This Week in Miami Real Estate: High-speed trains, flying cars and more

by Andrew Morrell

It’s been a good week for proponents of mass transit in the Miami area.

On Jan. 24, the Miami Herald reported that Miami-Dade County officials had signed off on revisions to local zoning rules that would effectively allow more development near public transit lines. This follows the creation of a special tax district in 2016 aimed at building up areas within and around Miami’s Metrorail system. With these new changes, the county may pursue more aggressive plans for dense residential development in Miami’s urban core while potentially cutting down on traffic congestion.

The tax zones established in 2016 encompass 25 miles of land directly adjacent to Metrorail train lines, and 55 miles of other areas where transit service could be expanded. Although the tax district, part of the Strategic Miami Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Plan, are expected to raise nearly $2 billion for transit-oriented development in the next 30 years, county officials said this is still not enough. By changing zoning rules, they hope to encourage development in these SMART zones within the next few years. Once they are more densely populated, Miami-Dade County planners hope to earn billions more in federal grants as a result.

Another big name in South Florida transit is also looking to raise capital for a major expansion. Virgin Trains USA, known as Brightline until a Nov. 2018 acquisition by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, announced Jan. 30 that it was pursuing an initial public offering. Virgin Trains USA hopes to raise up to $600 million through sales of public shares in the company. With that money, it plans to extend service to Orlando and even Tampa, as well as upgrade to equipment that would allow for top speeds as high as 125 miles per hour. Currently, the company operates trains from Miami to West Palm Beach. Virgin Trains USA said that ridership grew 5 percent in 2018.

In other local real estate news:

  • The Jills team of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Miami announced a 2018 sales volume of $453 million. According to a press release, the team led by Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg once again was named the top real estate group in Miami-Dade and the entire state. Since forming in 2005, The Jills have closed on more than $4 billion in transactions. 
  • Mast Capital announced it had obtained a $59.7 million construction loan for its Miami River Walk project. Located on 6.3 acres along the south bank of the Miami River, the Miami River Walk will include a residential community with 688 housing units planned, as well as public park space along the river. Mast Capital, a joint venture with AEW Capital Management, hopes to break ground on the the first phase of the Miami River Walk early this year.
  • According to just about every science fiction fantasy world created for film and television in the 20th century, the skies were supposed to be choked with flying cars by now. As of 2019, that still hasn’t come close to reality, but developers of Paramount Miami Worldcenter aren’t waiting any longer. The 60-story downtown tower is undergoing renovations to its top-floor skydeck that will include an exclusive landing zone for a flying car, or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle. Paramount Worldcenter CEO Daniel Kodsi told CBS Miami that he sees the VTOL transit market taking off in a big way over the next several years. The landing pad will be built to rise from the tower’s top-floor, glass-enclosed pool, after it drains, allowing VTOL aircraft or helicopters to land. The interiors of Paramount Worldcenter are currently under construction and units are scheduled for delivery later this year.
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