By John Charles Robbins Miami Herald
Thirty-two trains a day – 16 departures from Miami, 16 arrivals to Miami. That is the ambitious expectation for All Aboard Florida, a private venture to bring passenger rail service back to South Florida.
Representatives of All Aboard Florida attended a real estate forum in Coral Gables last week and shared some particulars to the main train station under construction in downtown Miami, the southern end of a new intercity passenger rail link to Orlando. The trains will come on line in January 2017, according to Charles Shallat, executive vice president with Lincoln Property Co., working with All Aboard Florida.
The multi-block complex being built adjacent to the county government center – MiamiCentral – will be much more than a transportation hub, although that will be the foundation.
“It’s a hub we’re creating,” said Mr. Shallat. The MiamiCentral station will be the culmination of all modes of transportation: The long-distance train, Metrorail, Metromover, buses, trolleys, bike rentals, taxis and more.
Those who choose to live at central station can do so without owning a car, he said.
But the project does include four levels of parking for those unable or unwilling to give up their private vehicles. Panelists agreed the transition away from the auto will be slow.
Phase one of central station is to include the base facility with elevated tracks. The entire downtown site for All Aboard Florida is eight blocks long.
Two residential towers with 800 dwelling units are planned for the project’s central portion, he said.
The downtown Miami station will be at Northwest First Avenue between Northwest Third and Eighth streets. There will also be a 2-acre multi-use gateway complex in Overtown at Northwest Second Avenue and Sixth Street to include mixed-use development with retail, commercial and parking.
The foundation or podium of the MiamiCentral station is targeted for completion within a year, with vertical construction commencing about this time in 2015, Mr. Shallat said.
Occupancy in the residential units is expected beginning in March 2017. The 800 residential units will be rentals.
When it comes to price, Mr. Shallat said, “Affordability … we struggle with that quite a bit. We’re not on the water.”
He said the project will introduce a lot of studio and small 1-bedroom apartments. He also mentioned a floorplan design with three bedrooms, each with a private bathroom and closet, where tenants share a common area.
The development may attract a mix of tenants, he said, with a focus on a younger working group. It is being marketed as a live-work-play address.
“We’re not looking to sell,” he said of the first two towers. The market for the residences will be a “more workforce driven community.”
Mr. Shallat extolled the many components expected to draw young professionals to MiamiCentral.
“It will be a fun place to live,” he said. The amenity deck is two blocks long, with two large pet areas, swimming pools, a fitness center, outdoor areas for barbecues and picnics and more, said Mr. Shallat. The project will also include a fresh food market, restaurants, shops and office space.
For the person who trades in a car for a lively urban environment, MiamiCentral will let them “experience a life, instead of experiencing a ride,” Mr. Shallat said, in reference to sitting in a car stuck in traffic for hours on end.
Central station’s address will offer “a positive to life,” he said.
At MiamiCentral, the passenger rail system will be elevated 50 feet to align with existing public transportation systems, with retail spaces beneath the tracks. The design allows thru-streets to remain open to traffic and creates an atmosphere of walkability, said the company.
The retail component of MiamiCentral is to include about 200,000 square feet of leasable space on the street level and in the main terminal concourse. The overall development plans to offer about 800,000 square feet of Class A office space.
A later phase of the project will include a mixed-use “super tower” on the southern end of the station, said Mr. Shallat.
Draft plans show the super tower being home to 225,000 square feet of hotel use, 610,000 square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of residential units.
Complete build-out of the development is expected to encompass 3 million square feet.
While construction on the train station in Miami has started, construction has also begun at the sites that will be home to the company’s new stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The Miami-to-Orlando rail service will have intermediate stops in those cities.
Headquartered in Coral Gables, All Aboard Florida is a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries LLC.