Related Group Revises MyBrickell Plan

The Related Group has plans for a new condominium project in Brickell, but the project’s lack of a parking garage has sparked backlash in the neighborhood.

BY TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA

Miami’s top condominium developer is planning to emerge from the region’s worst housing bust by picking up where it left off before the economy tanked, and building a shiny new condo tower.

The Related Group, which built more than 15,000 South Florida condos during the housing boom, then found itself fighting off insolvency when the recession hit, is seeking city approval for a new 35-story condo building in Brickell.

Related is set to go before the city of Miami’s Panning, Zoning and Appeals Board on Wednesday to pitch its new project, to be built at 30 SE Sixth St.

Related’s subsidiary, TRG Brickell Station, originally received approval to use that site for a project called “Brickell Station,” in 2006. That condo tower, stalled because of the downturn, was planned to be nearly 600 feet tall, with 232 residences stacked on top of a parking garage.

The new plan scraps the 10-level parking garage, dropping the building’s height to 350 feet, and offers a new name: “My Brickell.” The expected dates for groundbreaking and completion are not listed in the application, and Related executives did not respond to requests for comment.

“To see Related and others move forward to build towers doesn’t surprise me, because it’s an arduous process,” said Peter Zalewski, a principal at CondoVultures, a Bal Harbour-based consultancy. “If you assume that construction takes 18 to 24 months, you start to look at roughly a 2014 delivery. I don’t know that that’s going to make sense two years from now, but if Related were able to build a tower without parking, they’d be able to reduce their costs tremendously.”

Zalewski added that of 22,000 new condos built in downtown Miami since 2003, about 3,200, or 14 percent, remain unsold.

Related’s condo application said it had made the changes to bring the project in line with the Miami 21 zoning code, a pedestrian-friendly development guide passed by the city in 2009, but the modifications have not been well received by some in the neighborhood.

The residents of several nearby buildings have protested Related’s plan to build 234 additional units without a parking garage.

Related’s condo application indicates that it would provide required parking by using leftover spaces in the parking garage at 500 Brickell, a twin-tower project the company developed adjacent to the My Brickell plot.

Condo owners at the 633-unit 500 Brickell protested by filing an appeal to the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board, and a lawyer representing them said there simply are not enough spaces to accommodate nearly 200 more cars.

“There’s at least 100 missing parking spaces [needed] to accomplish what they want to accomplish,” said Carlos Gimenez, an attorney representing the associations for 500 Brickell’s two towers. “This would be a strain on all the surrounding buildings.”

Gimenez said that unit owners were upset that Related submitted its application, along with its plans to make use of the 500 Brickell parking lot, without consulting with residents at 500 Brickell.

At Wednesday’s 7 p.m. hearing, Gimenez said, the board will likely grant a “continuance,” so that all the parties involved can come to an agreement about the details of the new project.

Iris Escarra, an attorney representing Related’s subsidiary, did not return a call seeking comment.

Related’s founder, Jorge Perez, has often expressed grand ideas about transforming downtown Miami into a bustling metropolis, but those plans hit a snag during a housing downturn that cost his company $1 billion. As potential buyers walked away from their contracts amid a falling market, Related fell into danger of defaulting on dozens of bank loans in 2008 and 2009. The company eventually negotiated deals with all of its lenders, using a range of exit strategies that included so-called “friendly foreclosures,” property givebacks and cash payments.

Last year, Related emerged from its seventh and final troubled South Florida project, and claimed to be debt-free.

It has since focused on affordable housing projects, and development deals in emerging international markets. Still, the company has promised that it would return to build condos again in Miami.

“I still believe that we have massive amounts of work to be done for Miami to become a 24-hour city,” Perez said during a January interview with The Miami Herald. “I think we need to build a lot more residential. A lot more residential.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/04/19/2175694/related-group-revises-plan-for.html#ixzz1KfEkaagL

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