The Real DealJune 10, 2011Not too long ago, the area just west of Biscayne Boulevard and NW 36th Street was an empty rail yard. Now, Midtown Miami's three residential complexes have reached nearly 100 percent occupancy, and might be the culinary center of Miami. The still‐expanding mixed‐use development is the brainchild of New York‐based Midtown Equities, led by the Cayre family. Midtown was developed by Cayre along with his father, Joe Cayre, and his brothers. The project's current phase was completed in 2007, and it has become one of Miami's most vibrant neighborhoods. The Real Deal talked to Cayre about expansion plans for Midtown, the "Soho south" moniker and the Cayres' New York brokerage, Core.
What has been responsible for the rapid development of Midtown?
We've been involved with the project for the last seven or eight years. And over that time, there's been a whole host of factors. The location certainly is a great one, and a lot was going on in that area that wasn't really connected for a long time. You had the Design District doing what it was doing, but it was really a pocket. You had the arts district, which is still coming along, but wasn't nearly as developed as it is now. And you had this big, empty rail yard that was impeding the connectivity of all these different, dynamic neighborhoods. I think we were really fortunate taking down such a big piece of what we call "the hole in the doughnut," and treating it as a neighborhood where we wanted to really introduce the street grid again, and tie all these neighborhoods together.
How much land at the project is still yet to be developed and what are your plans for it?
About 15 acres. We also own just outside, another six acres which [are] bordering Midtown, but [on] the other side of the railroad tracks ‐‐ the old Chiquita Banana distribution facility. We haven't really announced our plans yet. I know people have been really sideways that we're very close to announcing the next phase, which is going to be an entertainment block. It will have a boutique hotel component that we're working on with a local developer that we have a lot of respect for. Those plans are absolutely breathtaking, and that's part of a development that is connected to a premium movie theater, and a couple hundred thousand square feet of some of the coolest retail that I think Miami has ever seen. The success of all the multi‐family rentals has caught the eye of a lot of the residential REITs and developers, so we're certainly looking at the development of some of those tracks as well.
Do you have plans to re‐release MidBlock (the complex is currently composed of entirely rental
The units themselves are operated now as a rental. We actually view the residential component differently. Those units will likely be sold ‐‐ I see them coming back on the market and being sold, but probably not in the near future.
What do you say about the "Soho South" moniker that has been thrown around for Midtown?
In my mind, the answer is absolutely [it is]. If you speak to the people that live there, and even the ones that opened businesses there, a lot of them moved down from New York. They really view Midtown like that. The guy that opened up Sustain [a restaurant in the complex], he was an investment banker, drove down to Miami, and looked for a place that opened up. Midtown was really the only place that felt like home to him. It's a little bit like a melting pot ‐‐ you can go to Sugarcane [another restaurant in Midtown] and pull up there, it's pretty common to see Vespas, Mini Coopers and Lamborghinis. It's a very unique crowd in its ability to cross over.
What impact do you think the recent news of LVMH's entry to that area means for Midtown and the announcement of your firm's residential plans?
I've said for years that what's good for Midtown is good for the Design District, and what's good for the Design District is good for Midtown. For us, we viewed it as very positive, because it's ultimately going to bring more people into this part of Miami. And this part of Miami really has a lot to offer. It's something that the locals have started to recognize, maybe beginning a couple of years ago. Now it's certainly on people's radar screen. I think that having an anchor like LVMH come into the Design District, it's going to start bringing even more people into this area.
Are there any projects you're working on in New York right now?
There are. But not so much on the development side ‐‐ really more holdings that we have ‐‐ ongoing leasing and management and things like that.
Are you still involved with Core?
Absolutely. It's probably one of the companies that we're most proud of. If you wanted to cast the perfect young, hip energetic market‐leading residential brokerage company for a movie, you would cast Core, which co‐stars in HGTV's "Selling New York." For every 100 resumes we get, we probably end up bringing in one person. It's got a culture and a life to it which is phenomenal, unlike anything you've ever seen.