All-female lineup of real estate power players on transportation and affordable housing

July 29, 2016

During an event Thursday morning featuring an all-female lineup of prominent real estate professionals, developersLissette Calderon and Avra Jain voiced their support for a Miami-Dade County legislative proposal that would require builders to set aside units for blue collar workers currently priced out of the South Florida market.

“We have to have housing that is affordable,” Jain, CEO of the Vagabond Group, told attendees. “This is not a new idea. It’s been done in New York.”

In September, the Miami-Dade County Commission is set to vote on legislation that would require developers in the unincorporated area of the county to provide at least 10 percent of their projects for workforce housing. In exchange, the county would grant builders a 15 percent density bonus on to of the maximum number of units allowed by current land use and zoning regulations.

Half of the units classified as workforce housing would be made available to residents who make 60 percent to 79 percent of the median income in Miami-Dade. The other half would be set aside for people who make 80 percent to 140 percent of the median income.

Similar laws have been passed in the five boroughs of New York City and neighboring Long Island. Jain, a guest speaker at the Bisnow Power Series: Women of Influence panel discussion, said the lack of affordable housing in Miami has to be addressed.

She noted that her company purchased and renovated apartment buildings near the Vagabond Hotel Miami to provide affordable housing for her employees. “They couldn’t afford to live close by,” Jain said. “I had people who were taking two buses to get to work.”

Calderon, the Related Group’s president of international and strategic projects who was also on the panel, agreed with Jain. “These are the assistants, the teachers, the police officers and the firefighters,” Calderon said. “When you set aside 10 percent, you can attract a true community.”

In addition to Jain and Calderon, the panel included Tere Blanca, CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate; Beth Butler, president of Compass Florida; and Cristina Sullivan, chief operating officer of Gables Residential. Held at the Miami Beach Woman’s Club, Women of Influence also featured panels on transportation, design and construction with Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Aleman, Miami-Dade transportation director Alice Bravo, 13th Floor Investments Vice President Nicole Shiman, and Meg Daly, founder and president of Friends of the Underline, among others.

During the transportation discussion, Shiman talked about working with Miami-Dade County to create transit-oriented mixed-use projects. Earlier this month, county commissioners approved a deal with 13th Floor and the Adler Group to build 970 residences, a 150-key hotel, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a public plaza on a 7-acre site at the Douglas Road Metrorail Station.

Known as Link at Douglas, the project will be built in four phases with the first consisting of residential tower, the hotel and a portion of the retail section that will include a “premium supermarket.” The developers claim the project will create 1,400 construction jobs and a minimum of 223 permanent jobs once it’s completed. The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works will also reap $464 million in revenue during the first 30 years of the 99-year lease.

“We are big believers in migration to urban centers,” Shiman said. “We will develop a really exciting mixed-use development to drive ridership up and encourage people to get rid of their cars.”