Miami Beach officials offer Hollo School students a close-up look at an iconic city.

Left to Right: Suzanne Hollander, Jimmy Morales – Miami Beach City Manager,  Maria Hernandez – Director of Miami Beach Convention Center, Tom Mooney- Director of Planning City of Miami Beach, Jeff Ortis – Director of Economic Development  City of Miami Beach
Left to Right: Suzanne Hollander, Jimmy Morales – Miami Beach City Manager, Maria Hernandez – Director of Miami Beach Convention Center, Thomas Mooney  – Director of Planning City of Miami Beach, Jeff Oris – Director of Economic Development City of Miami Beach

Celebrating its 100th Anniversary, today’s Miami Beach is hot, a global iconic luxury real estate destination and a city working to resolve urban issues—lack of affordable housing, traffic and aging infrastructure.

Learning a full picture of Miami Beach directly from its senior development officials was the highlight of the Hollo School of Real Estate’s 2015 Spring Developers Luncheon, held April 10 at the Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne.

“In the 80s and 90s, we were the gateway. Now, we’re the meeting place,” Jimmy Morales, Miami Beach city manager, told the audience of 100 Hollo School of Real Estate students, alumni and faculty.

Three Miami Beach officials joined Morales on the panel introduced by William Hardin, Hollo School director and moderated and organized by Suzanne Hollander, faculty member, attorney & real estate broker.  The Honorable Pedro Garcia, Miami Dade Property Appraiser also spoke to the students, joined by Lazaro Solis, Deputy Property Appraiser.

Convention Center overhaul: major upgrades, new capabilities.

The Miami Beach Convention Center’s $592 million renovation will be “the most important project in the history of Miami Beach,” said Maria Hernandez, project director for the Convention Center. Built in 1957 and last renovated in the 1980s, the center will undergo a complete overhaul.


“Our goal is to connect the building to as much as the neighborhood as possible,” Hernandez said. A plan for an adjacent 800-room business hotel will go before Miami Beach voters. The three-phase project is scheduled to be completed in 2017, with two Art Basel Miami Beach events to take place as renovations move throughout the facility.

Part of the city’s economic development plan calls for increasing the employment base and supply of affordable housing. FIU’s Hollander is vice chair of the city’s Affordable Housing Advisor Board.

“It will be your job in the real estate industry to help build those spaces for potential clients,” said Planning Director Thomas Mooney, an FIU alumnus. With very little vacant land remaining, the city is looking to work creatively with existing structures.

With sixteen percent of the population of Miami Beach living below the poverty line, working in hotels and restaurants, and many affordable housing options in North Beach, the city invested in a revitalization program for the area.

“We’re starting to see developers watch what we’re doing in North Beach,” he said. “They haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but they’re watching.”

Illustrating Miami Beach’s unique real estate dynamic, Economic Development Director Jeff Oris noted in the early 1980s, South Pointe was “the most dangerous part of the city, and it’s now the most expensive.” Height restrictions imposed in 1997 helped drive prices up.

Students learn from a first-hand look at development challenges.

At the conclusion of the presentation, officials answered students’ questions on public transportation, jobs and the impact of the Convention Center investment.

Edward Lee, a student in the online Masters of Science in Real Estate Program who lives in Panama, made the trip to Miami for the event, calling it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the people who are making the plans for Miami Beach.” Working with real estate in Panama, he sees many models and lessons in Miami’s history and development.

Alex Algarin, a student in FIU’s Masters program in downtown Miami shared: “Events like this teach you what a textbook never can.”

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