January 10, 2018
Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, is joining Tony Cho and Silicon Valley investor Bob Zangrello in developing Magic City, a 15-acre, campus-style district in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. The area along Northeast Second Street between 60th and 64th streets will be developed over a decade.
In the short term, the developers intend to apply for a temporary use permit and begin activating part of the site. Their plan would include an innovation district with business incubators, an amphitheater and studios. Workforce housing, offices and retail will follow.
Laliberté will be involved through his company, Lune Rouge. Plaza Equity Partners, a Miami-based real estate development and investment firm led by Neil Fairman, Anthony Burns and George Helmstetter, is another investor.
“Magic City is an opportunity for us to put all our creativity to the service of entertainment and new technologies,” Laliberté said. “This collaboration will allow us to explore new forms of entertainment and make available multimedia and interactive installations adapted to future Magic City residents and visitors. Lune Rouge is proud to be a partner in this important revitalization project.”
The partners pledged to work with the Little Haiti community to ensure that their development is in sync with the culture that has evolved there organically.
Cho told Bisnow last week that he has taken care to be a responsible developer.
“I’m not interested in pushing anybody out,” he said. “I didn’t buy any residential — it’s all dilapidated warehouse … A lot of talk about gentrification is a soapbox for people. It’s sensationalized. There are a lot of real concerns about property value increases, but also, a lot of people will benefit from incremental tax bases that allocate funds to improve the area. People who want to grow will take advantage of that.”
Cho is also active in Brickell, where he is working on a transit-oriented development project with Robert Finfarb.
“We have a project designed with Arquitectonica, but we don’t really know what we are going to end up with,” Cho said. “The target is 125 multifamily units, 250 hotel rooms and 16K SF of retail.”
He hopes to have the zoning decided within six months and to break ground in a year.
If the Miami City Commission passes an ordinance that will reduce the minimum size of apartments from 400 SF to 275 SF, Cho and Related Cos. may also reduce the size of already-approved units at Wynwood 29, a pair of mixed-used towers they are developing together at the intersection of Northwest First Avenue and Northwest 28th Street. Those units are currently designed to start at just over 400 SF.
Redesigning for smaller units “will make them even more affordable,” Cho said. “At 275 SF, you can offer units under $200K — $150K for a starter unit — for a single person, for college students.”
Cho said they are also considering building a garage that could later be retrofitted if a car-less future becomes a reality. He said the project is on hold until Related finishes two other multifamily developments in Wynwood.
“We want to be comfortable that the condo market is robust enough to support a successful sales campaign,” he said. “The condo market had a correction, in my mind. I think we’ve been experiencing a slowdown for 24 to 36 months. Now we’re experiencing a soft landing. It’s a good thing — a more sustainable path in terms of growth. With a slowdown, construction costs will come down. People aren’t overleveraged, because banks have been much more conservative about lending. We’re in a healthy real estate market.”
Cho said he is also invested in a senior care facility and a 22,000-acre eco-retreat in central Florida.