Once upon a time, downtown Miami—like many core business areas—was a city in which to roll up shirt sleeves, work, and, once the clock struck 5 o’clock, leave. Sidewalks were deserted by 6 p.m., leaving metaphorical tumbleweeds to drift down empty streets. Changes began to take place slowly; they steadily continued pace until September 29, 2008, when the financial world went dark.
While most consumers took shelter and licked stock market-inflicted wounds, a few savvy developers saw an opportunity. Nitin Motwani and his partners felt the pulse of movement in the area and sensed impending growth. They envisioned a live-work-play project for a largely vacant area that was at the epicenter of exciting new developments—Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and American Airlines Arena, for example—and those in the works, including the Frost Museum of Science and Virgin MiamiCentral station. As landowners sold off the blocks between 2nd Avenue and Miami Avenue to 11th Street, Motwani gobbled up real estate like Pac-Man devouring ghosts. “We started the project with seven acres and through the recession were able to acquire 27 acres,” says Motwani. “We traveled the world visiting projects that had succeeded and failed and persevered. We knew were on the right track at the beginning of the project when we saw downtown Miami begin to emerge with a daytime population that swelled to 250,000,” he says.
After 13 years of planning, development and sleepless nights, Motwani’s 27-acre Miami Worldcenter is underway and being touted as the second-largest urban projected in the United States, second only to New York’s Hudson Yards. The development is creating a futuristic landscape where residents have nearly everything—retail, food and beverage, entertainment, parks and a hotel—within reach and can walk to local businesses and attractions, minimizing their carbon footprints. “I’m finally starting to see the horizontal landscape that will make it easier for people to use public transportation, ride their bike, walk the dog, spend time outside,” says Motwani of the project’s first completed phase. “We’re doing what a lot of great cities have done historically and giving people the opportunity to connect with each other, which makes a city a stronger place.”
Rising in phases, with a scheduled completion date of 2022, Motwani didn’t want Miami Worldcenter to look flat, homogeneous or cookie-cutter. He and his team traveled to London, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo, Rio and Mumbai, New York, L.A. and San Francisco to study the architecture of their urban centers and create a natural look. “You start to understand how a lot of cities grow organically,” says Motwani. “Miami is 200 years younger than cities like New York, yet we wanted Miami Worldcenter to look like it had grown over time.” Thus, he hired no fewer than 10 architects to create buildings with individual statements and personalities to visually tell the story that the 27-acre masterpiece had risen over the years.
Here’s what Miami Worldcenter will contain:
Caoba Apartments, a residential building with 444 units, is completed; PARAMOUNT Miami Worldcenter, a 569-unit luxury condominium tower by developers CIM Group and Falcone Group and designers Elkus Manfredi Architects, is under construction. Buyers hail from 52 countries, with the youngest being a 14-year-old Central American, according to Motwani. Also in the works is LUMA, a luxury rental tower developed by ZOM.
The development’s “High Street” open-air shopping promenade is being called “the centerpiece” of the 27-acre master plan, with 200,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage, and entertainment. A large public plaza nearby will be surrounded by shops and restaurants to create a central gathering place and outdoor event space.
International real estate firm Hines is developing a 45-story, office-led, mixed-use tower, including up to 500,000 square feet of Class A office space, the first such space constructed in Miami’s Central Business District since 2010.
A 1,700-room Marriott Marquis Miami Worldcenter Hotel & Expo Center will feature 500,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space, and an 80,000-square-foot outdoor event deck and pool deck with views of Biscayne Bay and American Airlines Arena.
As South Florida’s largest transit-oriented development, Miami Worldcenter is connected to the Metrorail, Metromover, Tri-Rail commuter rail and the Brickell/Biscayne trolley systems. It is one block away from Miami Central, downtown’s new transportation hub and Virgin Trains USA.