Miami recently made the cut for Amazon’s much desired second headquarters. The area has pitched eight different sites throughout Miami-Dade County. Three of which are located within the City of Miami limits.
One of the most exciting sites is the one being offered as the Innovation District/Worldcenter site. This site has 23 million square feet of planned developments which include residential, retail, office and hotel space. The clear goal is offering Amazon a place where employees can live, work and play. Several other factors in play are the potential for Tax Increment Financing with a possible $1 billion value, just in time breaking of ground, office space to meet the 8 million square feet that Amazon needs and transit availability.
In addition, HQ2 would have easy access to the new high speed Brightline rail service which will connect Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando (2020). The Tri-Rail, Metrorail, Metromover and I-95 are all also accessible within minutes.
Locally, there should be excitement about Miami making it to the final list of 20 cities. Cities that include New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Boston and Chicago. If we can attract a whale like Amazon then the future is bright for Miami’s burgeoning (and hot) tech scene. Whether it is Amazon or Apple the Innovation District is real and will bring in a whole new industry to our city. It is fair to say that real estate values, rents and transportation will be impacted if unlike Ahab we can bring one home.
Brightline Rail Service, connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, will soon launch and offer discounted rates for its first few trips. The tentative first runs will begin in late summer with full service opening up in early autumn. Ride ticket prices have not been announced, but CEO Dave Howard stated that it is, “going to be less than the cost of driving your car” regarding the discounted tickets.
The bigger picture to this private endeavor is that it will connect our metro and stay east of I-95. At full service the rail will offer 32 daily round trips between Miami and West Palm Beach. This is a crucial step into changing South Florida’s car-centric culture. Traffic continues to be one of the leading limiting factors for economic growth in our market. Brightline expects a ridership of three million passengers per year.
Each county is getting its own station starting with a more than eleven acre Miami Central Station that will offer residences, offices and retail. Broward and Palm Beach Counties will get 60,000 square foot stations right in the heart of their urban core.
Landlords in the area should get excited because this brings the city connections that renters look for in a short or long-term home. The Millennial generation tends to especially enjoy alternative travel and staying close to major elements in the city.
The Frost Museum of Science opened in early May and has exceeded attendance projections each month since. The museum, which is located at Museum Park right off Biscayne Boulevard and I-395 is crushing expectations in its first three months.
May (partial month) – 87,662 visitors
June (first full month) – 115,838 visitors
July (through 7/18) – 79,900 visitors
The museum projected 700,000 annual visitors yet it is primed to double that number and then some. To put that in perspective, the Perez Art Museum Miami or PAMM for short, received 300,000 visitors in its opening year. The addition of the Frost Museum of Science should attract more visitors to the PAMM which will continue to make the entire Museum Park lot a success for cultural development in Miami’s urban core.
The entire area has seen a real renaissance since the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Knight Concert Hall opened several years ago. The addition of flagship museums to the city’s interior is a nice complement that is just across the street and raises the area’s prominence. Walkability and green areas have historically been absent in downtown Miami so this addition brings residents of the local neighborhoods just that.
Miami-Dade County prepares Metromover extensions for Miami Beach and Wynwood. In their first nascent move toward realizing the multi-billion dollar SMART transit plan, county officials stated that the planned linking of the beach and the downtown area could add another 10 stops for the Metromover.
Concurrently, Uber has added Miami to its list of cities where the lauded ride-sharing app includes public transportation information in real-time. This integration is currently being piloted in 40 U.S. markets with the hopes of nationwide expansion.
South Florida in general has amongst the most congested roads in the world; in fact we rank number 10 in the world. Ten is scary considering the metro is just over 100 years old. To put that in perspective, Los Angeles has a 12.7 percent congestion rate which means drivers spend 12.7 percent of their commutes in traffic. Miami is at 8.7 percent and ranks fifth amongst most congested areas in the United States with much less of a footprint than Los Angeles. This is ahead of D.C., Boston, Dallas and even Chicago.
South Florida, like most new metros, was built backwards. It began with an urban core but quickly sprouted other towns and eventually cities outside of the city limits. Coral Gables, Hialeah, Doral and Kendall (not yet a city) are some examples of the initial urban sprawl that created this traffic monster. As little as ten years ago, Downtown Miami was a place you did not want to be after 5pm for its crime rate, lack of open businesses, and overall rundown look.
Luckily, we are now at a crossroads where we have “run out of land” and are looking back into the urban core for development. At the top of the list should be a focus on mass transit and the need for it to catch up to new development. I commend the county and Uber for spearheading the future of mass transit in Miami.