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Magic City Innovation District Announces Tenants

Plans to build out the $1B Magic City Innovation District in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood don't yet have the final go-ahead, but tenants are lining up to fill already-existing renovated space on the property. 

Tony Cho has become one of the leading real estate figures in Miami.

MCID yesterday announced that it had signed long-term leases with an e-commerce company called OnPoint Global, Diana Lowenstein Gallery, boutique creative services agency COOL Creative, marketing and consulting firm Manmar Entertainment and Ecovie, a startup that develops water management solutions including commercial grey water and blackwater recycling.

The Miami City Commission in March gave initial approval, in a 4-0 vote, for a Special Area Plan that allows flexibility around zoning rules for the 18-acre site where MCID developers want to build 2,630 residential units, 432 hotel rooms, 2M SF of office space, 350K SF of retail and 4 acres of public open space. A required second reading and vote is scheduled for June 27.  

Max Sklar, vice president for MCID managing partner Plaza Equity Partners, told Bisnow that even assuming the plan passes, the development horizon is 10 or 15 years.

"We still have design, permitting, construction," he said. "We're several years away before you'll see any tangible development occurring. We wanted to start activating the area and the commercial part with daytime users and start creating a neighborhood and an attraction."

Sklar didn't specify rental prices but said they're cheaper than competing neighborhoods like Wynwood.

"Almost all of our existing adaptive reuse buildings are complete and we are actively seeking food & beverage and innovative tenants to join our growing community," Tony Cho, the president of Metro 1 and co-founding partner of the MCID who is handling the project's leasing, said in a statement. “In the near term, we also plan on making the area a destination by activating some open spaces as pop-up entertainment venues.” 

That has been described as a "pop-up theme park," influenced by MCID development partners Guy Laliberte, a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil (who sold his stake in Cirque du Soleil for a rumored $1.5B). Silicon Valley investor Bob Zangrillo had been a partner, but disassociated when he was charged in the Varsity Blues college scandal for allegedly making payments to help his daughter get into college.

The MCID development has been contentious, as it would represent a big shift from a low-slung neighborhood of aging but affordable properties to buildings as high as 25 stories, with offices, galleries, restaurants and shops. Residents are worried about gentrification and displacement, as the area's population has largely been comprised of working-class Haitian immigrants, many of whom have already been priced out of the neighborhood. About 40% of residents live below the poverty line. 

The developers initially were expected to build 550 units of affordable and workforce housing, but changed their proposal to instead offer $31M for a Little Haiti Revitalization Trust — funds that could be spent on housing or job training. Critics have complained that the plan violates aspects of the Miami21 land use plan and assailed commissioner Keon Hardemon for having closed-door meetings with the developers.  

“The more we learn about these mammoth projects, the more concerned we are," neighborhood activist Marlene Bastien, who has long opposed the project, and Special Area Plans in general, told the Miami Herald. "What we resent is for us to be brought in at the eleventh hour when everything is cooked and ready to eat, and we get the crumbs.” 

Cho, however, has stated in the past that he was careful to buy industrial, not residential, space for his project so as not to displace residents. Yesterday's statement touted "hundreds of new jobs." 

"We believe we're being sensitive and conscientious," Sklar said. He understands "there's still come concern and trepidation," but touted the $31M contribution.