Business Monday

Downtown sizzles as workers move closer to jobs

Chances are, the next wave to migrate to Miami’s downtown is going to be different. We will still get our fair share of foreigners fleeing homelands, New Yorkers escaping snow and high taxes, investors buying condos and young professionals seeking a sleek urban address. Now, with 60 being the new 40, empty nesters are also looking east as they shed their larger suburban homes for pied-à-terres close to basketball, Rothkos, ceviche and Mozart. Downtown Miami is coming of age for the plus-50 set.

It’s a fact that cities have more people living in them than ever. In the greater downtown Miami area alone, the population grew 68 percent from 2000 to 2010, with the number of households increasing by more than 90 percent, according to an analysis for the Miami Downtown Development Authority tied to the U.S. Census. That shift dovetails with the last residential real estate boom, which produced about 23,000 residences, nearly all of which are occupied today.

To that end, the U.S. Census points to the fact that exurbs, even farther out than the suburbs, recently recorded a tiny bump in population, the smallest in a decade, according to a recent story by The Associated Press. Push out farther and the trend continues, with almost 60 percent of rural counties in the U.S. recording smaller populations in 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The motivation is simple: People are looking to live closer to jobs and public transportation. In some cases, they want to move closer to children who have already made the move uptown from the suburbs. Younger families who live year round in Miami are also trading spaces. As an example, we recently sold an apartment on Brickell Key to a family with four boys.

In response, county and city governments like Miami-Dade have spent billions of dollars on infrastructure over the past five years, on projects that will improve the quality of life of downtown residents. One such project is the $1 billion port tunnel, which is taking 18-wheel trucks heading to PortMiami off city streets. The private sector is also investing in infrastructure, with Miami-based All Aboard Florida planning a passenger train connecting the downtowns of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport.

The spectacular, newly opened Pérez Art Museum Miami sits next to the soon-to-be-opened Miami Science Museum. Both add to the existing arts infrastructure like the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the YoungArts Miami, all of which are within walking distance of the American Airlines Arena. Miami is also creating a cultural and arts dynamism fed by the vibrant street-art and fine arts scene that is bubbling up from various neighborhoods in and around the downtown core.

Our company, like other real estate agencies, is sure to benefit. In 2013, we recorded more than $1 billion in sales. Part of that demand for homes in the urban core is being driven, on the condo side, by the growing influence of star-chitects like Zaha Hadid, who designed One Thousand Museum, which One Sotheby’s represents, and home-grown phenom Arquitectonica, which has several projects on the boards including the multi-tower Paraiso just north of downtown.

I applaud the work the Knight Foundation is doing to bring hedge funds and the tech industry to Miami, and while there is a lot to be excited about, affordability and homelessness still present real challenges.

There is a lot to love about our city and it is only getting better.In the case of Miami, it’s a secret that’s meant to be shared.

Mayi de al Vega is CEO of ONE/Sotheby’s Realty.

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