Real Estate News

It has a lagoon and a Costco. This mini-city could be a ‘game-changer’ for North Miami

One of the most ambitious — and oft-delayed — real estate developments in recent Miami-Dade County history is finally open for business.

Solé Mia, the massive 184-acre mini-city headquartered at 15055 Biscayne Blvd., begins leasing its first two apartment buildings on Jan. 14. The twin 17-story towers, known as The Shoreline, will offer 397 rental units, ranging from studios to three bedrooms and priced from $1,700 to $3,700. Move-ins are scheduled to begin in February.

Chief among the amenities for the new tenants: The first man-made lagoon in South Florida, an eye-popping pool of Caribbean-blue water that spans seven acres, including sandy beach areas and its own little island.

The apartment buildings, which were designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica and Robert M. Swedroe Architects, sport a white-and-blue color scheme and curved edges. They overlook the north end of the lagoon and the mangrove trees of the Oleta River State Park that surround the entire development.

A 156,000 square-foot Costco store, which relocated to Solé Mia from its previous location at 14585 Biscayne Blvd., is set to open before the first tenant moves in.

The two towers, lagoon and stores are the first phase of the $4 billion SoLé Mia development, a joint venture between Aventura’s Turnberry and New York-based LeFrak. Developers say it will take at least 15 years and $4 billion to complete the project, which is envisioned to eventually include 4,000 residences, a school, parks, a hotel and more than 500,000 square feet of office and retail spaces — essentially a mini-city.

“The whole idea of creating a new neighborhood in the Biscayne corridor is very exciting,” said Richard LeFrak, chairman and CEO of the namesake company. “The location is compelling and the product is unique. I have high hopes that this will be a great success.”

Jeffrey Soffer and Jackie Soffer, co-chairs of Turnberry, declined to comment for this article.

“The Soffers are both principals and very involved in this project,” LeFrak said. “They are partners in the deal and handle a lot of the day-to-day stuff.”

Rents at The Shoreline in Solé Mia range from $1,700 to $3,700. Carl Juste

Solé Mia is the culmination of five decades of failed attempts by various developers to build on the site, the largest parcel of undeveloped land east of Biscayne Boulevard in Miami-Dade. Previous proposals included an amusement park in the 1960s and an indoor ski slope in the late 1990s.

From 1975 to 1981, the land was used as a municipal landfill. The tract became so tainted that it was designated a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1982. It sat unused until 1999, when the land was declared safe for development after extensive groundwater treatments and the installation of disposal systems.

A lure for investors

Solé Mia is situated inside one of the first 68 designated Opportunity Zones in Miami-Dade. The zones, which are a provision of President Donald Trump’s 2017 Tax Reform plan, are designed to lure investors and business owners to economically distressed areas. Taxes on any capital gains are deferred or reduced for a period of 10 years, as long as those gains are re-invested into the area.

Although the two new apartment buildings were launched before the Opportunity Zone program began, LeFrak said any future investors or business owners will benefit from the designation.

Those investments could deliver a jolt to a city in need of an economic jump-start. North Miami has a population of 63,500 and a median household income of $40,882, according to the North Miami Community Planning and Development Department. The city markets itself as an affordable alternative to the pricier downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas. The median sales price of a single-family home as of Oct. 31, 2018, was $199,000, according to Zillow.

“This is a game-changer for the city,” said North Miami City Manager Larry Spring. “First and foremost, this is the transformation of what was previously a dump site to an area that will attract new residents of various economic and social backgrounds. It’s also a job creator. And when these buildings get on the tax roll, we’ll be able to reinvest that money into roads and park improvements for the city.”

Spring points out that the relocation of Costco to Solé Mia — just 1,000 feet from its previous location — means the store is now part of North Miami instead of North Miami Beach. The new store is also 10 percent larger than the previous one and will hire an additional 30 employees.

The new apartments are designed to attract young people entering the workforce and starting their independent lives, said LeFrak. They are expected also to appeal to the “silver wave” — older people who are selling their homes and downsizing into a rental.

He said plans are already being drawn for the next phase of Solé Mia — a 33-story, 300-unit condo tower and another seven-story apartment rental building.

“The idea is to have a walkable neighborhood with everything at your fingertips,” he said. “First, though, we have to see what the consumer acceptance is. We’ve accomplished a lot in a small amount of time. We are hoping people will want to come and see what we are offering. We have our fingers crossed that it’s going to be a big hit.”

Rene Rodriguez has worked at the Miami Herald in a variety of roles since 1989. He currently writes for the business desk covering real estate and the city’s affordability crisis.