Moving to Miami's Mainland

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It used to be that people moved to South Beach and really never left unless they needed to hop on a plane at Miami International Airport.

Why leave the beach with its nearby ocean, bars, restaurants, music, shops and really hot bods?
But dropping real estate prices breeds competition and now SoBe is passé. Miami's new hot spot is Midtown in Wynwood, just north along Biscayne Boulevard. The neighborhood takes up a swath of the boulevard to the east and I-95 to the west, with the Design District on the north and Northeast 20th Street to the south.

Part of the working class Wynwood neighborhood, Midtown has lured artists and young professionals to the a huge residential and retail development appropriately called Midtown.

This $2.3 billion development features 1000 residential units -- including lofts and penthouses -- for both rent and purchase. Street level space is reserved for stores and restaurants. The development has some 650,000-square-feet of retail space, and already there's a Target, Ross, Marshalls, West Elm among others, and a few restaurants. The latest addition is the 2.5 acres Miami Art Park in the middle of the 56-acre complex, which launched earlier this month with a nine garden exhibit on the football-sized field.

"It's the next big thing," says Skip Van Cel, a local artist, real estate prospector and a pioneer of sorts in this area of Miami. He moved to the Wynwood and Design District area in the 90s when South Beach was just hitting it's boom.

Much of the allure is Midtown's convenience factor: five minutes from downtown Miami, seven minutes from South Beach and 10 minutes from the airport. The ability to get around quickly in Miami is a definite advantage seeing that the city ranks among the top five most congested cities in the country along with Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Dallas.

"It's the strongest the draw for anybody in traffic soaked Miami," Van Cel says.

The rents are also on par or a little less than the going price on the beach, and the properties are brand new and come with parking, something that's a premium across the bay. A one-bedroom goes for $1300 to $1450 a month; a two bedroom is between $1800 to $2500 a month; three bedroom lists for $2500; lofts for $2100; and penthouses (often with a view of the bay a few blocks away) list for $3,300 to $6,000 a month.

The Midtown real estate office says occupancy is finally up -- with some buidlings 98 percent occupied. The problem, says one agent, is that some people didn't know where the development was.

"What was happening is that we didn't show up on Mapquest. People didn't realize we were open," said a Midtown agent who didn't want to give his name.

Midtown is a lot more visible now.
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