One of the most exciting aspects of working in Miami real estate is that rare instant when a previously ignored neighborhood, block, or building suddenly becomes all the rage. A perfect storm of new development, demographic shifts, pioneering businesses, or other unpredictable factors come together at the right time, and the area is lifted out of the shadows and into the sweet Florida sunshine.
Right now, El Portal Village is the Miami neighborhood having its “moment.”
Nestled between Miami Shores and the Little River, El Portal (its more common name) was incorporated in 1937 and named after a large gate that at one time was the village’s entrance on Northeast Second Avenue.
Its actual borders include 91st Street to the north, 85th Street to the south, Northeast Fifth Avenue to the east and Northwest Fifth Avenue to the west. Locals also know about a second gate located on Northwest Second Avenue, near the corner of 86th Street, which leads to a hidden nature walk that is charming beyond belief!
Many homes in the neighborhood go as far back as the early 1920s, and the village’s southern border along the Little River canal has made El Portal home to wild peacocks, endangered manatees and abundant fauna. (A wild coyote, native to Florida, was spotted in town earlier this year.)
El Portal is also home to one of South Florida’s most unique historic spots, an Indian Mound that was the first archaeological site to receive historic designation in Miami-Dade County. According to the village’s web site, it is one of the county’s highest points and its history dates back to the year 600, when ancient Tequesta Indians migrated and settled there while passing by on the Little River.
As a small, nondescript section of Miami’s inland eastern corridor, El Portal went largely unnoticed for many years by the area’s real estate community, which instead focused on brighter spots such as North Bay Village, the Upper East Side, and Miami Shores.
Despite two dramatic boom cycles over the past 20 years, El Portal’s home values remained flat. Over the past 18 months, however, we have seen unprecedented price gains (with about 18% increase in average home values, according to the Multiple Listing Service), and the volume of home sales has significantly increased.
What led to this ascension of El Portal’s real estate profile? I believe it has been a flurry of unrelated events, beginning with the 2016 closing of the Little Farm Trailer Park just west of Biscayne Blvd., between Northeast 83rd and 87th Streets. The lot was bought by a company that appears to be a luxury condominium developer. I called the village and they confirmed that a condo will be developed on the lot.
At 8300 NE Second Ave., just a short walk across the Little River footbridge, El Portal villagers will find Miami’s hottest eatery and entertainment center this side of Wynwood: The Citadel is a 62,000-square-foot food hall (featuring 15 restaurants), rooftop bar and lounge, and retail and maker space for arts-and-crafts vendors.
Having just opened in February, The Citadel has already cemented its status as a Miami nexus for daily live music, creativity, culture, and of course, dining. I believe the success of The Citadel will persuade other restaurateurs to set up shop nearby, and make El Portal even more of a walking neighborhood.
Finally, the village recently announced that they will be removing all septic tanks in the area and converting to a traditional sewer system. This looks like a very wise long-term move, given concerns about rising sea levels and their impact on outdated septic systems.
Without assigning a direct and specific cause, the effect has been a substantial increase in El Portal’s home values. A 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom two-bath home with a per-square-foot price of around $250 as recently as last year is now valued at $370 per square foot. That’s about a 30% jump in value while remaining a relative bargain in comparison with other Miami neighborhoods. Upon entry onto the MLS, we are seeing listings receive multiple offers, often resulting in profitable bidding wars for sellers. One of our recent listings had three offers within seven days.
Another unique El Portal real estate trend is the type of home being sought. For decades, we have seen the three-bedroom, two-bath home as the optimal choice for young buyers migrating from renting to ownership. But in El Portal, we have seen an uptick in the demand for two-bedroom, one-bathroom homes among buyers who previously rented in areas such as Brickell, Midtown, Edgewater or downtown.
Young couples are buying here with an eye toward starting families, and the large lots available in El Portal provide ample room for expansion of these homes — but a few years down the road. (One wonders if these millennial-aged buyers — who have been raised on Uber and a greater interest in experiences over “stuff” — will have the same need for garages and living space as previous generations!)
In terms of excellent schools, El Portal residents enjoy close proximity to Miami Country Day School, The Cushman School, and soon enough, the prestigious Avenues: The World School, which will open up not too far from El Portal on Northeast 50th Street and Second Avenue.
Will El Portal’s special “moment” endure, or will the village once again fade into obscurity? Difficult to predict, but I am certainly pleased to offer prospective Miami home buyers the option of this “off-the-grid” neighborhood where values are trending in the right direction and its unique character remains intact.
Master Broker Alexandra C. Peters is a senior global real estate advisor with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. She can be reached at 786-282-5290 and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.