond to that treatment,” she said. “Many times I have looked at guys and said ‘Would your mom be proud of you right now?’ That works pretty well.”