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Down With It
Lisa Keys, New York Post

June 19, 2004 -- If you're thinking of joining Beyonce� Lenny Kravitz and all the other celebrities who have recently bought Miami pads, here's an inside tip: South Beach is so, like, totally over.
In-the-know locals are now setting their sights on a rapidly metamorphosing skyline: downtown Miami, which is starting to look less like Florida, and more like Manhattan.

A massive wave of development has seized the city, from the core of downtown (best known, until recently, for low-budget luggage shops), and extending south to Brickell Avenue (Miami's version of Wall Street), west along the Miami River and north to a burgeoning artsy scene.

Joining neighborhood vanguards like the Four Seasons (a 70-story luxury hotel and condo building, the tallest residential building south of Manhattan) and NeoLofts (Miami's first "New York-style" loft building) are a variety of residences. Many are massive mixed-used projects, like the six-acre Metropolitan Miami, and Everglades on the Bay, a two-tower condominium.

"Miami is an untapped metropolis, and it's been underutilized - until now," says Mark Zilbert with EWM Realtors.

Suzy Buckley, an editor at Ocean Drive magazine, is one of many young professionals taking a chance on downtown Miami. She recently bought, based on plans, a two-bedroom condo at One Miami, a two-tower waterfront development that is nearly sold out.

Currently, Buckley lives, works and plays in South Beach.

"Everything I do is here," she says, admitting to being slightly nervous about moving. "I'm thinking about everything that is springing up downtown, so maybe it'll be the same thing downtown as it is in South Beach.

"I got more for my money downtown," Buckley, 28, explains. "Basically, I could have afforded an amazing one-bedroom in South Beach, or a brand-new two-bedroom in downtown."

In South Beach, oceanfront properties average $1,000 per square foot, while bayfront condos are going for $600 per square feet. By contrast, pre-construction prices for waterfront properties downtown average between $350 and $450 a square foot - though "prices are accelerating rapidly," cautions Zilbert

Residents speak of big plans to turn their sleepy city center into a 24-hour community. Downtown is zoned for all-day, all-night liquor licenses. Further uptown, construction on the Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami is nearly complete.

"Within the decade, downtown Miami will have the attraction and allure of Las Vegas," predicts Zilbert, somewhat optimistically.

For today, a bird's-eye view garners nothing but construction for miles.

"When we first broke ground four years ago, there wasn't much around," says Richard Baumert, vice president of Four Seasons developer Millennium Partners. "Now, the area's exploded."

"Anybody who saw South Beach in the '80s can see what downtown Miami will become," says Lissette Calderon, who was behind NeoLofts and is now developing the 100-unit NeoVertika loft building on the river. "South Beach progressed from a sleepy older-immigrant neighborhood to the lively community it is today. Downtown is the next frontier - it's the heart of the city."

Hedge fund manager Paul Beloff is one of the locals - OK, like many Floridians, he's a New York City transplant - kick-starting that heart.

"I don't necessarily want to be where the party's at," says Beloff, 41, who recently moved into the Four Seasons and is an investor in the Pawn Shop, a lounge opening in the performing arts district this summer. "Here, it's nice and classy and upscale. In South Beach, it's not so classy - and it's touristy.

"In Miami, you can still buy property and view, and you don't have to be a millionaire to afford it. "




 

 

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