Aventura ParkSquare, a mixed-use development centered on healthy living, wasn’t an easy project to take from concept to reality. The moving parts were many and strategic negotiations were required to satisfy investors as well as Aventura city officials and residents.
Executives at Integra Investments, which owns Aventura ParkSquare, offered FIU College of Business real estate students and alumni insight into the complicated process of commercial and residential development at the 2016 Hollo School of Real Estate Jerome Bain Developer Luncheon, held November 18, 2016 at the InterContinental Miami.
For students, it was an opportunity to learn first-hand from a team that took on the challenges of development in a city that had its own vision for the site.
“You have to plan ahead and do a lot of deep thinking,” said Steven Sorensen, chief development officer of Integra Investments. “Also, don’t take no for an answer; figure out how to change the rules to get creative things done.”
Aventura ParkSquare was born as a residential condominium project on a 7.5 acre site, but city officials had a different idea. It was Aventura’s last parcel of land and they wanted a mixed-use project that would become the community’s epicenter.
“It’s a multi-generational project that will be the catalyst for moving urban, mixed-use communities in the U.S. to their next stage of evolution,” said Bernard Zyscovich, architect of Aventura ParkSquare, who also spoke at the luncheon.
Slated for completion in 2018, Aventura ParkSquare will include retail space, a 131-unit residential tower, office space, a wellness and medical center, an Aloft Hotel, and an assisted living facility. Retail space includes health-conscious restaurants as well as upscale boutiques.
“Our philosophy is to focus on high barrier to entry markets,” said Victor Ballestas, principal at Integra. “We are very careful with high inventory markets because we prefer not to get into a pricing war with bigger developers if we have to.”
In addition to Aventura, Integra is developing Hallandale ArtSquare and executives are exploring entry projects in Bal Harbour and North Beach.
“I was intrigued to learn of Integra’s strategy in focusing on areas outside of the saturated Miami neighborhoods because it gives them a competitive advantage and the chance of being a key influencer in the development of emerging areas in South Florida,” said Arturo Vinueza, a Master of Science in International Real Estate (MSIRE) student who attended the luncheon.
Exploring challenges and triumphs
Launched in 2013, the Hollo School’s Developer Luncheon series offers students and graduates a forum where they can gain insight and access into the world of commercial and residential development. High-profile developers, financers and architects offer first-hand advice about what it takes to make a project a reality.
“Through the Integra panel, students learned about how the acquisition, entitlement and building of a project involves working closely with the City (local government), unique methods of financing and knowing the needs and trends of the local real estate market,” said Suzanne Hollander, an attorney and real estate broker who teaches at the College of Business. As the Jerome Bain Institute’s Real Estate Industry Liaison, she has moderated the luncheons since their inception.
The goal, noted Hollander, is to complement the classroom lessons of real estate and development as the students apply these lessons to the real world. Connections stemming from the Developers Luncheon have resulted in internships and even full-time jobs for many Hollo School students.
“These events are crucial in gaining insight into what current market conditions are like and getting to know the key players that contribute to its future,” said Vinueza, who will graduate from the Hollo School’s MSIRE program in June 2017. “Personally, the most important lesson learned was how to differentiate yourself from other developers and think outside the box.”
At the luncheon, special guest, the Honorable Pedro Garcia, Miami-Dade Property Appraiser, applauded the fact that there was so many young people in the room who will be shaping the future of real estate. Garcia began his career as a property appraiser 40-plus years ago, and today determines the assessed value of every property in Miami-Dade County.
MSIRE student Desi Rodriguez described Garcia’s presentation as eye-opening for students, especially those who seek a career in real estate but don’t know what route they want to take.
“Hearing about the transitions in his speech should help all students see how many doors can be unlocked in real estate,” said Rodriguez, director of marketing for the Real Estate Student Association.
Words of advice:
- “When you graduate, work to learn don’t work for money,” – Victor Ballestas
- “The key to success is good partners and patient capital,” – Steven Sorensen