2017- The Miami Herald
PROJECT: MARY STREET
As Coconut Grove surges with new condos, restaurants and shops, developer David Martin is planning what he sees as the missing link in the Grove’s revitalization: its first new office building since 1989.
The project will adapt an existing city of Miami parking garage at 2850 Oak Ave. into a five-story mid-rise with 75,000 square feet of Class A office space and renovated ground-level retail. The architects of the makeover — a process often referred to in design circles as “adaptive reuse” — are Carlos Prio-Touzet and Jackie Gonzalez Touzet, the Miami-based designers of the Nike store on Lincoln Road and other eye-catching local projects.
“The businesses that are our target want less traffic than what our financial core [in Brickell] has to offer,” said Martin, whose firm Terra is partnering with Mayfair Real Estate Advisors. “They like the tree canopy and the ability to be in a tranquil environment.”
The group hopes to attract smaller firms in the entertainment, design and marketing industries to the project, which is set to open in mid-2018.
The deal between the city’s parking agency and Martin was criticized by some Grove residents for taking away cheap public parking when it was announced two years ago.
Market fundamentals are driving the move: Coconut Grove has one of the lowest vacancy rates for office space in Miami-Dade County, said Matthew Cheezem, managing director at commercial real estate firm JLL.
“The demand is clearly there because of the cachet of the Grove,” Cheezem said. “But the supply has been lacking. If you were a traditional company and you wanted to be in creative space, you went to Miami Beach or Coconut Grove. And nine times out of 10, Coconut Grove did not have space.”
He said the Grove’s office-space vacancy rate stands at a tight 6.2 percent. Reflecting the high demand for work space, two office towers in the Grove sold for $42 million in 2015 after just three weeks on the market.
The last major new office tower built in the Grove was the SBS Tower in 1989. In the early 2000s, the old Mayfair Center was also converted into office space. High-profile tenants there include Virgin Hotels and Sony Music. Cheezem said the Grove’s major office buildings are between 90 and 100 percent leased.
Revival in the Grove
Developers have returned to the Grove in droves over the last decade, lured by its hip history and proximity to downtown. Martin and other prominent builders are delivering luxury high-rise condos. A major retail firm paid $87.5 million to buy and revive ailing shopping mall CocoWalk. And in the West Grove’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, investors are snapping up properties, leading to conflict and gentrification.
The $16 million sale of the parking garage has also been controversial with some Grove residents, who said it would take away badly needed parking spaces from the central business district. Even Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado criticized the largely autonomous Miami Parking Authority over the deal.
“They don’t understand that their mission is to provide parking, not to make money,” Regalado said at the time.
The MPA has recently opened new surface lots near City Hall and also has plans for a 333-space parking garage nearby, according to Miami Today. It is also seeking to build a new garage at the Coconut Grove Playhouse as part of a county rescue plan for the shuttered theater.