MIAMI—Flagler Street is getting plenty of attention these days as the city looks to modernize the historic area. Melo Group is doing its part with Flagler on the River—but there may not be much more opportunity for multifamily developers on the street.
GlobeSt.com caught up with Carlos Melo, principal of Melo Group, to get his thoughts on why that’s the case, as well as how the Miami River may be entering a new phase when it comes to redevelopment in part two of this exclusive interview. You can still read part one, “Melo Sees Miami River Multifamily Revival,” if you missed it this morning.
GlobeSt.com: Did you have to change the zoning of the two sites where you are building Flagler on the River and the second restaurant?
Melo: We didn’t change the zoning or land use to be able to build the tower. The project consists of a parcel facing the river and a second site across the street from it on the same side of the river. So we did the following: We transferred most of the development rights that we had on the riverfront parcel to the site away from the water.
Our goal was to build the most density away from the river to protect and preserve its character. We kept enough development rights on the waterfront site to be able to build a two-story restaurant. The restaurant starts on the second floor as the ground floor was left undeveloped to avoid blocking the views of the river from the street level. The river belongs to everybody so we wanted to make the river easily accessible to anyone.
GlobeSt.com: Is the Miami River entering a new phase when it comes to redevelopment?
Melo: In every real estate boom, the Miami River is rediscovered, but the wave of development is different every time. In the last cycle, you had some developers wanting to build large condo towers on the river, trying to get rid of marinas and ship yards, which is at the heart of the working river.
Many of them failed because their projects got tied up in litigation with river advocates and missed the condo boom. This time around, you have more river-conscious projects being proposed on sites that support large density or promote water-related uses. For example, The Miami River Commission recently ok’d the development a 55-story luxury condominium known as the Edge; and Miami developer Andrew Hellinger is building River Landing, a $150 million mixed-use megaproject on the site of the old Mahi Shrine building, which will include 440 rental units and more than half a million square feet of big box retail space.
Miami-based Related Group and New York-based GTIS Partners are proposing One Brickell, a 4 million square foot mixed-use mega project which will include residential, hotel, office and retail space at 444 Brickell Avenue and its adjacent parcel on the Miami River. Doral-based HCD Developers is proposing a “Miami Mega Yacht Marina” on the Miami River, across from Curtis Park. The project includes covered slips for 16 mega-yachts of up to 200 feet in length, each of which include covered parking for 3 vehicles, indoor storage, and captain/crew quarters – a relatively new and unique concept in private marina design.
GlobeSt.com: Is there room for more luxury rental towers on the river or land values don’t support that type of development anymore?
Melo: The answer is no. But it is not so much about land values as it is about land availability. There is almost no land available for this type of development. There is one site near Brickell Avenue that is for sale, but the price is way too high.
The demand for land on the river is such that people are paying exorbitant amounts of money for the limited number of developable land. We bought our site on the river during the recession so we paid prices typical of a depressed market. Our site used to be home to the East Coast Fisheries, one of Miami’s first seafood restaurants. The eatery closed during the last condo boom and the restaurant was demolished so the site sat vacant until we bought the property to build Flagler on the River. We bought the land at a low price, compared to today’s values.