» The city didn’t have much luxury retail activity until last year, when real estate company DACRA’s Craig Robins lured brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Dior Homme, Celine and Prada into its buildings in the Design District. Hermes opened a store there this year, and about 40 other luxury brands have committed to moving in by the end of 2014. DACRA’s partner in its $312-million project to build an outdoor mall in the Design District is L Real Estate, a luxury retail-focused private equity fund in which Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey is a minority shareholder. Farther south, in downtown’s Brickell area, developer Swire has set aside 40% of the retail space in its Brickell CityCentre project for luxury brands and brought in Bal Harbour Shops to co-develop it.
» Startup accelerator Venture Hive, an offshoot of The Launch Pad at the University of Miami, has given 10 companies grant money and free office space and is working with 25 Miami-based startups not in the building. Focused on technology startups in travel/hospitality, health care and creative services, Venture Hive is armed with $1.5 million in public funding. Project Lift Miami, an accelerator aimed at health care technology, will enroll its first class of 10 to 15 companies in May, giving them seed money and space at the UM Life Science + Technology Park. Project Lift is backed by Lift1428, Miami Innovation Center (a co-working space in the park), park developer Wexford Science + Technology and UM’s Miller School of Medicine. Global entrepreneurship non-profit Endeavor plans its first U.S. program in Miami this year, with $2 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It helps businesses earning $500,000 to $15 million in revenue jumpstart growth.
» Among the list of concerns in Miami: Resort giant Genting Group is in limbo as it waits for legislators to act on expanding gambling. The company, which has spent more than $400 million to buy the site of the Miami Herald building and nearby land, still hopes to develop a destination resort and casino on the property. But it dropped its petition campaign to put a gambling-expansion amendment on the 2014 ballot after six months of work. An earlier effort to lobby legislators ended last year when a gambling bill failed to even reach the floor of the state Senate or House. Genting says it will support legislators’ efforts to examine gambling statewide.
People to Watch
» Marc Sarnoff: The city commissioner, whose district covers downtown and much of the city’s coastline, chairs the commission this year. It’s fitting, since some of its biggest projects right now are in his district: Miami Marine Stadium and the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.
» Manuel Medina: After Verizon paid $1.4 billion for his technology company, Terremark Worldwide, Manuel Medina founded Medina Capital, which invests in IT companies focused on cloud and mobile computing. He’s a regular speaker at area technology and startup conferences and events and is spearheading an effort to create a Tech Conference of the Americas in Miami for 2014.
» Francis Suarez: This year is a mayoral election year, and no dominant candidates have surfaced yet to challenge Mayor Tomás Regalado. However, City Commissioner Francis Suarez, son of former mayor Xavier Suarez, threw his hat in the ring in January, after months of speculation.
Businesses to Watch
» Florida East Coast Realty: The developer is involved in two unusual projects to help the city maintain and grow its international business sector. The city is including its Panorama Tower in a federal application to become an EB-5 visa regional center, allowing foreigners to make significant investments within the city to apply for a special visa with a path to residency. Florida East Coast could also be the developer on an idea the city is kicking around to create Chinatown Miami/El Barrio Chino del Miami, which would cater to the Asian community with shopping, a charter school, housing and offices.
» City National Bank: The bank is one of the state’s most profitable and one of south Florida’s largest community banks. Even as it grows, though, its parent company has to sell it. Spain-based Bankia, which needed a bailout from the European Union, agreed to sell the Miami-based bank as a condition of receiving the money. City National, which employs more than 440 in the region, is likely to be a coveted acquisition target.
» Carlisle Development Group: Affordable and workforce housing builder Carlisle Development has projects all over south Florida but perhaps its most anticipated is Liberty City Transit Village. If Carlisle can pull off the development, under construction now and set to open next year, it will finally complete a project that has eluded the city, and at least one other developer, for years. The $54-million hub will be a significant mass transit transfer site with a theater, retail and affordable apartments.