Real estate students exchange classrooms to sail through Miami’s core.

Miami River Real Estate Development Tour

Miami River Real Estate Development Tour

As they spent a beautiful fall day cruising along the Miami River, students and faculty of FIU’s Hollo School of Real Estate took the program’s practical learning one step further, cruising along the Miami River.

The school’s annual Miami River Real Estate Development Tour offered students a firsthand look at the booming billion-dollar area, guided by developers, realtors, local government officials and other experts who shared insights about the area’s opportunities.

Miami River Real Estate Development Tour

“Today you’re going to be immersed in real estate; immersed in the boom and bust of the Miami River,” Suzanne Hollander, an attorney and real estate broker who teaches at FIU’s College of Business and led and organized the boat tour, told participants as they board the “Island Queen”. There are currently 150 projects, including roughly 40,000 residential units, underway in downtown Miami, many along the river.

A working waterway, the Miami River runs 5.5 miles from Miami International Airport to Biscayne Bay. Boatyards, shipping terminals and bait-and-tackle shops share the river’s banks with restaurants, residential properties, parks, luxury hotels, and impressive hi-rises.

“This is such an iconic part of the city and you can see it differently from the water,” said Michelle Gonzalez, a student in the Master of Science in International Real Estate program (MSIRE). “There are still a lot of undeveloped areas with so much potential.”

Miami River Real Estate Development Tour

Today, the Miami River is in the midst of a renaissance.

The Epic Hotel & Residences, completed in 2009, was one of the leaders of downtown Miami’s transformation. Since then, new construction has been in overdrive, explained several local development executives participating on the cruise.

Swire Properties’ $1.05 billion Brickell City Center is slated to open in fall 2016 and will include office, residential, hotel, entertainment, and retail components. Still on the drawing board is River Landing, a mixed-use project on the site of the old Mahi Shrine Auditorium near the civic center that will include two rental towers with a total of 475 units and a five-story shopping center with roughly 426,000 square feet of retail space.

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Cruise helps students visualize the history and opportunities along the Miami River.

Now in its fifth year, the Miami River Boat Tour drew 130 undergraduate and graduate students and alumni. It’s an important component of FIU’s Real Estate programs, which were launched 10 years ago.

Guests included Alyce Robertson, director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority; Luciana Gonzalez, assistant director of planning for the City of Miami. Additionally, alumni Ivonne Heredia, of Eagle Home Mortgage, and Orlando Oliva, assistant vice president commercial lending at Total Bank, shared insights on what’s driving the infusion of dollars into downtown Miami.

Among the topics discussed during the two-hour cruise were zoning regulations, land use and sustainable development.

Gonzalez explained the multiple zoning areas the river offers and highlighted its potential as a residential and commercial hub, including its industrial footprint. Each sector has a direct impact on Miami’s economy.

Brett Bibeau, director of the Miami River Commission’s agreed: “We believe a mixed use river can peacefully coexist.”

Miami’s Downtown Development Authority projects the area will have 92,000 residents by 2019. Millennials seeking out the “urban lifestyle”, many of them lured by affordable rents, are driving much of that growth.

“We started pushing the message that downtown wasn’t a ghost town,” said Robertson, from the Downtown Development Authority, who provided participants with its annual report of real estate trends. “Today it’s a vibrant area with a vibrant economy; and we’re making it a more walkable, livable area.”

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