The Miami Herald, 11.5.10: “Famous Faces, Young Professionals Fill Miami’s Core”

Miami Herald_3

Famous faces, young professionals fill Miami’s core

By Kathleen McGrory

Downtown Miami, ghost town? That was so two years ago.

Downtown and its flanking neighborhoods of Brickell and Midtown are morphing into a residential district of young professionals, graduate students and the occasional starlet.

The neighborhoods boast a growing cast of A-list residents: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Pharrell Williams, Serena Williams and British tennis sensation Andy Murray, to name a few.

“We’ve seen downtown Miami transition from being a business community to being a 24-7 community,” real estate veteran Ron Shuffield said. “It’s become a destination. People from around the world want to be here.”

Realizing there was no more room in West Miami-Dade, developers turned inward and built more than 22,000 luxury condos in the city’s urban core. Then the market crashed.

With nobody buying all those costly condos, developers turned to renting them. Enter the young bankers, attorneys and accountants.

“All of a sudden, young professionals were able to rent these beautiful, luxury apartments at an affordable price,” said Tadd Schwartz, a spokesman for the Downtown Development Authority.

“It created a tremendous swell of people wanting to move downtown,” he added.

Trendy restaurants, bars and boutiques opened along Brickell Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard. Last year, more than 50 new businesses opened downtown, according to the Downtown Development Agency. Mary Brickell Village took off, becoming a destination for tourists and locals.

As of September, about 75 percent of the new condos were occupied, either by an owner or a full-time renter, according to the DDA.

Andres del Corral, a real estate broker with Jeanne Baker Realty, said he rents between five and seven downtown condos each month.

Many of his clients are young professionals from New York or Latin America. The rest are Miamians seeking an urban locale.

“Everyone is leaving Coconut Grove and the Beach to move to Brickell and downtown,” said del Corral, 29. “It’s the epicenter of what’s going on in Miami.”

Ali Soule, 24, who works in public relations, looked at more than 20 apartments in South Beach and Midtown before choosing a unit on Brickell Key.

“I was impressed with the many restaurant and nightlife options, the close proximity to I-95 and my job, and the number of young people in the area,” she said.

Shuffield said about 700 new people move downtown each month.

“People love being able to go out to Mary Brickell Village or the new restaurants at the Epic,” he said. “They love seeing their friends out in the street.” The residents include a handful of celebrities. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony recently bought in the Icon, the posh building on Brickell Avenue at Southwest Fifth Street, published reports say. Realtors say Pharrell Williams and tennis superstar Serena Williams are owners in the Santa Maria, just north of the Rickenbacker Causeway. Andy Murray has a place in the Jade on Brickell Bay Drive.

Entrepreneur Brian Basti, 33, not only lives in the neighborhood, he’s invested in it.

His burgeoning businesses include Ecco Pizzatecca on Southeast First Street and Grand Central, a trendy new concert venue on North Miami Avenue.

His favorite part of downtown living?

“It’s a nice community of people,” Basti said. “Everyone in the neighborhood cares about what’s going on.”

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