An Inside Peek Into Downtown Miami’s Dual Tower Mega-Development

Martin Melo shares details about Downtown 5th, Melo Group’s biggest project to date.

As an increasing number of businesses look to relocate or expand, Miami continues to be an attraction for all—investors, developers and residents. The metro’s year-round good weather, favorable tax environment and reduced living and business expenses all contribute to its appeal, according to Melo Group Co-Principal Martin Melo, the developer behind Downtown 5th, a 52-story dual-tower project.

Downtown 5th. Image courtesy of Melo Group

The 1.5 million-square-foot development marks Miami’s central business district and the company’s biggest single project in number of units, with the buildings including 1,042 apartments, roughly 12,000 square feet of retail space and 1,049 parking spaces. Multi-Housing News asked Melo to share his vision for Downtown 5th and talk about the challenges that come with a project of this magnitude in downtown Miami. 

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What was the concept behind the project? Why twin towers? 

Martin Melo, Co-Principal, Melo Group. Image courtesy of Melo Group

Martin Melo, Co-Principal, Melo Group. Image courtesy of Melo Group

Melo: Our firm’s guiding principle has been to always build for what the market demands. And now more than ever, we’re seeing people in need of good quality, attainably priced housing in a convenient, walkable, urban location, close to their jobs and free public transit. Downtown 5th will help fill that void in downtown Miami’s central business district. Although there are plenty new towers on the rise across Miami, there are actually very little moderately priced options.

We decided to build Downtown 5th as twin 52-story towers because it was the most efficient use of the site and made the most sense in terms of allowable density. In the span of the last four years, we just recently completed four multifamily developments—two of which are also twin tower projects—with more than 2,300 rental units a few blocks away in downtown Miami’s arts and entertainment district. Nearly all of them are fully leased to full-time working professionals. So, we clearly saw the need for more of this type of product in the area.

What innovations does Downtown 5th bring to the market?

Melo: One of the most important standout features right now at Downtown 5th is balcony space—all of the development’s 1,042 units will include a balcony. With people spending more and more time at home—in a lot of cases, even working from home—we’re seeing balconies are the No. 1 amenity people are looking for right now when renting an apartment. The project will also feature a large common-area workspace—multiuse space that tenants can reserve and utilize at their convenience in a socially distanced environment.

With that in mind, we’re also including the most advanced fiber optic internet technology in all units, a very important feature for people working from home or parents with children who are attending virtual school right now.

Downtown 5th is also located across the street from Bayfront Park, one of Miami’s most beautiful waterfront parks, where tenants can take a jog, set up a picnic or just simply enjoy some wide-open green space close to home.

Please talk about the biggest challenges you had to overcome to develop the project.

Melo: Of course, building two 52-story towers simultaneously is no easy feat. But thanks to our firm’s integrated model—we manage everything in-house, from construction and architecture to property management—and our construction team, we were able to complete both buildings in record time.

We would say our other biggest challenge—which remains the same at all of our projects—is to be able to create the best quality product, in the best location, at the best price. This is something we strive for with each and every project we build. Thanks to our fully integrated model and foresight, we’ve been able to acquire land in prime locations early on and offer our tenants very competitive rental rates.

It took only 37 weeks after Downtown 5th’s foundation pour in February 2020 to complete the vertical construction of the first tower. How did you do this, considering construction was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak?

Melo: We’ve put all of our effort and money behind our construction workers. They’re like family to us. We continue to take all the necessary measures and precautions to keep our workers and employees safe amid the current COVID-19 crisis. And we’re very thankful we’ve been able to keep our construction workers employed and paid and have helped to maintain the workforce.

How much do you expect the health crisis to impact the preleasing process?

Downtown 5th. Image courtesy of Melo Group

Downtown 5th. Image courtesy of Melo Group

Melo: In the last 10 years, downtown Miami has really evolved into a global destination for business and lifestyle. But now we’re seeing people moving and opening up companies here from major cities across the U.S. and abroad in search of lower taxes, improved quality of life and reduced expenses—especially from high-tax states in colder regions where COVID-19 could become more widespread as the winter season progresses.

At some of our other rental properties, we’ve seen a lot of people from the Northeast—New York, Connecticut, Boston, New Jersey—as well as North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan. As more and more businesses look to relocate or expand to downtown Miami, we’re building housing for the thousands of employees who will come with them and need a place to live.

What does the typical Downton 5th resident look like? 

Melo: We’re seeing a lot of demand from young professionals, Millennials and the local mid-income workforce—people who want to live close to where they work and socialize. They want to be able to live their daily lives all within a few blocks of their apartments—they want to walk to the grocery store, get their haircut at the building next door, take their dog across the street to the park, take a five-minute Uber to a bar or restaurant, walk to the train station, etc.

Downtown 5th benefits from a convenient central location in the heart of downtown, surrounded by an array of restaurants, shops, entertainment options, public parks and neighborhood amenities and services, all within walking distance.

Downtown 5th. Image courtesy of Melo Group

Downtown 5th. Image courtesy of Melo Group

What’s your take on Miami’s multifamily market in 2021 and beyond?

Melo: We believe in Miami’s long-term future. The rise of Downtown 5th follows a decade of growth that has solidified downtown Miami as an economic engine and global destination. Miami’s urban core is now home to approximately 100,000 residents—up more than 50 percent since 2010—and welcomes 250,000 visitors and workers daily, as per the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s most recent demographics report.

According to the agency, downtown Miami is the source of annual economic output, valued at more than $38 billion, with the district being home to more companies and jobs than any other neighborhood in Florida. We anticipate Downtown Miami will grow even more in the year ahead and expect continued demand for apartments as more and more people want to live and relocate here.

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