UrbanX Group – River Landing Shops & Residences
With the River Landing development, UrbanX Group is bringing retail to an area of Miami that has great demand.
By Staci Davidson, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Publishing
During the Great Recession, so many contractors and developers had to shut down, reorganize or figure out what else they could do. The market could not support everyone the way it was operating previously, and many companies struggled. This is not really news, but it is great to report on companies that were able to come out the other side of the recession and not only find success, but excel on an entirely new level. UrbanX Group is one of these.
Based in Coral Gables, Fla., UrbanX is a real estate development and investment company that focuses on the urban core throughout Florida. UrbanX, which evolved out of the River Landing Shops & Residences development company, is led by developers Andrew Hellinger and Coralee Penabad. During the recession, the duo took advantage of the downturn, acquired land on the Miami River west of Downtown Miami, and positioned themselves as developers of one of the largest mixed-use projects now under construction in Miami-Dade County.
“We have a passion and desire to create something that is a long-term investment for us,” Hellinger says. “This goes along with our vision of continued opportunity in the urban core. Our investment cycle is not to build something and sell it out again in eight years – it’s to own it for a longer period of time.”
With River Landing being one of those memorable, landmark projects for the Miami public, it will be an asset that the project owners will be proud to hold onto.
Hellinger created UrbanX after more than 20 years of managing complex real estate developments and business matters. Prior to his current company, Hellinger was co-founder of Hellinger Penabad Co., a comprehensive real estate development and management firm. He also was president of Leviev Boymelgreen Developers (LMD), which was an Israeli-based real estate partnership in Florida with $750 million in commercial and residential real estate property and land.
While at LMD, Hellinger worked on a number of major projects. He led planning and construction of Marquis, a premier condominium project in Miami, which required securing agreements from Miami, Miami-Dade County and the FAA to standardize and raise the building heights across the county. Hellinger also restructured and repositioned LMD’s assets in anticipation of the economic downtown, which, with his proactive approach and successful strategy, allowed the company to sell its entire portfolio at a profit.
“UrbanX represents our transition from managing assets as part of a larger development company to managing assets for institutions during the recession to being a developer,” Hellinger says. “From 2005 to 2007, I was the president of LMD, which we sold the assets of, and that put us in the middle of the recession.
“With not much to develop or much development at all going on, my partner and I created a property management and owner’s representation company that managed failed projects around Florida,” he continues. “We did that until the market was right to go back into development. At that time, we transitioned the business from being real estate managers to being developers, and to do that we created a new company.”
As the real estate cycle evolves, UrbanX plan to focus on developing the urban core of various cities across the state and duplicate the success they are having with River Landing.
The Place to Be
Hellinger and Penabad contracted for River Landing’s land in 2012. From there, they worked on entitlements and zoning with the city of Miami to build the project. They closed on the land in April 2014, and the project got underway in Winter of l 2016-17. The $424.8 million mixed-use development is now on track to open in the first quarter of 2020.
River Landing Shops and Residences will sit on an 8.14-acre parcel in the Health/Civic District of the Miami River, an up-and-coming area. The structure will consist of approximately 345,000 square feet of retail space; 136,000 square feet of office space; 528 market-rate apartments; more than 2,200 parking spaces; and a landscaped river walk. Some of the future tenants include Publix Super Markets, Burlington Stores, TJ Maxx, West Marine, Ross Dress for Less, AT&T and Hobby Lobby.
The structure will consist of four levels of retail, three levels of office space above that, and the two apartment towers – rising 15 and 13 floors – will sit atop a 12-story parking deck. A one-story amenity deck between the apartment towers will feature an Olympic-sized pool, spa, gym, outdoor fitness area, business center and party room. The retail side of the building will have a steel-frame skin, with glass and precast concrete. The parking garage and residential towers will have a concrete structure, with glass, block and stucco on the exterior of the residential portion.
“This is in the healthdistrict, and the biggest challenge was convincing retailers this is the place to be,” Hellinger says. “There was no retail here before, so we had to prove them that there was a great demand for retail and shopping. We did that through hard work and persistence.”
A Clean Slate
UrbanX definitely saw the potential in the River Landing property. It is a five-minute drive to downtown Miami and the popular Brickell Area on Biscayne Bay. The company estimates an average of 187,000 cars pass the River Landing site daily on State Road 836 and an average of 217,000 cars pass the site daily on I-95.
Additionally, the River Landing area boasts the highest payroll in Miami-Dade County at $2.1 billion, with an average salary for locals being more than $61,900. UrbanX also estimates there are 20,000 daily visitors and 49,000 employees in a one-mile radius of the River Landing site. In fact, River Landing is part of the north bank of the Miami River, which is experiencing a redevelopment boom.
“What we were looking for was a place where we could create an urban community that is really a clean slate,” Hellinger explains. “This had the beginnings of a really good market, so from the standpoint of retail and residential demand, we felt there was pent-up demand but no supply. There are 70,000 people who come here in the daytime, but there are really no shopping or dining opportunities. There are a few strip malls, but no real place to shop and relax or have a cohesive living community. This project allowed us to think of the Health District in a masterplan type of way.”
As it is, River Landing stands to become the first large mixed-use development to be built in half a century in Miami’s Health/Civic District, which has the largest daytime population in South Florida. In addition to being a close drive to downtown and Brickell, River Landing is located between Little Havana and the up-and-coming Allapattah neighborhood.
River Landing was designed to meet the needs of residents who live and work in this area of Miami, and it is developing the local economy by attracting national retailers and restaurants to and underserved area. As a result, Hellinger expects River Landing to be a “game changer” development. Especially because so many people work in the area already, with major employers including the University of Miami Hospital, the Jackson Memorial Hospital and the Florida International University School of Medicine.
The development also is key to bringing attention to the Miami River. River Landing will open public access to the Miami River by building a landscaped riverfront park and walk. Through its work on the project, UrbanX Group’s goal is to enhance the unique character of the Miami River while preserving and protecting the commercial nature of the river. Further, River Landing will provide boaters with access to the development’s restaurants and retail.
“The river has been a great magnate for restaurants and retailers,” Hellinger explains. “It took a while but now we are 70 percent pre-leased. Unlike the Brickell area and South Beach, this development caters to those who live and work in Miami and need a place where to shop, live, dine and socialize after work and on weekends. The Health District is the second-largest in the country and second-largest private employment base in Miami-Dade County so retailers and restaurants will have a captive audience.”
“The Health District has all the characteristics of what could be an exceptional marketplace,” he continues. “This spot is at the widest part of the river, and it offered us the opportunity to create an environment that allowed people to enjoy the river.”
SIDEBAR – Team of Talent
UrbanX Group principals have many years of experience in the real estate development, investment and management market, especially in Florida. As a result, UrbanX created a talented project team to bring River Landing to life:
R.L. Miami, L.P. Owner * BC Architects – Project Architect
* Glenn Gutheil – Director of Construction (Urban-X)
* Victor Santana – Architect/Designer – (Urban-X)
* Brendan Fagan – Architect/Designer (Urban-X)
* Balfour Beatty – Construction Manager
* Jonathan Cardello, Stantec – Original Designer
* Todd Tragash – STA Architectural Group – Interior Design
* Andrew Sullivan & James Novack – McNamara Salvia – Structural Engineers
* Barry Miller – Savino Miller Design Studio – Landscape Architect
* Steven Feller – Steven Feller, P.A. – Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Designer
SIDEBAR – Economic Engine
UrbanX knew to invest in an undeveloped spot on the Miami River because the area is the base for Miami-Dade County’s largest payroll, with $2.2 billion in buying power. The locality makes up the city’s Health/Civic District, with its major employers including:
* University of Miami School of Medicine
* University of Miami Hospital
* University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park – Converge Miami
* Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
* Jackson Memorial Hospital
* Miami VA Healthcare System
* Miami-Dade College Medical Campus
* Florida International University Medical School of Medicine
* Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center
* Miami-Dade County Office of the State Attorney
* Atlantis University