Q&A: The Rise of Urbanization

Miami—Live-work-play environments are becoming a necessity in urban areas to create the all-in-one experience for today’s residents. Gone are the days of living in isolation, as more renters are looking for that community feel to provide them with top amenities, easy access to office, entertainment, dining and green space both in and around their neighborhood. The trend of these “mini cities” is increasing in popularity and Multi-Housing News sat down with Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners, to discuss this growing trend of urbanization, the company’s newest project Downtown Doral in Miami, the benefits of the live-work-play community and how these developments will affect the future of the multifamily industry.

MHN: Why is the urbanization trend taking over in the industry?

Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners

Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners

Codina: In its recent trends report, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) found that household formation is expected to increase by 86 percent over the next 10 years and that more than half of those new households will be choosing to rent. The urbanization trend is driven by young workers, working mothers and Millennials who, as they progress through their careers and become a larger part of the executive workforce, are making rental decisions based on cost, proximity to work and proximity to the things they enjoy. In other years, that meant urban living, but today, many urban areas are pricing this new generation out of the market. As a result, communities that provide an urban feel, good education options, walkable amenities and trendy shops and restaurants at the price of the suburbs—or “Surban” areas—are becoming more popular.

MHN: What about this trend is most appealing?

Codina: More than anything, Surban communities like Downtown Doral in South Florida, Reston Town Center in Virginia and Old Town in Pasadena offer their residents a live-work-play-learn environment that mirrors city living, without the high prices, cramped living space and lack of privacy. As this generation continues to focus on more of a work-life blend, Surban communities that make it possible for residents to spend more time with their families and less time in the car will continue to be an appealing option. Surban communities also appeal to the new American Dream. Instead of white picket fences, today’s growing families are looking for communities that provide both the city feel and suburbia’s amenities. Urban elements, mixed with suburban green spaces and amenities, highlight why Surban communities are becoming more attractive for today’s home seekers.

MHN: Where did the idea of Downtown Doral come from?

Codina: In 2003, Doral incorporated and became its own municipality, the City of Doral. At that time, Codina Partners saw an opportunity to acquire 120 acres of contiguous office space in the center of this new city—an opportunity that does not come along every day in Miami Dade County. We instantly saw that, based on its size and location, the decades-old commercial park and greyfield had the potential to become the urban heart of the city. Today, Downtown Doral is a vibrant, booming community that includes 200,000 square feet of carefully curated retail stores and restaurants purposefully free of larger chains; more than 1 million square feet of commercial space; 400,000 square feet of Class A office space; more than 2,840 residential units, an award-wining, A-rated charter elementary school; a city hall and 4.5 acres public green spaces featuring art from world-renowned artists and sculptors.

MHN: What was the process for creating this live-work-play environment?

Codina: Codina Partners has a legacy of leaving places better than they found them. Our specialty is taking on complicated projects that not everyone can develop. We develop integrated, mixed-use projects that create true live-work-play-learn communities, like Downtown Doral. In August 2005, Codina Partners engaged Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. Partner, Elizabeth Platter-Zyrbek, to lead a design charrette of top architects—including RTKO and Perkins + Will—engineers, developers, planners and real estate professionals to come up with a comprehensive plan for Downtown Doral. As we continued to develop the different phases of Downtown Doral, we used a number of different architects to give the community an authentic feel, but we have always kept true to our original plan. The notion of a truly “Live, Work, Learn and Play” community is infused into every piece of artwork, every brick, stone and every carefully planned detail. It involved years and years of work and collaboration with city and county officials to turn our vision into a reality and develop this truly wholesome community. We achieved this through countless hours curating a variety of high-end, locally-owned retailers, free of larger chain corporations. We also partnered with the Miami Dade County School Board when developing the Downtown Doral Charter Elementary School to create a unique curriculum and learning center for students. As we conceptualized this Surban community, we also wanted to ensure that our residents had a place to interact with one another and engage in community events. Therefore, Codina Partners donated the park land to the city, which now hosts Doral-wide family-friendly gatherings, music and cultural festivals and celebrations. In an effort to promote art and culture throughout the community, Codina Partners spent $1 million creating the park and an additional $1 million on Micco, a large shade sculpture in the park created by artist Michele Oka Doner.

MHN: Where do you see the trend going?

Codina: With the expected rise in family formations and the home ownership at an all-time low, we believe that Surban communities will become an integral part of the real estate landscape over the next decade, especially as businesses and corporations take notice of the benefits and continue to choose these areas to provide cheaper, more attractive housing opportunities for their employees. Walkable live-work-play-learn communities will continue to thrive. These communities are what millennials and our next generation want. According to NAR’s 2013 Community Preference Survey, 60 percent of respondents favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses, stores and other businesses that are easy to walk to, rather than neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation.

Downtown Doral aerial rendering

Downtown Doral aerial rendering

MHN: What markets would benefit most from implementing this idea?

Codina: Because urbanization stems from wanting to live in urban areas with high walkability levels and the need for more competitive housing costs, markets in close proximity to metropolitan urban areas will benefit most from the growing Surban trend.

MHN: How will this affect the future of multifamily developments?

Codina: As Surban development becomes more commonplace, the multifamily industry will need to adapt. With an estimated 79 percent of new households projected to settle in the suburbs over the next decade and recent data showing 86 percent of Millennials saying it was important for their community to offer opportunities to live and work without relying on a car, it’s clear that demand from today’s renters/buyers for Surban communities with holistic amenities will continue to grow. We believe that this growing demand is one of the key reasons why the multifamily offerings have been in such high demand, while sales in urban areas like Downtown Miami and Brickell are struggling.

MHN: Does Codina Partners have other live-work-play projects in the works? If so where and when are they set to open?

Codina: Currently, we’re seeking to transform the historic city of Coral Gables. Our new development, 2020 Salzedo is located in the heart of Coral Gables, Fla., a high-demand, high-barrier to entry city with a historic look and feel. The development will help turn Coral Gables into a metropolitan, self-sustained and walkable community, all while keeping its historic charm. 2020 Salzedo includes 213 luxury rental units in a 16-story residential tower, 49,379 square feet of office space, 6,882 square feet of ground-level retail space, 566 parking spaces in a seven-story garage, Wi-Fi-enabled common areas, a dry cleaner, a car wash, a beautifully landscaped plaza and more. Codina Partners is not only developing 2020 Salzedo, but we also moved our headquarters into the building. This decision not only aligns with Codina Partners’ commitment to responsible development, but it also shows how much we believe in this trend by providing our associates with greater access to this increasingly desired live-work-play lifestyle.

Headshot courtesy of Codina Partners

Video and photo courtesy of Downtown Doral