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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

CORAL GABLES, FL-Industry professionals addressed the bright side of the Miami-Dade County office market during a Real Estate Outlook Forum held Wednesday. The forum was hosted by the Miami chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women and the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Trustee Council.

“It’s a sunny day in Florida, and in Miami,” William Holly, CEO and founder of Holly Real Estate, told a packed room at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Coral Gables. He pointed out that the statewide Gross Domestic Product is $750 billion, the 15th-largest economy in the world, with South Florida’s GDP ranking 46th at $200 billion.

“The positive is that many people from all over the globe are buying here, and Miami is becoming even more of an international city,” said Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Realtors, citing that recently half of his own company’s business has been from foreign buyers. Speakers pointed to Miami as a desirable place to live, work and headquarter a corporation for multinational companies, especially in light of high prices in other major international cities.

Holly explained that the combination of limited new development, high rental rates and limited new supply, creates a good situation for the overall Miami office market, and Coral Gables in particular, which enjoys a class A vacancy rate of only 5%. Speakers emphasized that the city is a great destination for small, privately owned businesses, which makes up most of the local office market and includes 175 multinationals. Thad Adams, senior advisor with the Allen Morris Co., said that average asking rents in Coral Gables are north of $40 per sf, versus the $37-$38 county average.

Shifting the focus to the sunny side of financial issues in the market, William J. Heffernan, president and CEO of TotalBank, told guests that local and community banks like his have been stepping into a void that exists with bigger banks. Despite the effects that tightening credit is having on commercial real estate, he assures that from a lending perspective there is still hope in getting deals done.

“You need to have the five ‘C’s of credit,” Heffernan told the audience, referring to character, capital, collateral, capacity and conditions. “It’s an ancient principal that community banks live by.”

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