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MIAMI-To satisfy ever-present cargo needs, the Miami-Dade County Aviation Department is building a war chest to buy mostly industrial-warehouse property in roughly a 20-acre section along the southwestern edge of Miami International Airport.

The dirt isn’t going to come cheaply. Average asking prices are $57 per sf or about $2.5 million per acre.

Last week, the Miami-Dade County Commission ratified a joint-participation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to accept $6 million in 50% matching tax dollars to help pay for airport land acquisition costs.

Besides ratifying that agreement, the county also approved a second agreement for $3 million in 50% matching tax dollars to help pay for planning, development and construction of a new Concourse J at the airport.

The county now has a budget of $12 million in new matching funds solely for land acquisition in this area roughly between Northwest 82nd Avenue to the east, Northwest 72nd Avenue to the west, Northwest 16th Street to the south and Northwest 25th Street to the north.

“The future expansion on this particular land acquisition is targeted to increase the land area for future cargo development,” Manuel A. Rodriguez, the aviation department manager of planning and development, tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s never targeted for any particular piece of property. We have the freedom to choose eligible properties for future expansion of the airport.”

Once identified, however, those properties are likely to come at a premium. The Miami-Dade airport/west submarket contains some of the most highly sought industrial property in all of South Florida.

For example, the price per sf for industrial-warehouse space in Miami-Dade averaged $57.91 sf as of the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2000 according to a survey released earlier this year by the San Francisco-based National Real Estate Index. That is a 13.9% over the same reporting period in 1999, according to the report produced in partnership with CB Richard Ellis/Global Capital Markets Group.

In an area just northwest of the targeted acquisition area, for instance, Cushman & Wakefield of Florida Inc. is marketing a 60,000-sf industrial building at $3.54 million, or $59 per sf.

“They’re looking at the older functioning buildings,” says Ron Berger, a Trammell Crow Co. vice president who specializes in the Miami-Dade industrial market. “They’re buying properties and paying roughly 10% over appraised value.”

Berger says, “They have to work for individual buildings and take them down one at a time. I don’t see them having the clout to come in and buy six to eight buildings at one fell swoop. That’s not going happen, because they just don’t have the money.”

Last November, AET Towers, an affiliate of New York-based Steinhardt Group Inc., acquired 255,214 sf of leaseable office space on 4.02 acres at 7196 NW 12th St. in the targeted acquisition area for a price of $11.85 million ($46.43 per sf), according to Miami-Dade property records.

One possible acquisition target could be the 8.13 acres owned by AJA Properties No. 8 Ltd., an affiliate of Tampa, FL-based Peter Lawrence Co. The company acquired a 205,900-sf building built in 1974 at 7196 NW 12th St. for about $5.2 million, according to county property records.

“Whenever there is a property available, we do three appraisals,” Rodriguez says. “Whatever the appraisal average is that’s what we can pay. We’re prohibited from paying any excessive amounts beyond the fair market value.”

Since they’re looking for willing sellers, too, county aviation officials acknowledge it may take some time to accomplish their acquisition goals.

“It’s been known at least three to four years we’ve been looking at properties in the area,” Rodriguez says. “We’ve been dealing with people who have been willing to sell. They know we would like to buy the whole area.”

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