Tucked away in the suburbs just south of Medley and northwest of Miami International Airport, Doral is no longer just an industrial warehouse district known for its never-ending box-truck traffic, pastures filled with grazing cows and posh golf courses.
Dubbed the fastest growing big city in Florida and the 11th fastest in the country by Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center, which analyzed U.S. Census data, the rising city has become a hotspot for international buyers, big businesses and real estate developers, experts say.
According to the study, the suburb’s population rose by 26.1 percent — roughly 12,000 people — from 2010 to 2016, accompanied by fast-paced constructions of new homes. In 2016, the city had about 58,000 residents.
Also on the list for fastest growing cities with populations over 50,000 was Miami, which came in eighth in the state. Between 2010 and 2016 the city’s population increased by 13.1 percent, adding almost 53,000 residents and bringing its population to 454,000.
“Doral’s central location, as well as other amenities, such as good schools, low crime rate and low [property tax] rate, make it a very desirable place to live,” said Maria D. Ilcheva, a senior researcher at the Metropolitan Center. “However, housing affordability and traffic may be a significant challenge for most families and workers.”
When Doral incorporated in 2003, its population was 22,709, less than half of what it is today.
In the last four decades, Doral approved 50 projects totalling 23,233 residential units, including ritzy condos, town homes, cluster single-family homes and rental apartments. To be completed in the next three years are 10 residential projects, seven mixed-use projects, and 31 non-residential projects such as warehouses, hotels, medical facilities, parks, schools and office space.
In the past two years, Doral debuted Downtown Doral and CityPlace, two urban centers offering upscale restaurants, shopping options and diverse entertainment venues.
For Ray Prince, buying in Doral in 2015 was a no-brainer. The 32-year-old from California said that its location was prime and that he saw potential in rising property values. In just two years, his home has gained at least $25,000 in equity, he says. His wife works in the Blue Lagoon area south of the airport and he works from home.
“I saw that it had a higher potential than other neighboring areas. It had a good mix of parks too. I saw that entertainment options were on the way so I saw potential. It’s not the perfect neighborhood by far — just think about the traffic. However, its location outweighs a lot of the negatives,” Prince said.
Ilcheva says Doral’s housing boom is mainly attributable to buyers from overseas.
“In terms of housing, costs have increased drastically and prices have generally been set by those buying from abroad,” she said.
“The cost is super high, higher than the county average, as multi-upscale properties are being built. If I had to interpret what I’m seeing in terms of housing and what Miami-Dade residents can afford, those newer homes are being primarily purchased by wealthy international buyers who either live there, flip the property or rent them out.”
The median price of homes currently listed in Doral is about $398,000, compared to the median of $380,000 in Miami-Dade County. The median rent price in Doral is $2,300, which is higher than the Miami-Fort Lauderdale Metro median of $1,990, according to Zillow.
Median income for Doral households in 2015 was $72,933, significantly higher than the county median of $43,129, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey.
The largest Hispanic group in Doral is residents of Venezuelan origin, almost 32 percent of the Hispanic population, followed by those of Colombian origin, about 19 percent.
Prince said the bulk buying of condos seems common.
“Wouldn’t everybody like it [if the buying was] by actual families who wanted to live here and enjoy our city instead of just flipping $700,000 condos?” he said.
About 94 percent of people who work in Doral live outside the city; only 24 percent of working residents are employed within Doral, according to 2014 census data. Research shows the average commute time for those going to work from Doral is 26.4 minutes, compared to 29.9 minutes for workers in the county overall.
About 60 percent of Doral residents work within 10 miles of their home. For comparison, 55 percent of county residents who are employed work within 10 miles of their residence.
Over the last few years, Doral council members have approved dozens of residential developments, among them Doral Cay town homes off Northwest 58th Street; Grand Bay single-family homes near the Medley landfill; Doral Sanctuary, about 300 apartments on 41st Street and 87th Avenue; Contempo, luxury town homes on 91st Avenue and Northwest 22nd Street; Project 8800, upscale apartments across from the Trump National Doral; Doral 4200, about 250 rental apartments off Northwest 107th Avenue; Modern Doral, town homes on Northwest 74th Street and 104th Avenue; and condos at Midtown Doral, Downtown Doral and CityPlace.
“Fast is not good if it is bad for our quality of life, as it has been in Doral,” said Richard Glukstad, a Doral resident. “Rent is extremely expensive, forcing residents to double up or sublet rooms to survive. But the worst part is the lack of civic participation by our residents and real desire to work for change.”
Councilwoman Claudia Mariaca, who was elected in November, says the rapid increase in residents has made traffic all the worse.
“Unfortunately there are things we can do to stop development and there are things we can’t. There are laws that allow people to develop and they have the right to,” she said. “However at this point people get frustrated before even turning their car key.”