How Miami’s Laguna Gardens Is Harnessing the Live Local Act

Developing workforce housing in a high-cost market is difficult, but not impossible. Asi Cymbal of Cymbal DLT weighs in.

In a complicated economic environment that makes it challenging to strike a balance between housing affordability and profitability, resourceful developers are finding ways to build with accessibility in mind. In South Florida, the Live Local Act, for example, is seen as a beacon of hope in the midst of the region’s housing crisis. Enacted as a response to the pressing need for workforce and affordable housing, the initiative offers a lifeline to developers, providing them with tax incentives, credits and low-interest loans. In exchange, they commit to dedicate a substantial portion of their projects to low- and moderate-income renters.

Cymbal DLT, a development and construction company based in Miami, recently completed construction on Laguna Gardens, a 341-unit project at 20775 NW 17th Ave. that spans across 14 acres. Taking advantage of the tax breaks offered by Florida’s Live Local Act, Cymbal is on track to deliver a 100 percent workforce housing development for individuals earning at or below 120 percent of the area median income—which in Miami-Dade County was $74,700 as of last year—and provide housing for essential workers in the metro. Upon completion this year, Laguna Gardens will encompass one- to three-bedroom units, with rents starting at $2,000 a month, a rarity in a market often dominated by high rates.

Multi-Housing News asked Cymbal DLT Chairman Asi Cymbal to provide details about the Laguna Gardens project and expand on the benefits of initiatives such as the Live Local Act for multifamily developers.

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What will be the overall resident experience at Laguna Gardens? Why will prospects want to live in this neighborhood?

Cymbal: While Laguna Gardens is an attainable luxury multifamily development, offering below market rate rents through the Live Local Act, it is on par with other high-end residential buildings in South Florida. Mirroring amenities found in Oasis Pointe, a luxury waterfront apartment community in Dania Beach that Cymbal DLT delivered in 2022, Laguna Gardens will feature a resort-style lap pool, coworking center with private office suites, clubroom, rooftop lounge, dog park and more.

The firm also focuses on seamlessly incorporating nature into everyday life for residents, designing the garden-style community around a preserved lagoon while adding zen and butterfly gardens in every pocket between buildings. Natural floral and lush landscaping has also been incorporated for a serene living experience.

Its central location is also extremely desirable, adjacent to the Hard Rock Stadium and in close proximity to Miami International Airport, as well as the city’s urban cores. It is the first new residential development in the area in years, and will offer an elevated living experience to local hometown heroes such as firefighters, teachers, nurses, police etc.

What would you say are the most striking architectural aspects of the project? Is there a particular element of the project that you like most? 

Cymbal: The most striking architectural element would be the entirety of the exterior architecture. We worked with Jo Palma, an award-winning international designer, and his team to redefine how garden-style apartment communities should look. Cymbal DLT believes it’s a right for everyone to live in and frequent places that promote inspiring design and foster connection while respecting and preserving our natural environment. Bold, white facades criss-cross the land with pockets of nature throughout, showcasing a natural yet futuristic design that can be enjoyed from the ground level or even from a birds-eye view.

Securing funding for a project of this size must be challenging considering all the economic fluctuations we’ve been through over the past few years. How difficult was it to obtain funding for the project?

Cymbal: In this market, it all comes down to your track record. While there’s cautious optimism in the development community on the upcoming federal interest rate cuts, which should bring down financing costs, banks will still be holding the reigns tight and only lending to top developers.

After successfully delivering Oasis Pointe Residences after just 14 months in the midst of the pandemic, we were able to roll right into securing a $102.5 million loan for Laguna Gardens from Related Fund Management, an affiliate of Related Cos.

Tell us how the Live Local Act helped you turn all the units to workforce housing without giving up your original plans when it comes to quality finishes and amenities.

Cymbal: A great aspect of the Live Local Act is the flexibility of the bill. We were able to implement it as we are nearing completion of Laguna Gardens. Thankfully, it penciled out for Cymbal DLT to offer all 341 apartment units at below-market rental rates through the bill. Our firm wanted to offer a true luxury product that elevates the living experience, rather than cutting corners. The decision to keep the plans as is also ensured that no height, density or additional footprint was added.

Do you plan to enroll other projects in the Live Local Act?

Cymbal: Cymbal DLT is currently exploring the implementation of the Live Local Act into other developments within our portfolio. We think the bill will have a very positive impact on the South Florida multifamily market, helping make elevated housing product more attainable for the workforce.

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What else needs to change to stimulate more developers to make a positive, realistic impact on the area’s multifamily market in the years to come?

Cymbal: The tax savings developers will garner from the Live Local Act are already creating a positive jumpstart on more attainable housing being developed in the area. The next piece of the puzzle would be interest rates coming down, therefore lowering construction costs and making building affordable housing even more feasible.

What do you think will be the impact of the project on the local economy?

Cymbal: Laguna Gardens will breathe new life into the Miami Gardens community, being its first new residential development in years. Cymbal DLT’s vision is to offer our most essential community members an elevated lifestyle at an attainable price point. Hopefully, this will kickstart the arrival of additional new projects to the market.

When do you anticipate completing the project? How are leasing efforts going?

Cymbal: The project is now complete and residents are continuing to move in. There’s been a lot of demand. It really is a one-of-a-kind product in the Miami Gardens market. Laguna Gardens has been attractive for sports fans who want to reside near the Hard Rock Stadium to regularly attend games.

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