Archives for posts with tag: Fabio FAERMAN

Bringing more art to Miami is something that nobody can object. I myself love the idea of more art inmetrorail-863816_1920 the city but what I do not agree is the fact that Miami’s residents have to pay some punishing fee for that.


There are already many taxes, fees, and delays when it comes to the approval of city’s permit for construction. Instead of charging these fees to residents I believe it should be charged to tourists, not high fees, small fees to tourists would be enough to reach the intended purpose.


Let’s not make more taxes. Let private institutions develop art in the city giving them more freedom. Let’s encourage more donations but no more taxes because all that does is generate expensive local prices, fewer jobs, and less economic growth for the city.

To read the ordinance click on the link below:

Miami Art Ordinance


Orlean Pic

The largest company in the Brazilian wallpaper market
Orlean chose Design District to open its first showroom in America.

Friday, April 1, 2016 (MIAMI, FLORIDA) – Fabio F. Faerman and Alexandra Bonti of FA Commercial/ Fortune International Realty assisted Orlean -to find the perfect place for its first showroom in America. The lease transaction represented a value of $1 Million.

Orlean rented a total of 2,010 SF located at 3801 North Miami Ave in Design District. The deal was signed for 5 years. “Our client –Orlean- was looking for the perfect place to open its doors in the USA. We were able to understand their business, work with their needs and find them the ideal place in the ideal neighborhood for them: Miami design district” says Fabio Faerman.

Miami Design District it’s the perfect place for Orlean to open its first showroom out of Brazil. Founded in 1985 in Rio de Janeiro, the company has four stores in the best neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Orlean is one of the leading wallpapers and fabrics distributors in Brazil and distributes its products in more than 1500 shops in the whole South America.

Opening this showroom in Miami it was part of Orlean’s expansion strategy. A showroom in Miami Design District, a neighborhood of high-end decoration will contribute to the brand display in America, which one of their main goals it is to establish Orlean as the major Florida wallpaper and fabrics display. They expect to open 15 shops throughout Florida in the next 3 years. Therefore, design district suits to implement their purposes.

Fifteen years ago, entrepreneur and Miami native Craig Robins recognized the potential of the Miami Design District and started acquiring and redefining properties in the area. Through careful stewardship. The Design District began to juxtapose design brands with internationally important art collections, phenomenal temporary and permanent art and design installations, and great restaurants.

Fabio Faerman and his team at FA Commercial are thrilled to contribute to the progress of Miami and the entire South Florida’s commercial real estate market with deals like this. They to offer international and local clients, the most exceptional service, and guidance through the commercial real estate process.

Fabio Photo

Mr. Faerman has been Fortune international Realty’s #1 Top Producer Broker for the last three years, and a member of the Platinum Circle of sales for more than 10 years now.

For the third year in a row, Fabio has achieved the recognition as Fortune International Realty’s # 1 Top Broker. Exceptional professional ethics, superior understanding and mastery knowledge of commercial real estate are the qualities that make Fabio F. Faerman a top producer broker with over $500 M in commercial properties sales.

Fabio received this honor on Monday, February 29, 2016, during the annual Fortune Awards Ceremony held at the exclusive Brickell Avenue’s Conrad Miami Hotel. The award was presented by Edgardo DeFortuna, president and CEO of Fortune International Realty, Miami’s leading brokerage firm with a global reach.ea

“This prestigious recognition is a very significant achievement, not only for me but also for my entire team. I am very excited to provide my clients with the most exceptional service, and guiding them through the commercial real estate process with absolutely personalized care” said Fabio F. Faerman.

Fabio is always seeking excellence and performing at the highest level. Being an exceptional leader in Miami’s commercial real estate industry; Mr. Faerman closed the highest overall transaction volumes in commercial property sales and leases becoming the number 1 top producer broker on Fortune International Realty.

2015 was a very active year in the commercial real estate market seeing office sales at their highest levels in years and a decline in the vacancy rate, as well as hotel and retail development increases.  Fabio has made the most of these market conditions leading the sales team of One Flagler, a condo office conversion in the heart of downtown Miami. One year after winning the exclusive sales assignment of One Flagler, the iconic building is 90 percent sold. Constantly a contributor to Miami’s commercial real estate growth, Fabio has brought new and exciting businesses to the city as the one located at Millicento retail spaces in Brickell & Icon Brickell retail spaces. 



About the Awards
Fortune International Group held once a year the Fortune Awards Ceremony where President and CEO Edgardo Defortuna takes the stage to congratulate Fortune’s top producers. Top producers made 2015 a success with over 4 billion in general real estate and development sales combined.
About Fabio F. Faerman
Fabio F. Faerman is the President & Chief Executive Officer of FA Commercial Advisors – Fortune’s Commercial Division. FA Commercial provides a complete range of commercial real estate brokerage services – including owner and tenant leasing, acquisition and sales, marketing and consulting – to owners, investors and lessees of all property types. Fabio has acquired a degree in Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires, a Master’s degree in Construction and Real Estate from the University of Madrid. He is also a Certified Commercial Investment Member and a Commercial Real Estate Investment Advisor.


Former Casa Santino Restaurant sells last remaining property for $1.2M

Casa Santino and social club of 1940’s – 1950’s was frequented by iconic celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Lucille Ball and others

10905 Biscayne Boulevard, the former site of Casa Santino Restaurant, sold for $1.2M.  Fabio Faerman and Jonathan Molano of FA Commercial Advisors / Fortune International Realty represented the seller in this transaction. This iconic property was sold in an all-cash deal.


Fran Sinatra was one of the many celebrities that used to hangout at Casa Santino

Biscayne corridor is the place in Miami where historic meets hip. Where the worlds of art, culture, cuisine and entertainment collide. It’s the heart of the city. The Biscayne Corridor is now experiencing a cultural and commercial renaissance, attracting the attention of retailers, developers, restauranteurs and the artistic community worldwide.

“The retail corridor in Miami Shores and North Miami Drive is somewhat of a ‘hidden’ investment gem – in just 8 months’ time I have seen price-per-square-foot profits nearly double,” says Molano. The area for commercial deals is rapidly growing and brimming with tremendous development potential. Just last April, Molano and Faerman represented both the seller and the buyer at 11601 Biscayne, which closed at $65 psf.  FA Commercial currently has 3.5 acres on the market at 11201 Biscayne Boulevard as well as other off-market opportunities.

Fabio Faerman and his team at FA Commercial are thrilled to contribute to the progress of Miami and the entire South Florida’s commercial real estate market with deals like this. Recently, Mr. Faerman proudly assisted on the closing of many deals such as 4322 Hollywood Blvd., a former Blockbuster property. 16,676 SF residential lands located in Elm Street & N Surf Rd in Hollywood, FL. La Cantina #20 refined Mexican fare in a glitzy space with outdoor patio & authentic curios at the heart of Brickell; and Mizzen Plaza a strip mall strategically located in between Coconut Grove and US1.

About FA Commercial Advisors

FA Commercial Advisors provides a complete range of commercial real estate brokerage services – including owner and tenant leasing, acquisition and sales, marketing and consulting – to owners, investors and lessees of all property types. With an extensive international network of real estate professionals throughout the world, we offer local market knowledge on a global level.

About Fortune International Realty Commercial Division

The Commercial Division was created to offer specific advice and service to sophisticated clients, searching for a deep understanding of real estate businesses. This division has the purpose of coordinating and providing services to Fortune International Realty clients as well as residential and commercial associates interested in pursuing commercial real estate transactions.



Fabio Faerman of FA Commercial/Fortune International Realty (FIR) has brokered the sale of 16,676 SF residential lands located in Elm Street & N Surf Rd in Hollywood, FL at a price of $3,300,000 million. The fields, which are only separated by a street from the ocean, sold in an all-cash deal. Fabio Faerman represented the seller, who hold the property for more than 40 years.

These land lots are located in the Hollywood Beach Area of Broward County, Florida; in a mostly reserved land except for a few lots; the lots are surrounded by green, protected areas and are located in the corner across Hollywood Beach. “Since the lots are in a reserved area and only a few are available for sale and constructions, these properties represented a unique and exclusive deal for both, the buyer and the seller” Faerman said. The 16,676 SF are raw lots. The buyer plans to develop the property for future residential townhouses. In the same seller portfolio there are still available for sale 2 oceanfront lots of 6,400 SF. Lots are strategically located in N Surf Rd.

Hollywood, a classic Florida beachtown that’s enchanted visitors since the 1920s. Hollywood Beach features a one-of-a-kind oceanfront along the Atlantic Ocean. The easy ocean access and village-like feel make this a great destination for locals and turist. Numerous highly-rated restaurants, small inns and hotels right on the Broadwalk add a yesteryear charm. Hollywood Beach is among the first in Florida to be designated Blue Wave Beaches, a distinction that places them among the nations cleanest, safest and most user-friendly beaches.

Fabio Faerman and his team at FA Commercial are thrilled to contribute to the progress of Hollywood and the entire South Florida’s commercial real estate market with deals like this. Recently, Mr. Faerman proudly assisted on the closing of 4322 Hollywood Blvd., a former Blockbuster property. Currently, we have 2 new vacant commercial land listed for sale in Van Buren – Hollywood, FL. Additionally, Mr. Faerman and his team have worked on bring international business to South Florida such as Cipriani, a luxury restaurant owned by the sons of famed restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani. Coya Restaurant already renowned in London and Dubai, Coya is an authentic yet modern Peruvian restaurant. La Cantina # 20 refined Mexican fare in a glitzy space with outdoor patio & authentic curios at the heart of Brickell. Mizzen Plaza a strip mall strategically located in between Coconut Grove and US1, the strip mall is next to Coconut grove metrorail station.

About FA Commercial Advisors
FA Commercial Advisors provides a complete range of commercial real estate brokerage services – including owner and tenant leasing, acquisition and sales, marketing and consulting – to owners, investors and lessees of all property types. With an extensive international network of real estate professionals throughout the world, we offer local market knowledge on a global level.
About Fortune International Realty Commercial Division
The Commercial Division was created to offer specific advice and service to sophisticated clients, searching for a deep understanding of real estate businesses. This division has the purpose of coordinating and providing services to Fortune International Realty clients as well as residential and commercial associates interested in pursuing commercial real estate transactions.



Orlando City Soccer Club behaves like a real business

Mark R. Howard | 8/27/2015

With all due respect to the U.S. women’s World Cup soccer team and its world championship run, my favorite sports story this summer was a soccer story from Florida.

The Orlando City Soccer Club is the creation of Phil Rawlins, a businessman from the U.K. who settled in Orlando, and a Brazilian businessman, Flavio Augusto da Silva. Beginning in 2010, they operated the team successfully in the (lower level) North American Soccer League while seeking a Major League Soccer franchise, which they got in 2013. Orlando City signed a well-known Brazilian midfielder named Kaká to provide some start power and began MLS play in March, using the Citrus Bowl as its temporary home field.

Fans have been raucously enthusiastic. Orlando City sold out its entire offering of season tickets for 2015, and more than 60,000 attended the first MLS game. The team has been at or near the top in average attendance among MLS teams since then. Orlando City has marketed itself and Orlando vigorously as the “soccer capital of the South.”

Good for Orlando City. Good for Orlando.NewStadium

And now the part of the story that made it my favorite.

For better or worse, the owners of sports franchises in America have been able to leverage their teams’ visibility into claims on the public purse. By one accounting, professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams around the U.S. have received some $20 billion in subsidies for new facilities since 1990 – despite decades’ worth of studies and consensus among economist that the economic impact of sports stadiums is minimal and a bad deal for taxpayers. Eight Florida pro teams receive various kinds of state subsidies.

The ownership of Orlando City wasn’t shy about seeking public assistance for a permanent home field. It put together a deal with the city of Orlando and Orange County for a $115-million facility with about 20,000 seats. The city and county together went in for about $35 million to purchase and prepare a site.  Meanwhile, the team went begging to the state for $30 million, lining up with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and International Speedway Corp. (NASCAR’s owner), which all want taxpayer funds to expand or upgrade their venues.

A funny thing happened on the way to the public trough. The legislature got so caught up in trying to keep poor people from getting federal Medicaid money that it didn’t get around to the law that doled out to the wealthy team owners.

Orlando City could have done what the Jags, the Dolphins and NASCAR will likely do – double down on lobbyists and go back to Tallahassee next year. But it didn’t. The team had already begun to believe the market could support a stadium with 5,000 more seats than it had planned. And rather than wait on state funding, Orlando City decided that it would just build the stadium on its own, without taxpayers’ money.

The team is buying the stadium site and paying the city and county back what they spent for the land and improvements. It will finance its $130-million facility, own it and control all the associated revenue streams – concessions, fees for hosting other events, naming rights, etc. Like a real business.

Orlando City made it clear in announcing its decision that it didn’t have anything against public money and wasn’t trying to be the poster team for a new approach to stadium funding. Its decision was driven by its own needs, it said.

But in behaving like a real business, the team highlights what’s always been true – sports teams can operate with a lot less help from the government than they deserve. Incentives for firms creating jobs that pay well and broaden a community’s economic base are one thing, but why should taxpayers subsidize wealthy owners for whom the teams are basically toys? Some business groups, quick to complain about government “over-reach” and fiscal irresponsibility in some contexts, are silent when it comes to giving taxpayers’’ money to billionaires.

Those who make the argument that a city isn’t somehow validated until it has a professional sports franchise might consider Austin. The fastest-growing big city in America, Austin has focused state and local incentives on the tech industry and now has a tech sector any city in the country would kill for. The lack of a professional sports team doesn’t seem to have hurt either its development or sel-image.

Consider, also Jacksonville, which won’t be a great city until it develops its downtown, regardless how Jaguars perform. Or St. Petersburg, where the presence of the Tampa Bay Rays has been a non-factor in the emergence of a world-class-downtown. And where the city is beginning to realize that the 80 acres where Tropicana Field sits could generate a bigger economic bang as a tech hub than as a baseball field.

Meanwhile, Orlando City isn’t the only soccer franchise that has decided to pay its own way. The Los Angeles Football Club, an MLS expansion team slated to begin play in 2018, also has announced plans for a stadium – 22,000- seats, $250-million – that will be privately financed.

It may be that we’re entering an era in which communities have different notions of quality of life than before – a football or baseball team is a nice asset, but so is an arts community, good schools and a thriving entrepreneurial community. Doesn’t a team need a great city as much as a city needs a team? What does it say about a place if it has to bride a billionaire into staying put?

Orlando City’s decision to invest its own money in a stadium is about the best vote of confidence that the city of Orlando could get. The team may not establish a new template for all-private stadium financing, but they’ve shown that it’s possible. And the fans who come to the new stadium can enjoy the games secure in the knowledge that Orlando City didn’t have to squeeze other taxpayers to put their team on the field.

Originally published on

Florida Trend - The website for Florida business

Fabio Faerman Closes Bulk Sale Of Miami Condo Units For $6.7 Million

Aug 12, 2015

FA Commercial’s Fabio Faerman closed a $6.7 million bulk deal for a total of 21 units at Mint Condominium, located at 92 SW 3rd Street in Miami.

Faerman was the broker of record in the all cash transaction.

The deal represented an opportunity for the buyer to acquire a large number of units in the prime downtown building, strategically located in the epicenter of Miami’s flourishing cultural arts scene.

Situated on the eastern side of downtown Miami, Mint at Riverfront was built in 2010, designed by the renowned Revuelta Vega Leon  Architects and developed by Key International.

Mint – Press Release

Education is key to success “If you have knowledge and you work hard I believe you can accomplish anything.”  saidFabio Faerman – Fa Commercial’s CEO – in an interview with The MIAMI REAL ESTATE SHOW.

We invite you to view the whole interview here. Enjoy!

Written By Erik Bojnansky, Senior Writer; Photos By Silvia Ros


MCoveriami-Dade College history professor Paul George remembers when Flagler Street was literally Miami’s main street. “Growing up here in the 1950s,” he says, “downtown was the center of almost everything. There were movie theaters, Burdines, five-and-dime stores. It was wonderful. It’s sad to see what happened to it.”

What happened to it?

“The same thing that happened to other urban centers,” sighs George, who also contributes a HistoryMiami photo column to Biscayne Times. “Crime, homelessness….”

Yet like a number of other city centers that fell into decline in recent decades, Flagler is making a comeback. And while it may not have happened fast enough for George, in the next few years, “comeback” may be an understatement. Where Flagler passes through downtown’s Central Business District (CBD), the street is poised for a monumental boom.

Flagler Street stretches east-west for 12 miles, extending as far west as Galloway Road in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. But within the City of Miami’s downtown, Flagler Street spans barely a mile from the Miami River to Biscayne Boulevard and Bayfront Park.

Jam-packed into this mile is an urban maze, lined with buildings erected throughout the 20th Century and into this one as well. Flagler is where you’ll find the Stephen P. Clark Center (County Hall), the busy Metrorail Government Center stop, the 87-year-old Miami-Dade County Courthouse, the main Miami-Dade Public Library, the HistoryMiami Museum, the 89-year-old Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, and the 79-year-old Alfred I. DuPont Building.


Alfred I. DuPont Building: An Art Deco gem brought back to life by the Ressler family.

And that’s just for starters. Mini malls operate in office buildings and arcades. A jewelry district lies just a few blocks away from souvenir shops and discount stores. Cuban cafés serve up cortaditos and empanadas with a side of lottery tickets. You can find Italian and Asian-themed restaurants, and upscale coffee houses alongside 7-Elevens. And there’s the ever-present sound of buses, cars, and trucks mixed with music piping through electronic speakers.“This is quite the window of the world,” says Reid Foss, who works at the Christian Science Reading Room at 15 W. Flagler St. “You get the street people, the tourists, the business people, the lawyers. The people who walk by, they’re in their own little world. They have their headsets, they’re talking on the phone, and they’re not paying attention.”

Not that there’s much along that stretch of Flagler to draw their attention; some blocks and enclosed shopping areas on Flagler and nearby streets are filled with empty, shuttered storefronts. And after 7:00 in the evening, many existing businesses close, though some late-night food-and-beverage businesses have appeared on cross streets east of Miami Avenue, especially near Biscayne Boulevard.

“Anybody looking at it today would say Flagler needs a little TLC to get back to its former glory,” says Javier Betancourt, deputy director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), an agency supported by downtown-area taxpayers and dedicated to enhancing economic development in the Central Business District, Brickell, and Omni.


On weekends and afterhours, Flagler Street can feel deserted, a far cry from its heyday.

he desire of downtown interests to improve Flagler Street and the surrounding areas has led to a very public, and sometimes bitter, debate over how to deal with its hundreds of hardcore homeless.In an effort to publicize its frustration with efforts to obtain portable restrooms for the homeless, the DDA recently created a “poop app” to alert users to the location of human feces on sidewalks and other public spaces. The gambit worked. The resulting poop map drew nationwide attention.

In response, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado authorized $500,000 to obtain the restrooms. And responding to pressure from county officials, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust also launched the initiative “Strike Force: Urban Core” on July 24. According to a county press release, Strike Force is “a 90-day effort to house all the homeless identified inside a 42-block radius of downtown Miami.”

The real game-changer for Flagler Street, however, will be a $13 million streetscape slated to begin as early as this month. Plans are to replace aging infrastructure, widen and repair sidewalks, add shade trees, and install streetlights and other street furniture along Flagler between Biscayne Boulevard and the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.

The project — paid for by contributions from Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and special assessments charged to property owners — comes a decade after a $9 million streetscape was launched in 2005.


Bayfront Park and busy Flagler Street from the early 1950s, with popular bandshell, newly completed main library, and a modest skyline. Courtesy of HistoryMiami

“It was only an aesthetic improvement, and it wasn’t even a good one at that,” Betancourt says of the previous streetscape. “We need to give it another shot and do it right this time.”

Once the streetscape is complete, downtown boosters hope new restaurants, sidewalk cafés, and retailers will move to Flagler Street.

“We’re encouraging the development of a higher-end sort of retail,” says Eddie Padilla, executive director of the Downtown Miami Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes downtown area businesses and events.

There’s already a wave of private-sector interest on Flagler, spurred by nearby mega-projects such as Brickell City Centre, All Aboard Florida’s Miami Central train station, and Nitin Motwani’s proposed Worldcenter. The Melo Group’s Flagler on the River, a 32-story condo/apartment tower that just opened at 340 W. Flagler St., is somewhat cut off from the rest of the street by an I-95 overpass. However, it’s hard to miss the looming 37-story skeleton of the future Centro condominium at 151 E. Flagler St. being built by local developer Harvey Hernandez.

Then there’s the investment at Flagler’s parallel cousin: SE 1st Street. Venezuelan investors are converting the circa 1925 Miami National Bank Building at 121 SE 1st St. into the upscale 126-room Langford Hotel. Set to open in September, the Langford will feature a ground-level restaurant called PB Station and a rooftop lounge named Pawn Broker.

Meanwhile architect-turned-developer Charles Siegler is seeking setback variances from the city that will enable him to replace a parking garage at 37 SW 1st St. with Liquid Lofts, a 75-story condo.

Finally, there’s Moishe Mana, an Israeli-born developer known for his impact in New York’s Meatpacking District a decade ago and for his 30-plus-acre real estate empire in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District today.


Rendering of the Flagler Streetscape project includes much wider sidewalks, lush shade trees, and very happy people.

Besides amassing a Wynwood fiefdom, Mana has sunk $75 million into the purchase of several properties on or near Flagler Street between NE 2nd Avenue and N. Miami Avenue. His strategy, outlined in a video posted on the developer’s Facebook page June 12, is to purchase as many properties at key intersections as possible in order to “achieve critical mass” and “dictate the change.”

“It’s like Cinderella who needs to have a dress,” Mana says in the video. “Once you put the dress on Cinderella, she’s not Cinderella anymore. And that’s the way I feel about Flagler Street. I think we can unveil the beauty of Flagler Street and bring it back to the way it was.”

Peter Zalewski, a real estate analyst and founder of, believes that most Flagler investors, including Mana, are positioning themselves for the next development boom. “It appears as if the private-sector strategies for the Flagler Street area are more about land banking and obtaining development entitlements for the next cycle than pursuing any game-changing projects today,” Zalewski states in an e-mail to the BT. “[Hernandez’s] Centro condo tower…is a guinea pig of sorts, in that [other] developers are watching closely to see how the project performs.”

Tony Arellano, executive vice president of Metro 1 Properties, predicts that eventually there will be retail/residential projects 80 stories high, buildings made all the more possible by recent tweaks in the downtown area’s zoning code, which allows for massive structures without parking spaces.

In addition, along Flagler and in the Central Business District generally, commercial rents are cheap compared to other areas of Miami, says Arellano. Retail rents in Wynwood can go as high as $60 per square foot, but Flagler Street retail rents range from $20 to $35 per square foot. Office rents range from $10 to $40 a square foot.


Streetscape formula for success: Bustling sidewalk cafés, limited parking for loading and valet, regular street festivals.

Rental rates will likely climb higher as the older, Class C, office buildings are renovated, the mom-and-pop tourist-trap “legacy tenants” are replaced with fashionable stores and restaurants, and more residential units catering to young professionals come online. Says Arellano: “There’s a ton of potential on Flagler that hasn’t been realized.”

And the instrument of change that forces out some of the older stores and businesses will be the Flagler Streetscape. The project will involve a slew of utility and drainage issues beneath the pavement and take at least 18 months to complete, DDA’s Betancourt says. During that time, Flagler Street and its sidewalks will be cratered, making it all the more difficult for current businesses to operate.

But you don’t have to wait for the start of the Flagler Streetscape to watch small businesses decline. While a significant number of stores and eateries still operate in Flagler Station at 148 E. Flagler St., one of Mana’s newly acquired properties, there are also plenty of empty storefronts. Just four restaurants remain in Flagler Station’s sizable upstairs food court.

Yolanda Jarquin has operated Isla Dorada Restaurant in Flagler Station for 12 years. For the first six, Flagler Station received steady business from Brazilian and Argentine tourists in search of bargains. “Now we don’t have the tourists,” she says.

Rosa Cardenas has run a discount jewelry store on Flagler for 16 years, three of those being inside Flagler Station. She says she’ll close by the end of the summer. “The rent is high, $1800 a month,” she explains, adding that the new landlord wants double that amount.

But Edica Amoretti just opened Amoretti Sandwich & More inside Flagler Station. She’s sure business will grow once Miami Central station and Worldcente


Flagler Street today: Too many vacant storefronts, too many fortifications, too little nighttime activity.

r open. “It’s slow, but it’s going to get better,” she says. “This is the place to be.”

Terrell Neil Fritz is a guide for the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects and usually leads small groups through downtown. But on this particular day, Fritz is detailing the area’s history and showing the BT around his own backyard — for the past five years, Fritz has been living at the Flagler First Condominium, at 101 E. Flagler.

Built in 1923, the structure was originally Flagler First National Bank, a financial institution run by Edward Romfh, one of Miami’s early mayors. During the Roaring Twenties, Romfh insisted on keeping a lot of cash in the bank, a policy for which he was ridiculed, until the crash of 1929.

“So then came the bust and the Depression, and there was a run on the banks,” Fritz says. “Romfh got wheelbarrows of money, stood on the mezzanine, and said, ‘You’ll get every penny you have in this bank, and we’ll stay open until every customer has been served.’ It was aWonderful Life story, and this is the only bank that survived the Depression.”

A reminder of those days can be found in First Flagler’s lobby, where the bank vault is now the building’s mailroom.

“When they did the redevelopment for residential, the thought was that they’d remove the vault,” Fritz says. “That didn’t happen because it cannot happen. They [the vault designers] knew what they were doing. So we have the most elegant mailroom in Miami.”

Fritz, a 30-year-veteran in the tumultuous world of guiding or advising economic development in various Florida communities (including a stint at the DDA), loves living on Flagler Street. For one thing, he says, it’s close to the Olympia Theater, where his longtime partner, Robert Geitner, works as executive director. (Fritz also advises the theater on marketing, on a volunteer basis.) For another, it’s close to numerous bus and rail stops, and a Whole Foods Market that operates on the ground floor of the 35-story Monarc at Met 3 condo, which is still under construction at 250 SE 3rd Ave.

“Flagler Street is at the core of all of Miami,” Fritz declares. “The incredible development in Greater Miami gives you the ability to live in a wonderful historic district and then be able to go to the Adrienne Arsht Center by bus in minutes or go to Brickell in the Metromover in no time at all.”


Eddie Padilla of the Downtown Miami Partnership: “We’re encouraging the development of a higher-end sort of retail.”

lagler Street was at the center of Miami even before it was Flagler. In 1898, just two years after the City of Miami was incorporated, R.W. Burdine leased an acre of land to build his second Burdines store at what was originally known as 12th Street. That store made so much money selling clothes to construction workers and land investors that he closed his first store in Bartow, just east of Tampa, and expanded the second. The massive Burdines store continued to operate at that spot until it was rebranded as a Macy’s in 2004.By 1920, 12th Street was renamed Flagler in honor of the former oilman who connected the Fort Dallas trading post along the Miami River with the rest of civilization via the Florida East Coast Railroad, and helped incorporate the trading post into the City of Miami.

The same year that 12th Street became Flagler Street, then-Miami Councilman Josiah Chaille implemented a grid system in which streets (running east-west) and avenues (north-south) extending from the intersection of Flagler Street and Miami Avenue were given numbers and compass points — northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.

One of Miami’s earliest paved roads, Flagler Street was the heart of Miami’s economy, which — much like today — chiefly concerned the buying and selling of properties.

“You could buy a piece of swampland at Flagler Street and 1st Avenue, and walk one block over to the Olympia Theater and sell it for twice as much,” Fritz says. “It was real speculation. It was really a boom — and it really busted.”

The Miami skyline responded to those booms and busts. Fritz points out early 20th-century buildings that either added floors when times were good or demolished stories when the economy tanked.

Yet through the booms and busts, the area survived, Fritz says, adding, “Flagler Street is far more complex than any other of our commercial districts. Miracle Mile [in Coral Gables] is one of our most amazing commercial streets in South Florida. But you can’t compare it to Flagler Street.”

Flagler Street was also the boulevard of second chances. La Época, for example, was founded in Havana in 1885. In 1960 La Época, under the ownership of Diego and Angel Alonso, was the third-largest department store in Havana when the Castro regime seized it. Fearing arrest, the Alonsos came to Miami.


Terrell Neil Fritz, downtown architecture guide: “Flagler Street is far more complex than any other of our commercial districts.”

“They thought they were going to go back,” says Brian Alonso, Diego’s grandson. Five years later, with funds running low, Diego Alonso and his sons Tony and Pepe decided to start over as a corner store at the bottom floor of the Alfred I. DuPont Building. The store soon expanded and took over the entire floor. Today La Época operates within the first three levels of the 50,000-square-foot, circa 1937 Walgreens space, at 200 E. Flagler Street, which the Alonso family owns.“This September is our 50th year in downtown Miami,” Brian Alonso says. “We’re the oldest department store downtown. We say that jokingly. Burdines was here much longer than we were, but now Burdines is Macy’s.”

It was around the time when La Época put down roots on Flagler that Miami’s downtown area went through its first transition. By the late 1960s, middle-class whites were leaving in droves for the suburbs. The Flagler Street area lost its residential base, says historian Paul George, and as a result, it became the mainly nine-to-five operation it is today. Although Burdines didn’t close, many other Flagler retailers left.

But downtown didn’t die. It just took on a more Latin flavor as Cuban exiles like the Alonsos opened their own businesses. One of them was Natan Rok, who, with his uncle, opened Dandy Men’s Wear at 72 E. Flagler St. in 1965. By 1972 Rok was snatching up Flagler Street properties on the cheap and renting the spaces to small-business owners. Eventually he became one of the largest property owners on Flagler Street, an empire that, though now somewhat smaller, continues under Natan’s son, Sergio. (Natan Rok died in 2012. Sergio was unavailable to comment for this story.)

Key to Natan Rok’s early real estate growth was the success of his new tenants, many of whom were also Cuban exiles. Their shops were a huge hit with Latin American tourists, and Flagler experienced a rebound of sorts.


The Seybold Building (circa 1926) once housed law offices, but in the 1970s it became jewelry central, and remains so today.

“Strong Latin American currencies guaranteed a steady stream of Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian, and other tourists through the end of the Sixties,” wrote William Labbee in “Viva Flagler!” a 1990 article for Miami New Times. “And when Venezuela basked in an oil boom in the mid- and late Seventies, Flagler also flourished.” It was during the 1970s that the circa 1926 Seybold Building at 36 NE 1st St. transitioned from being an office filled with lawyers into a retail center filled with jewelers.But the fairly good times didn’t last. Falling oil prices and inflation battered Latin American economies, and downtown Miami merchants either died or adapted.

“Many of the merchants who survived the lean years held on by gearing their businesses toward lower-income shoppers,” Labbee continued. “Those who couldn’t withstand the slump were replaced by electronics and jewelry dealers, who were willing to pay high rents to secure a place downtown.”

That secure place for jewelers was near other jewelers, and when they ran out of space in the Seybold Building, they moved to nearby locations, giving birth to a jewelry district on Flagler and NE 1st Street.

Meanwhile, discount stores and tourist stores proliferated along Flagler Street, especially electronic stores and luggage shops, much to the annoyance of downtown-area planners who longed for a diverse mix of retailers.

“They [the luggage and electronics stores] really didn’t provide a great shopping experience for people visiting downtown because there were a lot of them,” says the Downtown Partnership’s Padilla, who worked in Miami’s downtown Neighborhood Enhancement Team office from 2002 to 2008.


La Época’s Havana owners, fearing arrest, fled Havana in 1960; today their grandsons Brian and Randy Alonso, run the store.

The electronics stores were a particular problem since some of the owners were less than ethical, Padilla says. “There were a lot of complaints from people who visited, that they’d purchase their equipment and then they’d go to their respective countries and realize that the equipment was faulty.” Those who found out before they left Miami called the police. “There was nothing we could do because it wasn’t exactly illegal,” he sighs, “but just bad consumer practices.”Even as discount shops did brisk business, some Flagler buildings were deteriorating. Gary Ressler, principal of the Tilia Companies, says his family started investing in Flagler Street in 1991, when they bought the Alfred I. DuPont Building. Except for La Época, the building was empty. “All the metal was rusted over,” he remembers. “The stone was blemished.”

The DuPont, which is downtown’s only Art Deco building, went through a series of renovations and restorations spanning 14 years. Among the changes was the conversion of the old bank space on the second floor into a lounge area now used for special events. “We spent lots of money, but it certainly paid off. We’re 90 percent occupied,” Ressler says.

The Olympia Theater at 174 E. Flagler St. wouldn’t even exist today if it hadn’t been purchased by philanthropist Maurice Gusman in 1975. Designed by John Eberson in 1926, the Olympia is an intricately designed theater that originally screened silent movies and presented vaudeville acts. Gusman, who died in 1980 at the age of 91, donated the theater to the city. Since then the venue has hosted film festivals and live performances in between its various and costly interior renovations.

Currently under the management of a nonprofit headed by former Hialeah Councilman Herman Echevarría, the Olympia had a busy season last year and, with the support of a $50,000 Knight Arts Challenge Grant, will be hosting free events on Wednesdays during DWNTWN Art Days, starting in September, according to executive director Robert Geitner. Scheduled shows and activities so far include Kraftwerk, MOTH with WLRN, and recent cinema from Spain.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that although the theater’s ornate interior is now fully restored, pieces of the building’s façade tend to fall off, hence the scaffolding currently surrounding it. It’ll cost $12 to $14 million to fix. The nonprofit Olympia Center Inc., which has avoided asking for funds from the city since it took over the theater four years ago, will soon be reversing that policy.

“As champions for the facility,” Geitner explains, “we’ve met with the mayor, the city manager, and staff, and will hopefully see the first of a multiyear commitment to create funding for the $11 to $12 million that the city needs for exterior repairs in the coming fiscal year.”


The magnificent Olympia Theater is busy with programming, much of it free, but the building exterior is falling apart — literally.

he Olympia is more than just a theater. It’s also subsidized affordable housing. In 1997 the Cornerstone Group converted a ten-story office building above the theater into 80 assisted-living housing units. It was one of several affordable-housing projects undertaken during the 1990s to entice people to move back downtown.By 2001, with the help of $3 million in subsidies related to housing and historic renovation, Sergio Rok and Rafael Kapustin converted Flagler First National Bank into Flagler First Condominium. Most of the condo, though, was pushed as a market-rate condo. “The future of [downtown] is in housing, market-rate residential to be exact,” Rok told the Miami Herald 14 years ago.

By the next building boom, market-rate or near market-rate condos were being proposed in downtown Miami. As of 2014, 14,358 people lived in the Central Business District, according to the DDA. The median household income of the CBD was $67,369. While that’s well above income figures for the county as a whole, it still pales in comparison to last year’s statistics for Brickell, with 32,489 residents and a median household income of $100,307.

The arrival of a residential base in downtown has had a positive impact on commercial retail. In the Flagler Street area, Fritz says, it can be felt block by block. Retail and restaurants located between N. Miami Avenue and I-95 close before 7:00 p.m. because their customer base is dependent on office workers and county employees. But NE 3rd Avenue has a thriving mix of restaurants, bars, clubs, and retail. It’s in the shadow of 50 Biscayne, a 54-story, 528-unit condo just north of Flagler Street that opened in 2007.


Olympia Theater executive director Robert Geitner is hoping for up to $12 million from the city for needed building repairs.

The Peruvian restaurant Cvi.Che 105 achieved widely publicized success when it opened on NE 3rd Avenue back in 2008. Still, it took a while before the rest of the block could catch Cvi.Che’s magic, says Lorry Woods, co-owner of Elwoods Gastro Pub at 188 NE 3rd Ave. “Five years ago, this was a scary street at night,” says Woods, who lives in 50 Biscayne with her British-born husband. “There was one 24-hour restaurant that I think has been here 30 years.” But within the last six months, she reports, there have been block parties on NE 3rd Avenue that have gone past 2:00 a.m.“There’s so much here that’s so amazing,” says Woods. “We’re on the verge of becoming a world-class city.”

Woods, who serves on the Downtown Miami Partnership Board and is running for city commissioner, would like to see the entire Flagler area benefit from downtown’s surge in population. “When you walk around…you’re going to see some blight, and it’s frustrating,” she says.

Ricardo Mor is also frustrated. Living in West Miami, where he was born and raised, the 29-year-old works at the Miami Center for Architecture & Design, the circa 1913 building where the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects is based. “I’d love to live and work in this community,” says Mor, who also writes opinion pieces for the Miami Herald. “It’s just that the rents are still too high.”

According to the rental website Zumper, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the central business district is $2000 a month. Rents are even higher for one-bedrooms in nearby Brickell ($2100 a month), although they’re somewhat lower in the Omni area ($1925 a month).

In spite of the high rents, Fritz says, downtown residents tend to be young. “The rents are as high as they are because there’s a market, and it’s a very young market,” he say. “Obviously, it’s a market that they can afford. I’m 60 years old, and except for my partner, the next oldest person in the building is probably 30. It’s the youngest metropolitan area in the nation.”


Lorry Woods, co-owner of Elwoods Gastro Pub at 180 NE 3rd Ave.: “Five years ago, this was a scary street at night.”

In the shadow of the future 352-unit Centro condominium building, and across the street from the Olympia, is a café with a homey, creative vibe called Havana Coffee and Tea. Co-owner Tanya Bredemeier admits she and her partners opened in a DuPont Building storefront “by accident” a year ago. She believes in good luck. “In the next two years, it’s going to be the place to be,” she says.Next door, Brian Alonso and his brother Randy of La Época have opened a chic clothing store called Lost Boy Dry Goods. In Brian Alonso’s view, the store symbolizes the future of Flagler: “We have a vision for the street and what the street will become, and we wanted to sort of lead the way.”

Stores catering to young professionals are a near certainty, he believes — another positive outcome of the Flagler Streetscape. “This project is going to be the catalyst,” Alonso says. “So whatever you say about Flagler’s conditions today, it’s all going to change.”

Originally published: