Miami's Brickell Financial District Attracts Adventurous Renters

The downtown urban sprawl is finally making its way to Miami's Brickell Avenue. Known mainly as the Brickell Financial District, where attorneys, bankers, brokers, accountants and other workers gather for their 9-to-5 and then go home, the area's landscape has been shifting of late and now is a livable area as well.

The long work commute from suburbia to downtown is, well, going out the window and young professionals and even families are welcoming the change.

Edgardo DeFortuna, principal with Fortune International Realty, has been working real estate in the Brickell area for more than two decades and recalls the boom of the 1980s when Latin Americans began snapping up condominiums in the area. It is investors from those same countries who are buying up units in the newer buildings but this time a majority of them are renting to the younger set looking for the entire urban living experience.

"The foreign buyer has always been a player on Brickell and recently, from 2000 to 2008, the situation has multiplied exponentially and there was another boom," DeFortuna says. "Over 50 percent of buyers were Latin American -- at the beginning it was very much Colombians and then it switched to some extent to Argentinians, Venezuelans and Mexicans."

Investors from this part of the world actually never stopped looking at investing in Miami's Brickell corridor, they just stayed away when the prices were too high. But when they started dropping in 2009 they came back and began to buy again. The difference in this landscape, as opposed to back in the 1980s, is that they're buying with cash and DeFortuna says that makes them much more solid buyers. "They are very, very active in this market today and they are taking advantage of these prices and it's a lot better to keep their cash in real estate."
And with the influx of interested young professionals, these cash buyers are finding tenants very, very quickly. One prime example of this is Beatriz Carrazana, who in her mid-20s saw a great opportunity to live the urban/downtown lifestyle and jumped at the chance. Carrazana is a resident at the Vue, one of the area's newest condominiums that is a block off Brickell on hip South Miami Avenue. Below her building, she has restaurants and other businesses, and she can pretty much walk anywhere for her errands or for a night out on the town.

"Location, location, location," she says. "I'm close to my job, the Metrorail train station is across the street and my commute to work at the University of Miami's Medican Campus is just 15 minutes. I rarely use my car between Monday and Friday, certainly not for work. I love the convenience, I have everything so close," Carrazana said. She's got three major grocery stores within five minutes of her place and plenty of bars and restaurants nearby, especially at Mary Brickell Village, an open-air shopping, dining and retail complex, and one of the anchors of the area's emergence as a livable, workable district.

Carrazana also loves the vibe that living in the area offers, that the people are young and nice and working professionals like her -- she says it makes for a great atmosphere. "It's a great place when you start living on your own. I feel safe in the neighborhood and my building. Security is great and the staff is at your service," she says.

On the other end of the spectrum, young families are finding the area enticing, as well, especially those who also want to reap the benefits of no commuting. And the area is responding by putting a much-needed park in an empty lot at 1814 Brickell Ave., a welcome addition for parents with infants and toddlers. Tiffany Sanz Yamini and her husband, Avi, have a young daughter just 16 months old and they love the lifestyle that living on Brickell Key affords them. They have been renting in their building for three and a half years, and he works at the nearby restaurant, Perricone's, and can easily walk to work.

And the area is responding to these families by building a few new Montessori schools in the area, and expanding the existing public Southside Elementary school to meet demands. There's also a Presbyterian preschool across the island's access bridge, right on Brickell Avenue.

"As far as the island we live on: there are two playgrounds, a small market and a walkway that loops around the entire perimeter," Tiffany Yamini says. "Just recently they've begun offering Gymboree to Go, where the instructor comes to the building instead of us having to go off-site to do the classes," she says.

The Yaminis also regularly walk to the bank to make their deposits. And, being young parents (she's 26 and he's in his early 30s), when they want a date night, they like to bar-hop around the area and enjoy all that their surrounding neighborhood has to offer.

As for future projections in the area, DeFortuna offers his outlook: "Today 78 percent of all the units are sold or rented, so in a year and a half, or perhaps two years max, if the trend continues at this speed we will be at full occupancy. Of course, outside forces can always impact the market but, regardless, there are already developers looking to the future and planning new buildings. As soon as the financing becomes available, which could be sooner than two years, these projects will get underway."

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