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Monday, June 11, 2007

High-rises, high hopes

High-rises, high hopes

BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI AND MATTHEW HAGGMAN

aviglucci@herald.com

 

COURTESY OF THE TERRA GROUP

BIG PLANS: In 2005, this rendering of the condo tower was envisioned for the area behind the historic Freedom Tower.

In downtown, from Brickell Avenue north to the Edgewater neighborhood, up the Miami River and down historic Coral Way, great chunks of Old Miami are fast disappearing in a cloud of dust. In its place, the New Miami -- a dense, steel-and-glass forest of condo towers -- is rising from the rubble.

 

The scope, scale and speed of the transformation are breathtaking. More than 114 major projects, most of them high-rise condos, are under construction or in the planning stages in the urban core along Biscayne Bay.

 

Citywide, developers are proposing more than 61,000 new condominium units -- eight times the number built during the past decade.

 

The projects encompass the tallest skyscraper in Florida, a 74-story spire higher than any residential building south of Manhattan, almost four million square feet of new retail space (nearly as much as two Aventura Malls) and parking for more than 100,000 cars.

 

''You have a wave of development underway here in Miami that is unprecedented, bigger than anything, bigger than Hong Kong in the boom years of development,'' said former Portland, Ore., councilman Charles Hales, a transportation consultant working on a plan for a Miami streetcar line.

 

Not since the post-World War II housing boom that multiplied Miami-Dade County's population fivefold, to more than one million people, has the region experienced anything comparable. But that took almost 20 years.

 

''We are building an instant city; what should take 15 years will take three,'' said Michael Cannon, a Miami real-estate analyst. The boom struck suddenly, unexpectedly, first a trickle of projects, then a torrent. Cash has poured in from Latin America, New York and, increasingly, Europe, the result of converging market forces -- slashed interest rates, a cheap dollar -- and a worldwide infatuation with Miami among the chic and moneyed.

 

It all amounts to a multibillion-dollar gamble, outdoing in risk and bravado the 1920s boom that made Miami a modern city: That given waterfront location, a sunny climate and a hip, international culture, intensive downtown residential development can catapult Miami into the first rank of world cities.

 

Elected officials, in particular Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, are counting on the boom to reverse downtown's long decline, to turn its seedy blocks and outlying neighborhoods into a scintillating, working urban hub with a vibrant street life.

 

''Just five years ago we were broke; we had zero development,'' Winton said. ``I'm going to bet you that when we're done -- I don't know when that will be -- historians will identify this as the most significant and rapid transformation of an American city.''

 

What precisely will the boom deliver? It's too soon to tell, experts say.

 

But this convulsion of development is already remaking not just Miami's skyline, but its streets and neighborhoods and likely its population, too.

 

If it stays on track, the boom promises a fundamentally different Miami -- more urban and congested, but also more cosmopolitan and, given the high prices the condos command, probably wealthier.

 

It also raises serious concerns. In the absence of a ready plan, how will the city cope with thousands of expected new residents and the traffic they will generate, given antiquated infrastructure, limited public transit and a shortage of parks and open space? Will Miami residents, among the nation's poorest urban dwellers, be displaced or priced out of new housing?

 

That is, if the planned condos actually get built, sold and occupied.

 

As the boom takes on the feel of a gold rush, real estate analysts, bankers and even some developers fear it's a mirage, a bubble fueled by speculators looking to resell condo units for a quick profit, and not by true buyer demand.

 

If developers build too much, and speculators can't find buyers for resale, the boom could bust, leaving Miami littered with vacant and bankrupted buildings or, worse, unfinished towers and bare lots.

 

SIGNS OF FUROR

 

For now, though, signs of the furor are everywhere.

 

Sales centers for multimillion-dollar condos that tout the merits of high-rise living sprout up across the city. Brokers push Miami condos in farflung locales, from Caracas and Bogotá to New York and France's Cte d'Azur. Lavish condo parties are thrown by developers several times a week, and advertisements for the high-rises fill the pages of local magazines and newspapers, including The Herald.

 

Downtown Miami is a thicket of construction cranes. Much of the landward side of Biscayne Boulevard has been razed, and the footings and columns of what will soon be a wall of six colossal condos, each more than 50 stories, are becoming visible.

 

''Where else are you near the water, 10 minutes from Miami Beach, 15 minutes from the airport and have access to public transportation?'' said Daniel Kodsi, chief executive of Boca Raton-based Royal Palm Communities, which plans a high-rise condo called Paramount Park across from AmericanAirlines Arena.

 

There is so much building that developers are struggling to find qualified contractors and subcontractors.

 

Sales and resales in the mid-six figures, and well beyond, have become commonplace. Towers of 300 units sell out in a day, with buyers coming in the main not from Miami, but from other parts of the country and the world.

 

''Miami, New York and Los Angeles have become the three cities in the U.S. where people want to be,'' said Joe Cayre, chairman of Midtown Group, which is building eight condo towers on the site of the old Florida East Coast Railroad yards in Wynwood.

 

They are people like Sal Loduca, who plans to leave Manhattan and his family's Long Island food business to open a brick-oven pizzeria at Cayre's Midtown Miami.

 

''Everyone's making the move to Miami. How could you not? It's a great opportunity. Miami's full of life,'' Loduca said.

 

`CRITICAL COMBUSTION'

 

Real estate broker Philip Spiegelman calls the confluence of factors propelling this boom a ``critical combustion.''

 

Among them:

 

• Across the country, young people and so-called ''empty-nesters'' have been returning to urban centers, in part because of long, wearing commutes from outlying suburbs. At the same time, a dwindling supply of easily developable land in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties has prompted developers to look eastward.

 

• A shortage of waterfront property elsewhere led developers to Miami's acres and acres of vacant bayfront land.

 

• Low interest rates have fueled record home-buying, while aging baby boomers are increasingly seeking second homes in sunny or exotic places.

 

• A cleaner local government has made Miami attractive to lenders and investors who once thought the city too risky, unsafe or corrupt.

 

• The weak dollar has made Miami an alluring bargain for Europeans and Latin Americans. And compared to other urban centers like New York City, Miami remains cheap.

 

Then there is the other factor, anecdotal and unquantifiable: the speculator.

 

''As much as 85 percent of all condominium sales in [downtown Miami] are accounted for by investors and speculators,'' housing analysts at investment firm Raymond James warned in a March report.

 

Banks have started to back off lending on condo projects, or have instituted new rules to avoid giving mortgages to investors.

 

Spiegelman sold the condo units in the Marina Blue condo going up on Biscayne Boulevard.

 

''One hundred percent of the buyers were investors and speculators,'' he said. ``Anyone who tells you their projects are different are deluding themselves.''

 

ZONING-CODE OVERHAUL

 

The pace of development is so furious that it has overtaken the city's planning efforts.

 

Only now is the city getting around to a long-promised overhaul of its outdated zoning code, a complete rewrite meant to ensure that new development produces lively, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and respects open spaces and established neighborhoods, while weaving it all together into a cogent urban fabric. The rewrite, dubbed Miami 21, will be phased in over two years.

 

Yet more than 100 large-scale projects, most of them in and around downtown, have already been approved or are under construction.

 

Public-transit improvements like Metrorail extensions, a light-rail line to Miami Beach and the contemplated city streetcar are years away, raising fears of gridlock.

 

Quipped Cannon, the real estate analyst: ``Maybe we need to give every buyer of a condo in the urban core a Segway.''

 

There are other worries.

 

Some skeptics, noting the high condo prices and the out-of-town provenance of buyers, fear that instead of the diverse, working 24-hour downtown that city leaders envision, the boom will instead create a seasonal playground for the rich, a Monte Carlo on Biscayne Bay.

 

''I bet those buildings are going to be empty a lot of the time,'' said Joel Kotkin, an urban historian and consultant who has written about the rise of what he calls ''ephemeral cities'' -- places like San Francisco, Berlin and parts of New York that increasingly cater to the rich, the childless young and tourists.

 

''Maybe this is Miami's karma, to be this kind of place, a temporary, hip, cool, nomadic population serviced by a poor population,'' said Kotkin, author of The City: A Global History. But, he added: ``History shows a city has to maintain some sense of a middle-class character if it wants to thrive.''

 

`MISSING LINK'

 

Yet there's relatively little in the new downtown priced for working families. ''The missing link here is in creating housing that the middle class can afford,'' said Rafael Kapustin, a longtime downtown property owner who pioneered the conversion of old downtown offices and hotels into modestly priced condos and apartments.

 

In partnership with a big developer, the Related Group, Kapustin developed two affordable loft condos, with units averaging around $150,000, now under construction in the inner core of downtown. But their Loft II project may be the last of its kind because of the surging cost of land and construction, he said.

 

City leaders are sanguine. They say it will take years for all the planned condos to be built and occupied, allowing time to absorb new residents, build public amenities and improve transit.

 

While few city residents can afford waterfront condos, thousands of moderately priced condos and rental apartments are being built by private developers in adjacent Overtown and neighborhoods like Little Havana and Allapattah, many with direct city subsidies, according to a recent report from Miami Mayor Diaz.

 

`SELF-REINFORCING CYCLE'

 

And gradually, as new residents move into downtown, businesses, shops, restaurants, neighborhood retailers and services will follow, said Neisen Kasdin, a land-use lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor.

 

''It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle,'' Kasdin said. ``Yes, there will be a large segment of temporary residents, but as the city continues to grow as an international business city, it leads to the continued growth of a permanent community.''

 

Meanwhile, the city has instituted measures that strengthen the planners' hand in shaping an attractive, livable downtown: hiding parking garages inside buildings; lining sidewalks with shops, offices, dwellings and restaurants; and keeping garage and service entrances off Biscayne Boulevard and other main arteries.

 

'We used to sit here and say, `Someday,' '' said Miami Planning Director Ana Gelabert-Sánchez, alluding to the city's long-frustrated hopes for a downtown revival. ``Well, someday is here.''

 

Herald staff writer Larry Lebowitz contributed to this report. 

 
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Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2018


9 Home Improvements That Can Help and Hurt Value

Home improvement can be taken as very demanding action, but there are also some ways of home improvement you can do yourself. Therefore, before you start with any, see what improvements are the most needed in your home. Nowadays, a big attraction is an energy-efficient home which saves a lot of energy and reduces energy costs. On the other hand, maintenance problems and pest or bug infestations are a major turn off and should be looked into ASAP.

We bring you several great pieces of advice you can use to improve your homes value and feel more comfortable and cozy.

1. Water Filtration System

A water filtration system in your kitchen is a small addition that will appeal to many home buyers and is used for purifying the water. When you have a water filtration system installed in your house, you dont have to buy bottled water anymore. The best thing is that its not expensive at all, and everyone can afford it.

2. Removing Old Carpets

Besides looking old, old carpets might also be hiding contaminants and allergens which means you have bad air quality in your home. Sometimes the best option for testing an indoor air quality is to call a professional company because they will su>Wooden floors are an excellent way to bring the touch of outdoors in your home. Great examples of environmentally friendly natural products are tile or laminated floors. By replacing your old carpets with a hard surface floor, your house will be easier to clean, and youll have more time to do things you like.

3. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling

It is no secret that homes with popcorn ceilings are outdated so get rid of this popcorn ceiling fast. To be sure that it does not contain asbestos, it would be best to hire professionals to test it. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling is as simple as buying a solution to soften the texture from the hardware store and scraping the popcorn away.

4. Bathroom Remodeling

Remodeling bathrooms is a great way to add more value to your home. If a full rebuild is not in your budget, you can invest in many small changes that will freshen up your bathroom. Replace the dated wallpaper, old lighting, add some fancy cupboard knobs or change the faucet and shower heads.

5. Kitchen Remodeling

Just like the bathroom, a big kitchen update can do wonders. Stained sinks and old appliances are all things to look at. If replacing the kitchen cabinets is too much for you, you can always give them a new look by adding a new varnish or paint layer and swap those old doorknobs with modern ones.

6. Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance is an ongoing process, no matter if you plan to live in your house for a long time or move soon. Repairing or replacing broken appliances or fixtures will avoid further damage. Certain things are not to be left, and for example, leak spots on the ceiling can cause great damage to your roof if not taken care of immediately. If your home is up for sale, a sign of poor maintenance will make the home seekers wonder what else is wrong with the house.

7. Water Heater Upgrade

An old water heater can be a turn off for some home buyers, but you can find water heaters that come with a tankless model. This kind of water heaters are more efficient as they only heat up the water that you need.

8. Appliance Updates

Nowadays, energy-efficiency is becoming trendy. Appliances with an energy star label use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than other conventional appliances. New models look great, and many are stainless steel which is a bonus. If you do not have the money for buying modern devices, upgrade the lighting to energy star.

9. Update Fixtures

Fixtures in your home include curtain rods, light fixtures, doorknobs, switch plates, outlet covers, etc. Make sure that these are updated because sometimes its the small detail that counts. For example, outlet covers and switch plates look more attractive when made of metal. These changes are easy to do yourself and arent so expensive, just be sure you choose the right color which looks great combined with other furniture in your home.

Matt James is a freelance writer specialized in home improvement, smart technology, architecture design. He has a love of outdoors and spending time with his dog Cooper. You can reach him on Facebook and Instagram.
> Full Story

Inside Tips On Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens make dining al fresco at home more appealing than ever. A rebounding trend in outdoor living reveals more and more properties feature outdoor kitchens that once were the province of only the very wealthy.

Today, moving the homes indoor central meeting place outdoors creates an open-air living space thats both accessible and inviting as any indoor room. Great for gatherings and socializing, having a kitchen and dining area outdoors also eliminates some of the indoor mess and hassle of food preparation and makes for a more inclusive cooking experience.

You can create outdoor living space that is an organic part of your yard or a discrete, open-air self-standing room or suite for your home. With features ranging from simple and functional to more extravagant, an outdoor kitchen investment comes with a return thats at least equal to a major kitchen remodel - 80 percent or more.

Talk to your real estate agent about the return on your investment in an outdoor kitchen in your specific neighborhood. If you are enterprising, hands-on and have budget constraints, you can put ideas into play yourself. If you need a truly professional look, hire a contractor to design and build the area.

Here are a few elements to keep in mind when crafting your outdoor living space:

Outdoor kitchen appliances

Durability is paramount for any outdoor appliance and should be a primary concern, especially if you live in a harsh climate cold, wet, dry or hot, even if you cover your appliances in inclement weather.Cooking fuels are commonly gas or charcoal, but outdoor kitchens can incorporate a wood-burning oven, outdoor fireplace, or a fire pit.

Barbecue fans might opt to include a smoker or mesquite grill. Higher end outdoor kitchens often include ample counter top space, drawers and cabinets for storage, as well as a sink, and refrigeration. Existing utility connections could narrow your choices, but you can run a natural gas line to the outdoor kitchen. Adequate plumbing pressure is a must in order to accommodate hot and cold running water.

Outdoor kitchen living space

The living space that frames your appliances helps set the tone for outdoor living.

If you have an existing deck or patio, you could develop that space into a living area. If you install an island and bar area with stools or opt for a simple outdoor dining set, consider protecting your space from the elements, just as you would your appliances.

Some kitchens incorporate a roof, covered archway or pergola; others could need only an ample patio umb>Outdoor kitchen flow

To build functionality into your outdoor kitchen, consider the flow of space just as you would your indoor entertaining areas. Keep your cooking area accessible to your indoor kitchen, when possible, to experience less running around with dishes and ingredients you keep inside the home.

Put seating near your cooking area, but not so near as to interrupt the flow of the chef.

Outdoor kitchen ambiance

Keep lighting in mind when it comes to evenings. Its a lovely time to >Overall, the design of your outdoor kitchen should compliment your home, especially adjacent areas.
> Full Story

Whats Wrong With Oklahoma?

As the two-week Oklahoma teachers strike ended last week, its clear that the rabidly red state has some serious problems, namely that oil money doesnt trickle down like economics are supposed to. Ignoring the benefits of its central location, >

Take the wind industry, for example. Once on track to be the number one source of wind-generated energy by 2030, according to the Department of Commerce, Oklahoma decided instead to cut the industrys last tax incentive in 2017 in House Bill 2298. Meanwhile, oil and gas production tax rates have plummeted, from an average seven percent to two percent for new wells for the first three years, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

At 7 percent, Oklahomas tax rate is well below that of other major energy states, says the OPI, compared to 8.3 percent in Texas and North Dakota, 13.3 percent in Louisiana, and 13.4 percent in Wyoming, according to a 2017 report by the Covenant Group.

According to forecasts from the Oklahoma Tax Commission the new subsidy will cost Oklahoma 333 million in lost gross production tax revenue, says the OPI. Are oil companies going to refuse to drill if they have to pay 7 percent? And if its causing such a shortfall that teachers have to march to get lawmakers attention, isnt that a good enough reason to review the governors budget?

And that brings us back to the teachers. According to The Guardian, Oklahoma ranks 49th in state teacher pay. The state offered teachers a raise just in time to stop the strike, but the teachers soldiered on because they are striking for the children. State spending per pupil has dropped by 26.9 percent since 2008 and is also the last time teachers got a raise. Students are making do in many areas with outdated and duct-taped schoolbooks, four-day school weeks and school closings.

Legislaters fight back with a Catch-22 - the budget shortfall doesnt allow the state to meet the teachers demands. What the lawmakers fail to realize is that catering to the oil and gas industry is preventing other jobs from coming to Oklahoma, which is starving the mostly rural state.

One of the three busiest trucking highways in the nation goes smack through the middle of the state, I-40, coming east from Memphis, Federal Expresss hub, and west from Barstow, California, outside of Los Angeles and a major highway intersection of I-15, California State Route 58, U.S. Route 66 and I-40. Intersecting with I-75 at Henryetta, Oklahoma, and I-35 in Oklahoma City, 1-40 creates a nice triangle to and from Dallas, home to DFW international airport. Yet, when one drives through Henryetta, theres little commerce, just fast food restaurants and a duck decoy manufacturer. Nearly equidistant to Tulsa and Oklahoma City, it just doesnt make sense why Henryetta isnt a huge town, teeming with manufacturing, packaging and shipping jobs, but to date, its only claim to fame is as the birthplace of Troy Aikman.

The trickle down of poo continues with the housing industry. According to Zillow, the median home value in Oklahoma is 116,900, less than half the national median and the median list price per square foot in Oklahoma is 99. And yet, nearly 12 percent of OK homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.

Californians, foreign investors and retirees smell the blood in the water. You can buy property cheaply, pay almost nothing in property taxes another problem and live like its 1970. Just dont expect any updates.
> Full Story



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