In real estate, culture, the arts and more, Miami’s global identity hasn’t yet caught up to its reality

Much of the world has a perception of Miami that’s not up-to-date and the many improvements to Miami’s cultural, arts and real estate scene in the past decade are not yet part of the city’s global identity, says real estate broker John Reza Parsiani, who is a member of the Master Brokers Forum and vice president of business development with Cervera Real Estate.
Much of the world has a perception of Miami that’s not up-to-date and the many improvements to Miami’s cultural, arts and real estate scene in the past decade are not yet part of the city’s global identity, says real estate broker John Reza Parsiani, who is a member of the Master Brokers Forum and vice president of business development with Cervera Real Estate. | File, June 1, 2018

As I travel the world selling Miami real estate, I am struck by the dated perception that many people still have about our city and region. I hear variations of “Miami is cool, but there’s no culture!” or “Is Miami a safe place for me to move to with my family?” or “Is Miami really a serious business city?” and I find myself smiling and taking a deep breath before correcting these misconceptions.

The problem — if it can be called that — lies in the incredible velocity of improvements to Miami’s cultural, entertainment, shopping, real estate and infrastructural offerings over the past 10 years, which may have happened too quickly for the rest of the world to fully realize.


Consider: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors in 2006. So, as recently as 12 years ago, downtown Miami did not have the extraordinary ballet, opera, or theater offerings that it does today.

While we locals take Art Basel’s annual return to Miami (along with its throngs of affluent and discerning art lovers, and their private jets) for granted, we forget that the world’s largest, finest and most respected art festival has been an institution here “only” since 2002. The remarkable Pérez Art Museum “just” opened its doors in 2013, instantly becoming the city’s flagship art museum and a world leader in modern and contemporary art.

Ten short years ago, could any of us have imagined a Wynwood district that’s now a glittering cauldron of street art, fashion studios, art galleries and tech start-ups (not to mention the best coffee, bread and donuts you’ve ever tasted)?

As a true sports city with world class football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, polo and, hopefully, the MLS David Beckham-led soccer stadium, signs point to Miami soon becoming the only city in the world to have all of the five major sports, as well as Formula 1, announced for 2020. The Miami Heat has won three NBA championships and its host venue, the American Airlines Arena, regularly welcomes the biggest names in music and popular entertainment, including Miami artists like Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, Pitbull and DJ Khaled. The Frost Museum of Science, with its 250-seat planetarium and 500,000-gallon aquatic tank, welcomed its millionth customer last year — only one year after opening.

And there’s still a massive wave of premier business, cultural and entertainment developments coming online in the next decade! The world can be forgiven for not quite catching on just yet, but we must also do a better job of explaining and informing.


My international clients are also quite surprised to learn about Miami’s thriving economic business climate, and how well-positioned we are for continuous growth. Florida’s economy recently topped a whopping $1 trillion, making the Sunshine State the world’s 17th-largest economy, ahead of Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and the Netherlands. With more than 100 languages spoken by its residents, Florida is the No. 1 state for foreign buyers (according to Florida Realtors), Miami is the second-largest city for educated immigrants in the U.S. (per the Miami Urban Future Initiative) and America’s second-fastest growing economy (Wallet Hub).

Miami-Dade’s Metromover system, a free elevated shuttle that connects downtown Miami with Brickell, is fully subsidized by the county’s half-percent sales tax for transportation. A consultant is studying the possibility of extending it north to Midtown Miami and east to Miami Beach. Marice Cohn Band Miami Herald file | 2011

Our favorable business tax climate and the rising numbers of startups, female-owned businesses and tech employment reflect a unique and diverse ecosystem built upon on a solid infrastructure and skilled workforce. The recent openings of local branches for tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Expedia, Amazon and Emerge America demonstrate Miami’s ascension as the tech hub of the Americas. Being one of the top five interconnected cities in the world makes Miami the network access point of the Americas. Flights, ships, trains, internet, capital, talent, it’s all here and expanding at a phenomenal pace. Last year, Amazon even ranked Florida among the top 10 (No. 7) most entrepreneurial states in the country!


Miami’s unique geographical position has for years made it a true global powerhouse and gateway to Latin America, the Caribbean and North America, and recent enhancements have only strengthened that position. With 155 direct flights to major international cities, Miami International Airport is the largest cargo airport and the second-largest business airport in the U.S., and major expansions to the Panama Canal and PortMiami have turbo-charged the volume of freight and tourism moving through the city.

Long maligned as a major challenge to Miami’s lifestyle, our public transportation system has also improved by leaps and bounds over the past five years. From downtown’s water taxis, free trolley system and Metromover, it’s now easier than ever to navigate the urban core of Miami. The past few years have also welcomed many reasonably-priced options for private transportation, including Uber, Lyft, and the Brightline trains running between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach (and eventually Orlando). Later this year, the South Florida Tri-Rail system will also expand to downtown Miami’s Central Station, providing even more public transportation from as far away as West Palm Beach. All of this will serve to dramatically reduce the flow of daily traffic in and around Greater Miami.


My customers from overseas are also quite surprised when I show them the rapid emergence of Miami’s distinct neighborhoods, each with their own unique character. (They’re very much in the mold of New York City’s SoHo, Wall Street, Upper East Side, Chelsea and Theater districts.) Over the past decade, the Design District has become a Mecca for luxury shopping, now with the world’s most exclusive brands; Midtown is a young, vibrant and pet-friendly haven with its plethora of restaurants; Downtown has become a walkable metropolis of luxury condominium towers, culture, and entertainment; and Brickell is “Wall Street South,” with the largest concentration of international banks in the entire country and the second-largest financial district in America.

Of course, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and Coconut Grove remain extremely popular areas with their own unique evolutions in recent years.


There is not enough room in this space to describe all of the exciting things that continue to change and enhance Miami’s global identity as new dining, sporting, and entertainment options flow through the pipeline. Beyond the facts and numbers, however, what I’ve always loved about my city is that, no matter where you are from, what you look like, what faith you follow, you will always feel like you are home and never like an “outsider” — which I suppose is what happens when more than half of Miami’s population was born outside of the U.S. With 250 people moving to Miami every day we remain the No. 1 retirement destination for Americans (according to WalletHub), while at the same time receiving more millennials than New York City, Seattle, Houston and Washington, D.C., according to

Best of all, real estate prices are still only a fraction of those in other major international cities such as London, Paris and New York. Imagine the opportunities when more foreign buyers realize that point as well!

Master Broker John Reza Parsiani is a real estate broker and vice president of business development with Cervera Real Estate. He can be reached at (305) 788-7550 and/or

▪ This opinion piece was written for Business Monday in the Miami Herald and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the newspaper.

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