The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami With Historic Announcement


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The Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi made the historic announcement at The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami that Puerto Rico was officially out of bankruptcy. The message was well received by over 250 industry leaders from both the public and private sectors.  The event was organized by The Urban Land Institute South East Florida / Caribbean and The Puerto Rico Builders Association.


Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Governor Pedro Pierluisi makes historic announcement


The Symposium was kicked-off by Scott McLaren, President ULI SE Florida / Caribbean. Scott spoke about the longstanding relationship and collaboration between ULI and the Puerto Rico Builders Association. He highlighted the work on the ULI National Advisory Services Panel on social, economic, and physical resilience in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.

Scott Maclaren finished his remarks by recognizing  Vanessa de Mari, the new President of the Puerto Rico Builders Association and the first women president in the organization’s 70 year history. The Symposium was dedicated to this historic accomplishment. In attendance were some of Puerto Rico’s top government leaders.  This included the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico, Manuel Laboy, COR3 Executive Director,  Maretzie Diaz, Deputy Director PR Housing Department CDBG-DR, Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and in attendance, the Secretary of Housing of Puerto Rico, William Rodríguez Rodríguez. The keynote address by the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico’s highlighted the island’s economic accomplishments, the end of Puerto Rico’s population exodus, and the conclusion of the bankruptcy which was officially announced the day of the Symposium.

In the private sector, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, CEO, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon discussed some of progress of the island’s rebuilding after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. The reconstruction of the island was  a constant theme throughout the day with specific examples of over 900 started projects.

The first panel, “Why Puerto Rico: Stories of Success,  was a testament to the resiliency of the development community. Moderated by Andrew Carlson, SVP Country Manager, of JLL the discussion highlighted the historic growth of the island’s hospitality sector with the construction and/or renovation of over 3,000 new room keys from El Conquistador, Grand Reserve (formerly known as Coco Beach), Sheraton, AC , and many others. The panel included Federico Sanchez, President & CEO, Interlink Group.


Speakers Panel
Dan Kodsi, Brad Dean, Rafael Rojo, Andrew Carson


Dan Kodsi, CEO, Royal Palm Companies, Rafael E. Rojo, President & CEO, VRM Companies. Also in attendance was Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico who highlighted the island’s impressive tourism growth (ADR and occupancy rates) during the Covid 19 pandemic and new expansion of tourism throughout all U.S. feeder markets.

As Puerto Rico seeks to build back its tourism and other industries, the financial sector will invariably play a major role. One of the goals of the Puerto Rico Symposium was to facilitate the conversation of growth in both traditional banking as well as new Fintech, IFEs, and other debt/equity players.  Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, explained the ease of regulations and process for new financial institutions as Puerto Rico shares many of the same regulations of the U.S. states on the mainland. Ms. Zequeira also mentioned that International Financial Entities (IFE) can now participate in special opportunity projects.

Michael McDonnell, Executive Vice President, First Bank, that recently re-opened its  construction division, was bullish on the island’s economic prospects and announced that the Puerto Rico will achieve positive economic growth (GDP) this year– something it has not done in over a decade.  Banesco USA announced the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will invest more than $8.7 billion through ECIP in institutions across the country – Banesco USA is the only bank recipient located in Florida or Puerto Rico.

Over the last few years, we have all hear about the 80 billion dollars of relief aid that has been allocated to Puerto Rico and is coming. In the “Myth versus Reality panel: Federal Funding Opportunities on The Island,” moderator Ella Woger Nieves of Invest Puerto Rico helped lift-up the proverbial transparency veil. Manuel Laboy, the COR3 Executive Director spoke with detailed facts of the funding by agency with FEMA authorizing 5 billion for temporary work, 21 Billion for 9,000 permanent projects and 800 that are currently under construction today. He also discussed the next wave of over 900 projects that are currently under engineering and design.  Much of this work will be channeled through CDBG-DR and the PR Housing Department. Maretzie Diaz, the Deputy Director PR Housing Department, explained the process for companies wanting to participate in the island’s rebuilding of housing and infrastructure. Mahdu Beriwal, Owner/founder of EIM provided first-hand knowledge of the rebuilding work in Puerto Rico.


Adam Greenfader, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Pamela Pautenade, Vanessa de Mari, Alfredo Martinez, Emilion Colon


Keynote Speaker Pamela Pautenade, Ex. Deputy Secretary of HUD, was also on hand to share her experiences about the collaboration with the Puerto Rico Builders Association during the 2017 hurricanes crisis. In a moving conversation with Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Mrs. Pautenade explained the dedication of the island’s public and private sectors and dispelled any rumors about misuse of relief funds.


Keynote Lunch Address
Andrew Farkas, Adam Greenfader


Puerto Rico, like much of the Caribbean is in the process of bouncing back from the Covid 19 pandemic.  Adam Greenfader, who chairs the ULI Caribbean Council had a high level sit down conversation with keynote Speaker Andrew Farkas, CEO Island Capital Group. The conversation was focused on social equity and specifically what  role the financial sector has in supporting the region with a particular focus on sustainability, ESG, and helping economic migrants return back to their island homes.

In the last few years Puerto Rico has become known as blockchain capital of the world. While thousands of tech savvy individuals have moved to the island to take advantage of federal tax incentives they have inadvertently created a new economic driver for the Puerto Rico.


In our “Fintech & Financial Innovation panel in Puerto Rico, Moderator Nathan Whigham, Founder & President, EN Capital discussed the growth of this huge industry. Rodrick Miller, CEO, Invest Puerto Rico, explained what his group is doing to change the paradigm in Puerto Rico from selling tax incentives to focusing on the island’s quality of labor, education system, and proficiency in bio science and other innovations. Stephen Inglis, CEO, Importal explained his new portal to monetize tax credits and  Yael Tamar, CEO & Co-founder, SolidBlock explained how her company is integrating real estate and blockchain.

After a marathon day of conversation it was amazing to see the room still full for our last panel “Growth Industries and Tax Incentives” moderated by Carla Campos and an all-star team including  Jorge Ruiz Montilla, McConnel Valdez,  Francisco Luis, of Kevane Grant Thornton and Rogelio “Roy” Carrasquillo, of the Carrasquillo Law Group. In this panel, specific programs like the Tourism Tax Incentive were explained in detail and there was robust conversation regarding how these incentives have created new jobs in manufacturing, life sciences, construction, and agro-science.


On behalf of all of us at the Puerto Rico Builders Association and The Urban Land Institute SE Florida/ Caribbean, thank you to all of the people and sponsors that made The Puerto Rico Symposium possible. We are all hopeful that together both the public and private sector can create long lasting sustainable economic growth.



For more information about investing in Puerto Rico visit our web site or contact us.

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.


ULI Caribbean Resiliency and Rebuilding Continues

Big shout out to many of you who flew in from across the country and Puerto Rico to attend our third Caribbean roundtable in Miami. It was evident from the discussions and presentations,  that the Caribbean region continues to offer a wealth of opportunities as well as challenges.  Our theme at yesterday’s roundtable was centered around ULI efforts in resiliency and rebuilding.

The panel discussion started with a report by Mr. Tom Roth of Grass River Property on Puerto Rico. Tom travelled the island last year as part of the ULI Advisory Service Panel thanks in part to the   the support of The Kresge Foundation and our local District Council. The ULI Advisory Services Panelists spent a week in the Municipality of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, to provide expert advice on enhancing recovery efforts after the catastrophic and deadly 2017 Hurricane Maria. Tom Roth’s presentation during our roundtable highlighted some of the lessons in dealing with rebuilding, seizing the opportunity to build on higher ground, and the availability of Federal funds for rebuilding homes for Puerto Rican familes.  

To download the full report:

While at this moment it is still very dangerous to access Abacos, Bahamas, Gene Budler of DCK presented some real time images of his recent relief trip to Abacos.  The images of the destruction are truly unbelievable with tons of waste, destroyed homes, and obliterated life infrastructure.   As the relief cycle continues, we will be tracking the situation. There is a clear need for stronger, better planned, and more resilient construction. It is our hope to be able to help the Bahamas with some solutions to the massive rebuilding efforts. If you are interested in helping there are multiple organizations. One such group recommended by Gene is MedStar out of Houston, Texas. 

As part of our on-going effort to increase our engage with the Caribbean, we are planning a Caribbean study cruise in 2020. The idea of the cruise is to bring together some of the top minds in resiliency for an comprehensive educational summit.  In addition to the seminars, we plan on visiting several islands that have been affected by the recent hurricanes. If you are interested in helping organize the study cruise please reach out to either Max or myself.  As a reminder, this roundtable is open to non-members as guest to start but is a benefit for ULI members.  To join please visit: If you have any questions, please call 1-800-321-5011 or contact Max Helden. 

We are looking to plan a December networking event for this group and then will schedule the next content-oriented roundtable for 2020. 

Thank you all again for your participation and to our very kind sponsor Paramount Miami World Center for hosting the event and lunch. You can learn more about our ULI Caribbean Engagement at

Big Stock Windfall? New Rule Defers Taxes With Real Estate Investment

Big Stock Windfall? New Rule Defers Taxes With Real Estate Investment – WSJ

U.S. aiming to attract $100 billion in development with ‘opportunity zones’ created by tax overhaul 

 Billions of dollars have started piling into new real-estate funds targeting disadvantaged U.S. neighborhoods, as investors line up to capitalize on a section of last year’s tax overhaul. 

The tax bill created more than 8,000 tax-advantaged “opportunity zones.” They range from parts of New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to rural areas and the entire U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the zones will attract over $100 billion in private capital. 

Opportunity-zone investments could be “the biggest thing to hit the real-estate world in perhaps the past 30 or even more years,” says Bruce Stachenfeld of law firm Duval & Stachenfeld. 

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin speaks during a working session on opportunity zones in February. On Thursday, Mr. Mnuchin predicted the zones will draw more than $100 billion in private capital to disadvantaged areas.  

The zones have multiple tax benefits. Anyone with capital gains—from real estate, Amazon shares or most any other source—can defer taxes on them until 2026 if they roll those gains into investments in these designated zones. Investors can also get a discount of up to 15% on those taxes when they eventually pay them. And capital gains from qualified investments in the zones that are held for at least 10 years won’t be taxed at all. 

“Billions of dollars, maybe more, will be coming into the market, with the investors saying, ‘We only want to put this money into these communities because of these tax benefits,’” said Seth Pinsky, executive vice president of New York developer RXR Realty, which is exploring creating an opportunity-zone fund. 

So many investors are expected to take advantage of the tax break and invest in these zones that it will cost the government $7.7 billion between 2018 and 2022. The cost will shrink to $1.6 billion over 10 years as deferred taxes are paid, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Unrealized capital gains on stocks and mutual funds held by U.S. households alone total about $2.3 trillion, according to a report by the Milken Institute’s Center for Financial Markets, citing research from the Economic Innovation Group. 


The tax benefits apply to most equity investments in the zones, including real-estate development and operating businesses such as restaurants, stores and technology startups. But most of the initial investments are expected to be in real estate, partly because opportunity-zone tax law provides the most benefits to investors who can quickly deploy a lot of capital. 

“Doing a $300-million real-estate development project is so much easier than 300 different $1-million operating-company investments,” said Aron Betru, managing director with the Milken center. 

Developers and investors say there are still many unanswered questions, including whether the tax breaks will produce the intended benefits for targeted neighborhoods. They’re hoping for more clarity when the Internal Revenue Service issues further guidance, which is expected to happen any day. 

The program—which was partly conceived by Sean Parker, the entrepreneur who helped launch Facebook and Napster—has raised concerns among community groups about the impact on existing residents of low-income areas. “There’s a tipping point where the people who were there before get pushed out, and the people who come in are the people who are benefitting,” said Mr. Pinksy. 

But real-estate investment firms, developers and others are already vying for positions at the starting line. Mr. Betru says he has heard about close to 20 firms that have either started raising or are planning to raise funds ranging from $100 million to $500 million. 

James Lang, a tax attorney in Greenberg Traurig’s Tampa, Fla., office, says he has fielded 10 to 15 calls each day on the topic since July and his firm has assembled about 45 lawyers to focus on opportunity-zone investing. 

Some developers that happen to be working on projects inside zones already find themselves in prime positions. Florida-based firm Waypoint Residential was planning a 250-unit rental apartment project in the suburbs of Louisville, Ky., before the area was designated an opportunity zone. 

Raising capital turned out to be a breeze, said Scott Lawlor, Waypoint’s chief executive. “We were 50% oversubscribed within two weeks.” 

Developers are aware that opportunity-zone investments will be risky despite the tax benefits. To qualify, real-estate investments have to be ground-up projects or major rehabilitations. 

“When this much dough forms this quickly with this much of a buzz around it, you just have to step back” and be careful, said Mr. Lawlor. 

The zones could be a major boon for real-estate fundraising, which has been getting tougher. A total of 48 private real-estate funds closed globally in the second quarter of 2018 for a combined $23 billion, down from $38 billion raised by 75 funds in the first quarter, according to data firm Preqin. 

Small-to-midsize firms with experience investing in disadvantaged areas have largely been the first movers in the opportunity-zone business. Firms that announced plans to raise funds include Youngwoo & Associates, of New York, whose current projects include redeveloping the historic Bronx Post Office into a retail and office project, and Washington, D.C.–based Fundrise, which is considering possible investments in Los Angeles, Oakland, Dallas and Seattle. 

Jessica Millett, co-chair of Duval & Stachenfeld’s Tax Practice, said that in addition to real-estate developers, she has also received interest in opportunity zones from investment bankers, advisers representing technology executives and other investors. 

Some large banks already involved in economic development have also become active in the zones. For example, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s urban investment group has already made $70 million worth of deals in opportunity zones in 2018 and has over $1 billion of possible transactions in the pipeline, according to Margaret Anadu, the group’s head. 

Other big names in real-estate investment, such as Blackstone Group ,KKR and Apollo Global Management LLC, are expected to sit on the sidelines for now, according to people close to the firms. These firms tend to make larger investments than the deals that will likely be made in opportunity zones. 

“Deals will happen, but I don’t think it will be billions of dollars of equity from one manager,” said Ralph Rosenberg, KKR’s global head of real estate. 

By Peter Grant and Gregory Zuckerman WSJ Updated Oct. 2, 2018 11:43 a.m. ET

Ruth Simon contributed to this article. 

HOLA Conference – Day 1

5|15|2018 – JW Marriott, Downtown, Miami.  

AG&T and the Builders Association of Puerto Rico invited to participate at the Hotel Opportunities Latin America (HOLA) Conference in Miami. 

Some take aways from today’s meeting in Miami. 

  • The LATAM hotel industry is seeing a lot of over supply with a few exceptions in the emerging countries. 
  • Big hospitality growth in Colombia(14%), Costa Rica(15%)  and Peru (18%) . 
  • Mexico and Brazil still lead in overall Latin American hotel supply pipeline. 
  • As for new development, risk management is the word of the day. As is expected, all inclusive resorts seem less concerned about the new disruptors like Airbnb, but all are keeping their eyes on elections in several key countries. 
  • Argentina and Brazilian markets continues to draw hotel groups but there is uncertainty about exit timetable. 
  • Investors in several LATAM countries move beyond capitalization rates and focus primarily on desired yields.


Join us at the Hola:




How Puerto Rican evacuees will transform Florida and your business


Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and left millions seeking a new place to call home. Now the effects are about to significantly impact Florida and be felt throughout New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and other states across America.

With nearly 3.5 million Puerto Ricans planning on leaving the island (many already are here or on their way), U.S. cities undoubtedly will face a short-term burden. However, businesses could turn this into long-term advantages if they learn how to embrace the already flourishing Hispanic segment. 

Due to the proximity to the island, Florida will see the biggest influx of new residents comprised of families, business owners, doctors, nurses, lawyers, executives and other professionals, university students and more. With so many migrating within such a short timeframe, yes, it will challenge the local infrastructure, educational systems, employment rates, housing market and more. However, these fellow hard-working American citizens very quickly will begin fueling local economies, bringing more businesses and increasing diversity. They immediately will increase sales across nearly every industry — restaurants, grocery stores, retail outlets, car dealerships, banks, hospitals, colleges and so many more.

Could this swing sales as early as this holiday season? That depends on how you already view the Hispanic segment and if your marketing campaigns have been developed and executed through a culturally relevant strategy verses simple translations. Think about the significance of so many families and business owners rebuilding their lives and all the needs associated with it. If your company does not have multicultural messaging ready to embrace this market, your business surely will miss out. 

Earlier in the year, hopes were not high for fourth-quarter sales due to the perceived sluggish growth of the economy and a controversial leadership in the nation. The good news is that according to the latest report from ThinkNow, a leading Hispanic research company, Hispanics already were planning to spend 33 percent more this holiday season over last year, due to greater disposable income and better anticipated deals on technology and innovation. That number could go up, especially now with the addition of more relatives and friends from Puerto Rico moving in with or close by them. 

Approximately 1 million Puerto Ricans already live in Florida. After the disaster brought by the recent hurricanes, Puerto Ricans are projected to pass Cubans soon as the largest group of Hispanics in Florida.

By 2030, there will be a population increase of 6 million in Florida, and Hispanics will represent 30 percent of the state, according to Augusto Sanabria, president of Prospera, an economic development, nonprofit organization providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs. Hispanics now constitute more than 20 percent of the state. It is estimated that 57 percent of the expected population growth will happen in counties such as Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Broward, all of which already have a fast-growing Hispanic population. 

“These numbers confirm that our services are going to continue to be essential to ensure that Hispanics entering our market not only assimilate faster, but also increase their chances of succeeding in business,” said Sanabria. “These numbers don’t reflect the expected influx of business owners from Puerto Rico.”

For a successful fourth quarter and beyond, focus on the benefits of this changing market and implement these 3 key tips:

Embrace diversity: Over the decades, many corporations have thrown diversity under the rug. Is it because they are ignoring the statistics or do they think every segment responds to the same messaging? How are you planning to increase sales and assure a sustainable growth if you are neglecting the business impact that minorities, especially Hispanics, are bringing to the market place? This is a lucrative market that could enable your company to obtain a sustainable growth in the years to come.

Understand the differences: Many executives still identify the Puerto Rican community as the Mexican immigrant population. Puerto Ricans are Americans. They have U.S. passports and represent over 46 percent of the Hispanic population in Central Florida. You must get to know the new markets affecting our economy and ultimately your business. How much profit could you gain with a little extra knowledge?

Be prepared: It is estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 Puerto Ricans potentially could relocate, at least temporarily, to Florida. I strongly believe that based on the Hispanic market composition, Orlando and Tampa will be impacted the most. Puerto Rican entrepreneurs and business owners will begin fueling the local economy soon. How can you gain this loyal market?

If the Hispanic market was not on your priority list, it is time to rethink and reevaluate your marketing plan now. There is still a large population of foreign-born Hispanics, many of whom use advertising as an information vehicle to learn about brands and share their findings with others. Remember, diversity is a strong growth component of any modern city. And being adaptable is a strong asset to any successful company.


Hernan Tagliani , Contributing writer, Orlando Business Journal, Oct 11, 2017


Puerto Rico China Investment Summit

Over the past decade, China has become an increasingly integral source of aid and foreign direct investment (FDI) for Latin America and the Caribbean. Rising levels of FDI and trade over time reflect deepening relationships between China and the Caribbean. 


On March 1 to March 13, 2017, a large group of business owners and senior executives from China and top regional and local stakeholders from Puerto Rico were brought together in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “It was an honor to present two of the most exciting resort projects in Puerto Rico; Royal Isabela Resort and Coco Beach Golf and Residences”, noted Adam Greenfader.

During the China-Puerto Rico Investment Forum held at the Convention Center, investors had questions not only about business opportunities but also about costs, incentives and the opportunity of being able to launch their products in the U.S. market. At a time when federal funds from Washington, D.C., are being limited and the island has been cut off from the markets, Puerto Rico’s economic development will depend heavily on its ability to attract foreign investment, Putnam Bridge CEO Nicholas Prouty explained while noting Puerto Rico’s numerous benefits as a U.S. jurisdiction.


Photos Below: Adam Greenfader with Governor Ricardo Rosselló, Li, and Luguang Yang Carter

Adam Greenfader Named Chairman Florida Puerto Rico Builders Association

Adam Greenfader

  San Juan, Puerto Rico Adam Greenfader was recently named Chairman of the Florida Liaison Committee of the Puerto Rico Builders Association (PR Builders Association). For over sixty years, the PR Builders Association has been the island’s leading professional construction and development group. The PR Builders is responsible for government lobbying and networking. The Builders Association consists of high-level professionals in the residential, hospitality, industrial and commercial sectors.

“We are honored to have Adam Greenfader chair this new committee. Mr. Greenfader has been part of our organization for many years, is a tested professional in both markets and has a wealth of knowledge that will be a great asset,” exclaims Arch. Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, president of the Builders of Puerto Rico.

The Mission of the Florida Liaison Committee is to be a bridge between Florida and Puerto Rico. The goal is to support  builders, bankers, investors and other professionals. The committee aims to facilitate access to services, information, and key contacts. “Our goal is that the PR Builders Association is seen as a first and most important stop for anyone that wants to expand to either market,” says Adam Greenfader. In the last couple of years, with the passing of laws 20 and 22, Puerto Rico has seen a significant increase of interest from companies and individuals from the US mainland. There are also great opportunities for Puerto Rican companies that want to export their services and products, and use Florida as a first stepping-stone. The Florida Liaison team is in the process of developing key stakeholders relationships and organizing its events for 2016 in both Florida and Puerto Rico. If either you or your company is interested in participating, you may contact Mr. Adam Greenfader at or call the Builders Association at 787.751.1471. Learn more about the Puerto Rico Builders association here.   
  San Juan, Puerto Rico Por más de sesenta años, la Asociación de Constructores ha sido el principal grupo profesional de construcción y desarrollo. Esta organización ha sido responsable de promover el intercambio de información entre desarrolladores, inversionistas, miembros asociados y profesionales, en el desarrollo y la construcción de Puerto Rico. La Asociación de Constructores consiste en profesionales de alto nivel en el sector residencial, hotelero, industrial y comercial.

“Nos sentimos honrados de tener a Adam Greenfader dirigiendo este comité. El Sr. Greenfader ha sido parte de nuestra organización por muchos años, y es un profesional con gran conocimiento de ambos mercados”, indica el Arq. Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, presidente de la Asociación de Constructores de Hogares.

La misión del Comité de Enlace de la Florida es la de ser un puente entre la Florida y Puerto Rico, apoyando y anudando lazos y relaciones entre constructores, banqueros, inversionistas y otros profesionales en ambos países. El objetivo del comité es facilitar el acceso a servicios, información y contactos claves. “Nuestra meta es que la Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico sea vista como el primer y más importante paso para la persona y/o empresa que desee expandir su negocio a cualquiera de estos mercados”, explica Adam Greenfader. Durante los últimos años, Puerto Rico ha visto un aumento significativo en el interés de empresas e individuos del continente de los Estados Unidos con la implementación de las leyes 20 y 22. Existen además, grandes oportunidades para empresas puertorriqueñas que deseen exportar sus servicios y productos. Éstos ven a la Florida como un buen primer paso. El equipo del Comité de Enlace de la Florida está en proceso de desarrollar relaciones profesionales y organizar sus eventos para el 2016 en Florida y Puerto Rico. De estar interesado en ser parte del comité, puede contactar al Sr. Greenfader por correo electrónico o llamar a la Asociación de Constructores al 787.751.1471.

Miami Beach wants to expedite local streetcar, jump-start Bay Link to mainland

By Joey Flechas, Miami Herald

The last time Miami Beach desired a streetcar — in 1939 — the world was on the verge of war, Clark Gable romanced Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind and the city lost its 65-year-old founding father, Carl Fisher.

Now, three-quarters of a century after the last electric trolley traveled between the island and the mainland, the Beach is pushing forward with plans to create its own piece of Bay Link, a light-rail line that would efficiently transport passengers along the MacArthur Causeway across Biscayne Bay.

Now, with traffic-choked streets every day throughout Miami-Dade, talk of a new light-rail is heating up. Bay Link was first studied in 1988 and the rail was promised to Miami-Dade voters in 2002 when they approved a new half-penny transit sales tax.

The Beach stoked the conversation in August when French rail company Alstom submitted an unsolicited bid to build a 14-mile transit system connecting downtown Miami to the Miami Beach Convention Center, along with five miles of stops through South Beach’s entertainment district.

Miami Beach will take the Alstom proposal to the marketplace in January, seeking other bidders for what would be one-third of the Bay Link project.






Beach commissioners unanimously approved going out to bid while continuing an environmental study required if the city wants to qualify for state funding. To move faster with the project, the commission also decided to forgo a longer environmental analysis that could make the light-rail eligible for federal dollars but would take years to complete.

“The commission decided we were not going to go through more elaborate National Environmental Policy Act analysis to qualify for federal funding, given how long that would take without guaranteeing we would get federal funding,” Morales said.

Officials hope the expedited approach could mean breaking ground in about three years, while the rest of Bay Link gets hashed out.

On the mainland, the topic hasn’t been broached as much at Miami City Hall as it has across the bay, where traffic was a major issue for voters in this year’s Beach election.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine this week touted the move in an email to residents:

“Last week, the Miami Beach Commission and I authorized the city to move ahead expeditiously to develop a light rail/wireless streetcar system that will allow residents, visitors and business owners to move around our city a lot more efficiently and reduce the amount of cars on our roads,” he wrote.

Levine acknowledged that “the process going forward will not be easy and we will face many challenges along the way.”



Miami Market Correction?



By Sean Stewart-Muniz of The Real Deal

Miami’s residential real estate sector is still sending mixed signals, though one seems clear: don’t expect many broken sales records in 2016.

The city — including luxury enclaves on both the mainland and Miami Beach — experienced a big slowdown in sales activity during the final quarter of 2015, while pricing trends swayed depending on the neighborhood, according to fourth quarter 2015 Elliman reports.

For Miami, the data shows one major trend: the residential market has slowed.

“The market has transitioned out of this sort of frenzied situation from the last couple years to something that’s not as robust,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel and author of the report, told The Real Deal.

Coastal mainland

On Miami’s coastal mainland, which includes markets east of I-95, sales fell significantly year-over-year. A total of 1,876 single-family homes traded during the fourth quarter, down almost 14 percent compared to the same time period in 2014.

Condos fared similarly: 2,225 units were sold at the end of 2015, down 16.1 percent from the previous year.

Miller said much of that slowed activity is due to fewer distressed sales. Now that the housing economy has seen several years of recovery, foreclosures and short sales have gradually been flushed from the market by stronger homeowners who typically pay cash.

Distressed condo sales on the mainland were down a whopping 41 percent year-over-year: 466 distressed units traded in the fourth quarter, compared to 790 in 2014.

And the numbers for distressed single-family homes told a similar story. There were nearly 39 percent fewer sales year-over-year — down to 482 at the end of 2015, compared to 786 the prior year.

Not all of the market’s slowdown is due to a lack of distressed properties, though. A strong U.S. dollar has had a chilling effect on purchases from wealthy foreigners, whose own currencies have been flailing as much of the global community heads toward another economic slump. Those currency trends mean it becomes pricier for a foreigner to pick up U.S. real estate, which can work against a property’s attractiveness as an investment or as a safe place to park money.

Meanwhile, prices for a single-family homes on the mainland hit a bump in the road during 2015’s fourth quarter: homes sold for an average of $419,614 at the end of the year, down 5.6 percent from the previous quarter — even though home prices are up compared to last year. While home prices fell, condo prices held steady during the fourth quarter. The average sales price of a unit was $343,123 — down a fraction of a percent quarter-to-quarter, and falling by 1.5 percent year-over-year.

On top of these reduced sales figures is a huge influx of new condos hitting the market. There were 8,259 units listed for sale during the fourth quarter, up 12 percent from the year before.

With all those new units to choose from, Miller said people tend to take longer before making a purchase decision — which could explain why units are selling much more slowly compared to the hotter years of 2013 and 2014.

Single-family homes actually experienced the opposite trend in 2015’s final few months: there were 3,327 properties on the market during the fourth quarter, marking a 7.4 percent reduction in inventory year-over-year.

“The sense of urgency is not the same,” Miller said. “That’s the period we’re in now — it’s not this frenetic pace that we’ve grown accustomed to over the past three or four years.”

Miami Beach

While the mainland has begun slowing, its ritzy island counterpart is facing more troubling numbers.

Sales for both condos and single-family homes in Miami Beach were down significantly and new inventory continues to surge into the market.

For condos, there were almost 29 percent more new listings at the end of 2015 compared to the previous year. A total of 4,512 units were listed for sale during the fourth quarter, up from the 3,504 listed in the same timeframe during 2014.

Miami Beach’s listings marked the singular upward trend for condos. Condo sales totaled 765 units during the fourth quarter, nearly a 20 percent drop from the 950 sold at the end of 2014.

Average prices have also started to curve downward. The average closing price for a unit was $695,325 — a 10 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2014.

On the other hand, prices for single-family homes have practically exploded. The average closing price for a Miami Beach house was a whopping $3.35 million during the fourth quarter — that’s a 67.3 percent increase from the year before.

That pricing surge could explain the next two trends: only 80 Miami Beach homes sold during the fourth quarter, nearly 28 percent fewer from the final months of 2014.

Meanwhile, almost 37 percent more homes were for sale at the end of 2015. The number of active homes for sale grew from 480 in 2014 to 656 during 2015. Attractive pricing can pull sellers into the market.

All that new inventory has pushed Miami Beach’s absorption rate to 17.7 months for condos and 24.6 months for single-family homes. For reference, a healthy market is said to typically hover between six and nine months.

But these figures aren’t necessarily heralding another recession. Miller said the market could be correcting itself after years of overheated activity.

“The market has shifted to the next stage where there’s stabilized pricing and a lower level of sales activity,” he said. “It’s a more sustainable pace than what we had a year ago. It’s just unclear how long we’ll be in this period.”


The Climate Ribbon: An Environmental Solution (Video)

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The “Climate RibbonTM” at Brickell City Centre is one of the most unique Green architectural feature that I have seen in years. It provides a continuous surface of glass (11,000 m2) and architectural fabric sun-screening blades. Can it create a comfortable microclimate in hot and humid Miami solely through the use of passive energy strategies?

Check out this video (2:20)