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MIAMI — Developer Espacio USA has received the green light for its first major U.S. investment, a $412 million mixed-use project in downtown Miami’s Omni area. The city’s planning, zoning and appeals board approved the project on Wednesday, paving the way for a 12-story, Class A office building, 55-story luxury residential condominium tower and street-level retail.

Espacio USA, the American division of Spain-based real estate firm Inmobiliaria Espacio, will begin construction in early 2013 on the mixed-use development located at 1400 Biscayne Blvd. in downtown Miami’s burgeoning arts and entertainment district.The development marks the first real estate project to be built in the area since the last real estate boom.

“Two years ago, we began investing in downtown Miami and attracting new office tenants, and now we are entering the next phase of our plans to help revitalize Omni by bringing a Class A product to an underutilized area,” says Alberto Muñoz, CEO of Espacio USA.

“With an iconic design and a healthy mix of residential and commercial uses, the development will serve as an anchor for its neighborhood, while bringing an additional economic boost to downtown Miami,” adds Muñoz.

In 2010, Espacio USA completed the $35 million acquisition of a 150,000-square-foot office and retail building on the 14th block of Biscayne Boulevard. The company invested $2 million in a capital improvement and marketing program that attracted a variety of quality tenants, increasing the building’s occupancy to 95 percent in two years.

The new 12-story, 103,000-square-foot boutique office building planned for 1400 Biscayne Blvd. is designed to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification.

The mixed-use development will rise directly north of the Adrienne Arsht Center. The American Airlines Arena is five blocks south. Miami International Airport, Miami Beach, Brickell Financial District, and the city’s Health District are all less than 10 minutes away by car or public transit, which includes the Downtown Miami Trolley, Metrorail and Metromover.

Favorable timing

The project will get under way as downtown Miami rebounds with strong demand for residential and commercial product. The area’s inventory of new, unsold condo units was below 2,900 units as of June 30, a decrease of 30 percent from a year ago, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

The urban core’s retail market has also benefited from population growth, with more than 200 new businesses opening since 2005. Likewise, the office market is experiencing net positive absorption as new-to-market tenants arrive and existing companies expand.

All these factors contribute to downtown Miami becoming one of the fastest growing urban hubs in the country, with the district’s population growing from 40,000 to 70,000 between 2000 and 2010, and another 10,000 people expected in the coming years.

“With the local economy rebounding and Miami’s urban core showing signs of growth in both the residential and commercial sectors, now is the time to move forward with our development on the 14th block of Biscayne Boulevard,” says José Antonio Fernández Gallar, director of Inmobiliaria Espacio.

“We have invested over $80 million in the South Florida market in the past five years,” points out Gallar, “and we look forward to being a long-term fixture in this community, helping to shape the city’s skyline and contributing to its economic growth.”

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners is the project architect. The internationally renowned architecture firm has designed other noteworthy properties worldwide, including the John Hancock Tower in Boston, The Grand Louvre in Paris and Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong.

Most recently, Pei Cobb Freed received a design award for its work on the Palazzo Lombardia in Milan, Italy. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat recognized the architectural firm for developing the “Best Tall Building in Europe”.

Pei Cobb Freed is collaborating with local architecture firm Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects.

— Matt Valley

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