Golf town Doral morphs into real estate’s long-drive champ
TRD South Florida
By Emily Schmall
A rendering of a home in the Terra Group’s Modern Doral community
Doral is far cry from the brand-new city it was only a decade ago.
The 14 square miles in northwest Miami-Dade County have gone from being known best for a world-famous golf resort — now owned by the Trumps — to being an industrial hub with vibrant residential neighborhoods teeming with both executives and their employees.
It is already home to 14 of the county’s 30 business parks, and city officials have signed off on about 2 million square feet of office space and 900,000 square feet of retail space for the boom they expect when an expansion of the Panama Canal is finished in a couple of years.
The city’s burgeoning economy has fueled head-spinning population growth, from about 20,500 in 2003 to 46,000 today; another 50,000 pour in on weekdays to work at the regional headquarters of such corporate behemoths as Univision, Harley-Davidson and Prologis.
Much of Doral’s popularity with businesses is because of its central location and easy access to transportation. Florida’s turnpike and the Palmetto and Dolphin expressways are only blocks from anywhere in town. Miami International Airport is eight miles away, the Port of Miami just about 15 miles. And the Florida East Coast Railway connects the Ports of Miami, Palm Beach and Everglades (Fort Lauderdale).
Even before the recent uptick in the national commercial market, Doral held its own. Now, though, the demand for office and industrial space is skyrocketing. A fourth of the city’s 12,000 businesses are tied in some way to exports, and many — along with a host of newcomers — are eager to ink leases so they’re ready for the surge in global trade brought to the port through a much wider Panama Canal.
In just the last year, George Pino of State Street Realty has leased more than 1 million square feet of commercial space in Doral.
“Competition is fierce,” said Pino, State Street’s president. “If you’re going to do any business down in Latin America, which all these logistics companies do, you have to have a hub in Doral.”
The Army Corps of Engineers is spending $2 billion on infrastructure upgrades at the port and $180 million to dredge the port channel from 42 feet to 50 feet, the only one at that depth south of Norfolk, Va. The deeper channel will let bigger ships come through when the Panama project is done in 2015. In tandem, both the airport and the railway are adding to their schedules.
For companies not involved in shipping, Doral has still been a good choice. The Miami Herald took 158,265 square feet in Doral’s Westpointe Business Park after the Genting Group, a Malaysian gaming company, purchased the media company’s headquarters in Downtown Miami for a condominium tower and hotel.
“Doral really connected them to the entire market,” said Tere Blanca, who represented the newspaper in its lease.
As fast as office parks and warehouses are being built, so are homes. City officials have okayed nearly 12,000 units — 1,500 are under construction — and estimate that developers will need to put up another 31,000 units to house the 35,000 newcomers who will move into town over the next 20 years. Mayor Luigi Boria makes an even bolder prediction: Doral will add 24,000 residents — for a population of 70,000 — within the next two years.
“We’re running out of raw land, so older industrial parks are transforming into the downtown mixed-use areas,” said city planner Nathan Logan.
Many of today’s homebuyers hail from other countries — because of Doral’s niche in foreign trade but also because of Boria, who is a native of Venezuela.
Logan estimates that Venezuelans will snap up at least 70 percent of the 12,000 units on the drawing board: “It’s creating a bit of a false market, but nevertheless, it’s keeping the market going.”
The region’s top developers are taking advantage of the strong demand. Miami-based Lennar Corp. has six residential projects in the works, priced from $206,990 to $700,000. The Terra Group has the luxury Modern Doral, a gated community set to be finished next year. Already open are its Doral Cay and Vintage Estates.
Related and Shoma Group, led by Iranian investor Masoud Shojae, are coming together on two projects — Doral View, 14 three-story buildings of rental apartments, and CityPlace, which includes 400 rental apartments and a 330,000-square-foot retail center that breaks ground this fall.
Next to CityPlace is the joint venture’s Oasis Park Square at Doral, a gated community of 150 luxury homes that start in the $800,000s. Nearby is Shoma’s new Class A office building and the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, now known as the Trump National Doral Miami.
Perhaps nothing symbolizes Doral’s upward trajectory more than the golf club. Donald Trump bought the property, which includes a 693-room hotel and five courses including the infamous Blue Monster, out of bankruptcy last year. The price: $150 million. This year, he is opening his wallet for a $250 million top-to-bottom overhaul; much of the work should be done by the week of March 3, when the World Golf Championships’ Cadillac Championship gets under way on the Blue Monster. The resort is still open, though guests are seeing bulldozers and hard hats — and often The Donald, daughter Ivanka and sons Donald Jr. and Eric surveying the work.
When Trump announced his buy and plans for a massive renovation, he made a promise — and his fellow developers and the city are betting that he’ll keep it: “When completed, Doral will be the finest resort and golf club in the country.”
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