FIU Business Now Magazine Spring 2024
Working With Communities Offers New Opportunities for Miami's Real Estate Growth
City transit times in Coral Gables, Florida are displayed on downtown smart kiosks.

Working With Communities Offers New Opportunities for Miami's Real Estate Growth

By Cynthia Corzo

Exploding growth and increased challenges have become a mixed blessing for Miami's real estate landscape, driving industry leaders to diversify their ventures. Preserving communities through revitalization plus multi-use, workforce and affordable housing projects can lead to positive sources of income.

Those were some of the insights shared when the Hollo School of Real Estate at FIU Business brought together 200-plus attendees at REact 2023, themed "Miami on the Rise: Managing Growth and Preserving Community." Held in November 2023, the annual conference is now in its third year.

The Related Group's Liberty Square project The Related Group's Liberty Square project

Affordable Housing: Filling The Void

At The Related Group, three divisions launched in 2008. One, Related Urban Development Group, is dedicated to affordable and workforce housing as well as mixed-income projects, president Jon Paul Perez, explained in a fireside chat.

"Miami is becoming a city of more neighborhoods that have been developed over the last 10 years," he said. "Edgewater, Midtown, Coconut Grove all came out of resurgence. Transportation and zoning increases will propel growth."

Can a luxury developer play a productive role in affordable housing?

The Related Group's senior center at Robert King High Towers The Related Group's senior center at Robert King High Towers

"Yes. You have to think creatively," said Perez. "It all sits within the urban core. You can't just replace public housing with public housing because it will fail again."

One of Related Urban's current projects is Liberty Square. Originally built in 1931, it was one of the first public housing projects in the U.S. and had 700 apartments. When Related's project is completed in 2026, it will cover 16 city blocks and include 2,500 residential units, a supermarket and a charter school.

So far, Related Urban has completed 25 affordable, workforce, and senior housing partnerships with Miami- Dade and more are in the works. In Little Havana, the 14-story Robert King High Towers offers 315 apartments for seniors and the sevenstory Paseo del Rio at River Parc has 182 affordable and workforce residences.

"It would be great if more people did it," Perez said. "You have more pride, you're more emotional because you're giving back to the community and people are so thankful for what you're doing."

"Miami is becoming a city of more neighborhoods that have been developed over the last 10 years."

– Jon Paul Perez

Perez explained that there's an unlimited demand for affordable and workforce housing, and the only way to make it feasible is for the government to work with the private sector. Related Urban has responded to this increased housing demand by fast-tracking multiple condominium projects and accelerating work on market-rate rentals and affordable housing projects.

He cautioned that it's a complicated business, especially the financing side, and one that's difficult to jump into. However, it requires very little equity because it's highly subsidized and it can be a good income stream.

Bringing Wynwood Back To Life

Another fireside chat at the conference showcased Goldman Properties' strategy of revitalizing historic, often forgotten, neighborhoods by marrying real estate and public art, without losing the area's DNA.

Goldman's star in South Florida is Wynwood.

The Wynwood Garage developed by Goldman Properties. Photo credit: Moris Moreno The Wynwood Garage developed by Goldman Properties / Photo credit: Moris Moreno

In Miami's defunct garment district, which became a land of abandoned warehouses taken over by artists and squatters, the Goldmans purchased a total of 18 properties — often for as little as $100 a square foot — determined to develop a center for the creative class. Located in the heart of Miami, Goldman felt the narrow walkable streets and buildings lined up at street level would make it a great pedestrian neighborhood.

"It was purely gut instinct, purely fascinating," said Jessica Goldman-Srebnick, co-chair of Goldman Properties and CEO of Goldman Global Arts.

Unlike traditional developers who might buy properties, clean up the neighborhood and get rid of the graffiti, the Goldmans chose to create a unique neighborhood that would become an international destination.

Aerial view of Wynwood. Photo credit: Nika Kramer Aerial view of Wynwood / Photo credit: Nika Kramer

"Our goal is to effect change, bring in pride, passion and businesses that love the neighborhood," Goldman-Srebnick said.

In 2007 and 2008, coming out of the great recession, Wynwood had to become more unique, recalled Scott Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties.

The company invited celebrated street artists, gave them spray cans, and asked them to showcase their work on the buildings' walls. It gave birth to outdoor street art museum Wynwood Walls, which opened in December 2009 and became the heartbeat of the neighborhood.

"Our goal is to effect change, bring in pride, passion and businesses that love the neighborhood."

– Jessica Goldman-Srebnick

"Art became a forethought, not an afterthought," Srebnick said. "It created something iconic for the neighborhood."

Art collectors visiting Miami Beach that year for Art Basel, a prestigious international art fair, heard the buzz about Wynwood and walked the streets, taking photos and posting them on social media.

"We became one of the most Instagrammable museums in the country," said Srebnick. "Almost overnight we captured the attention of the art world."

What's next?

"Now is different," said Goldman-Srebnick. "These days it's difficult to acquire property in a neighborhood quietly, in a stealth way, because information about an area is so readily available and many eyes are on our next move."

Honoring Support and Guidance
Malcolm Butters

Hollo School advisory board member and donor Malcolm Butters (MSIRE '83), president of Butters Construction & Development, received the Hollo School of Real Estate Lifetime Achievement Award at the REact conference.

"His unwavering dedication to real estate education, paired with his commitment to giving back to our students and faculty, exemplifies the true spirit of community," said William Hardin, dean of FIU Business, in presenting the award.

In 2020, Butters and his wife Catherine established the Butters Endowed Professorship, a $500,000 endowment to support high-level teaching and research for one real estate professor. In 2019, they established a scholarship at the Hollo School to ease loan debt for two master's in real estate program graduates each year, and they fund scholarships dedicated to undergraduates.