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Developer Bets That, In Miami, You 'Really Can Live Downtown Without A Car'

Developer Bets That, In Miami, You 'Really Can Live Downtown Without A Car'
Miami's Square Station opened in June 2018.

Melo Group's new apartment complex, Square Station, opened in June at 1424 Northeast Miami Place, right in downtown Miami, adjacent to a Metromover stop. Rents at the two towers' 710 units range from $1,650 for one-bedrooms to $2,500 for three-bedrooms. Units come with a complimentary parking space, but the developer is offering renters a $100-a-month discount for the entirety of their leases if they forgo the space.

Building parking garages can be costly for developers — reportedly about $35K per spot — and renting out otherwise unused parking spaces can be a lucrative business. But in a statement, Melo Group principal Carlos Melo suggested that the company's motivation was not selfish.

"With Miami becoming more urban, we wanted to reward our residents who use alternative forms of transportation and motivate people to ditch their cars," he said.

Melo Group spokesperson Allie Schwartz Grant told Bisnow Square Station's garage has 940 parking spots.

"While we’ve built enough spots for every tenant, the goal is to get people thinking differently about public transportation," she said. "If you work in Brickell/Downtown, why sit in your car in traffic for close to an hour to go 10 blocks when you can easily walk half a block from your doorstep to the free Metromover instead?"

Schwartz Grant added that young professionals are already used to Uber and Lyft. "Maybe they’ll realize they can really live downtown without a car," she said.

Miami's downtown core has been overlooked for decades, but is in the midst of a redevelopment boom. Square Station is located in a section of Miami that has been designated the Arts & Entertainment District. Within blocks are the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the Perez Art Museum Miami, the Frost Museum of Science, the Miami Heat's home, American Airlines Arena, and dozens of sparkling new condos.

Miami's public transit is notoriously bad, but as Metromover, Metrorail and trolleys are also nearby Square Station, as is a new private passenger train, Brightline, operating out of a fancy new train station, Miami Central. 

Miami allows developers to offer fewer-than-normal parking spaces for projects that are transit-oriented developments, and Melo Group has taken advantage, according to the South Florida Business Journal, which reported that a typical Miami building has one and a half parking spots per unit. Melo Group also pledged to make 14% of Square Station's units priced for workforce housing, Miami Today reports.

Jose Luis Melo and his sons, Carlos and Martin, have been on a building spree since arriving from Argentina in 2001, having developed 3,800 total condo and rental units completed with another 2,900 units in the pipeline.

About 2,000 of those units are slated for downtown: Melo Group recently completed another rental project, the 36-story Melody Tower, at 245 NE 14 St. by the Arsht Center, and recently broke ground on Art Plaza, two 34-story towers nearby at 58 Northeast 14th St. Another project, the 36-story Miami Plaza, is being planned for 1502 Northeast Miami Place.