To Trigger Home Sales In Its Master Planned Community, This Developer Built A School
In the 1950s, a Florida couple bought 2,400 acres of swampland west of Miami to build a golf course and hotel. They named the area after their first names, Doris and Al. Today, the City of Doral is home to major corporations, a U.S. president's resort and an exploding residential community, largely because of Codina Partners and its vision for a city center, Downtown Doral.
“What we've turned Doral into isn't even what Doral was two years ago, much less five years ago,” Codina Partners CEO Ana-Marie Codina Barlick said.
For half a century, the area evolved in a mishmash way, with warehouses and shippers, big companies like Carnival Cruises and Marriott International, and a few planned communities of single-family homes — but no central point.
So Codina Partners — started by Codina Barlick and her father, Executive Chairman Armando Codina, in 2009 — built one, beginning with 120 acres it purchased from a single landowner. Today, Downtown Doral consists of nearly 1M SF of Class-A office space, 5,000 residential units, 70 shops, an elementary school, a three-acre park and a LEED-certified City Hall.
“We built everything,” Codina Barlick said, except for teaming up with builder Jim Carr on a townhouse component and selling Publix its parcel. "Not one penny of public money" was spent on creating the downtown, she said.
Codina Barlick knew one element would be key to drawing families: a school. So the Codinas created that, too: Downtown Doral Charter Elementary, which opened in 2015. Codina Partners donated the land for the school to the county school board. A nonprofit board, which Codina Barlick chairs, was created to run it. That board leased back the land from the school board and issued $20M in bonds for construction. Link Construction bid on the project and built the school. The board hired the county school board to operate the school, but retains some powers — like hiring the principal and influencing the curriculum.
The dual-language elementary school, where 40% of material is taught in either Spanish or Portuguese, depending on which track parents choose, has been ranked No. 1 in the county, based on data from the Florida Department of Education. It accommodates 500 students and has 2,000 on a waiting list. Although any student in Miami-Dade can apply to the school, residents of Downtown Doral get preference. Middle and high schools are in the works.
Codina Barlick has been transparent about her motives for building the charter school.
“Our business is real estate, not education," she told the Miami Herald earlier this year. "We don’t make a penny off the school. We just wanted it to be great, because the better it is, the more people would want to live in this community.”
“The school is a major driver of occupancy for multifamily,” Codina Barlick said. “It drives traffic to our sales center.”
Two out of three of Downtown Doral's condo towers sold out this year, with prices starting around $250K. A new condo building, 5350 Park, is more than 50% pre-sold, Codina Barlick said. Pre-construction pricing for townhomes starts at $600K and runs into the million-dollar range. A multifamily tower is also being built.
Codina Partners is developing the White Course, single-family homes on 130 acres of a former golf course, as well.
Others have seen potential in Doral, too. The Trump Organization bought what is now the Trump National Doral Miami resort and golf club (the property initially developed by Doris and Al Kaskel at Doral's inception) out of bankruptcy in 2012 for $150M. Univision built a new studio and the Miami Herald relocated its offices to Doral.
Other developers jumped in on the action and built more planned communities. The U.S. census estimates that Doral's population was 57,947 in 2016, up from 45,704 in 2010.
Codina Barlick said there is not a lot of room left for big developers to get in the game. “There's limited land in Doral. You can't even buy five acres if you wanted to” — but she would welcome anyone who wanted to improve the quality of life.
Regardless of any shortcomings, she said, “I don't know anywhere else in Dade County where you can get a state-of-the-art, high-end, practically custom home in the middle of the county, with the amenities we offer, at the prices we are offering.”
Downtown Doral has everything in walking distance, she said, “for the price of a teardown in Pinecrest or Coral Gables.”
Join Codina and others at Bisnow's The Rise of Doral event Jan. 17.