Episode 1: Allapattah: The Next Big Transformation

Old Structures, New Purpose: Mastering the Practice of Adaptive Reuse Series
Lawcast Podcast
March 2, 2021


Land use and zoning attorneys Javier F. Aviñó and Carly S. Grimm discuss the big changes happening in one of Miami’s historic neighborhoods, Allapattah. They cover recent developments in Allapattah, the trends that are shaping its future, and the role of adaptive reuse in its accelerating transformation. What follows is a transcript of the discussion.


GRIMM: Hello everyone, I'm Carly Grimm. 

I'm an attorney with Bilzin Sumberg’s Land Development and Government Relations Group. 

I'd like to welcome you to Bilzin Sumberg’s Interview Series: "Old Structures, New Purpose: Mastering the Practice of Adaptive Reuse."

In this interview series, we're going to address relevant and timely issues related to adaptive reuse from both a business and a legal perspective. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Javier Aviñó. He is the head of Bilzin Sumberg’s Land Development and Government Relations Group. 

And today, we're going to be chatting about a neighborhood in Miami that is poised for some exciting new developments, which is Allapattah. I think when a lot of Miami locals think about neighborhood transformational success stories, their minds automatically go to Midtown or the Miami Design District or Wynwood. But in terms of rapid transformation, Miami has not stopped in those areas. And there's a lot of other neighborhoods where that's taking place, or that they're on the cusp of that kind of transformation. And I think Allapattah is one of those neighborhoods, as its neighbor Wynwood took off, Allapattah has been on somewhat of a different timetable. But we are now seeing developers and entrepreneurs come into that neighborhood, viewing it as an affordable area and centrally located, also has a lot of character and history to it. And you have recently done a lot of projects in Allapattah, a lot of interesting groundbreaking developments. So you have some insight on the history and the character of that neighborhood, and insights on where that neighborhood is headed. 

So with that, thank you for joining us today. I'll start off with a first question, which is that Wynwood relative to Allapattah is smaller, and arguably has a somewhat more simple story, which is that it was full of industrial warehouses that were part of the garment districts in Wynwood, and have been transformed into other uses, such as retail and restaurants. Allapattah is larger, and has a more complex economy and history. But from your perspective, is there an overarching story, or through line that describes Allapattah’s history and where that neighborhood is going?

AVIÑÓ: Thank you Carly for having me. 

Yes, the short answer is every neighborhood in Miami, it has its own sort of take, right. Wynwood, as you talked about, was largely industrial, in character. And that was important in the sort of the Renaissance and the creation of regulations that went towards the redevelopment of Wynwood and kind of what we're seeing today. 

Allapattah, similarly, has its own sort of fabric. It's largely single family, but it's geographically located just off of the airport, next to the health district, which was one of the largest health districts in the country, off of transit, major transportation, so it really lends itself to, really this redevelopment, and Allapattah 2.0, if you will. And so yes, we had the opportunity to work on a large scale development in Allapattah. What we heard from speaking to the community- at-large, was really the need for a mix of uses. There certainly is that single family residential character, but it's missing some of the other things that really make a community sort of complete.

GRIMM: As you mentioned, Allapattah is a fairly large neighborhood with a lot of different aspects with its proximity to the airport and transits, different neighborhood compositions. Do you think that there are different pockets of Allapattah that are going to see development more rapidly than others? And if so, why?

AVIÑÓ: Yes, I think so there's a grid pattern in most neighborhoods in Miami and zoning certainly has a large part to do with that, we talked a little bit about Allapattah having a fairly significant amount of single family zoning. 

For the areas of Allapattah that have industrial designations, or more intense residential designations, those will certainly lend themselves to a more rapid and more natural development growth.

GRIMM: And as you said, Allapattah does have some commercial corridors but it certainly is made up of a lot of residential single family homes and that type of land use. 

Do you think that presents unique challenges for that neighborhood as opposed to other areas in Miami that are experiencing this kind of development?

AVIÑÓ: Yes. So, you mentioned Wynwood. Wynwood did not have really that component to it and whenever you have a large contingency of single-family ownership and renters even there tends to be more involvement from a community aspect in what happens next. 

I think naturally, while the community is yearning for and longing for some development and some investment into their community, they want to have a say in sort of what happens.

GRIMM: Adaptive Reuse has been hugely successful in the neighboring Wynwood. Do you think there are similar opportunities for adaptive reuse in Allapattah? And how do they differ from those opportunities in Wynwood?

AVIÑÓ: Yes, certainly, adaptive reuse is sort of very prominent and prevalent here in Miami. And in large part, it has to do with the built environment that we're in, there's not a large amount of vacant land opportunities in core geographic areas in Miami. I think a lot of things are adaptive reuses and their scale is sort of different, right, some are full adaptive reuses, some are historic adaptive reuses, and I think Allapattah, similar to a lot of other communities, will evaluate that sort of on a case by case basis.

You know, some projects will lend themselves to, you know, allowing for rehabilitating certain aspects. And others will require sort of ground up, and so I think it really is case by case. In Wynwood, since you asked, I think that the differences there are that there was already a very strong built industrial environment. And there was a desire to really keep that character. And that was important, and part of the adaptive reuse story.

GRIMM: On that note, you have worked on a number of projects in and around the Allapattah neighborhood. So can you tell me one that you think has some major potential to really transform Allapattah for the better?

AVIÑÓ: Yes, absolutely. So Miami Produce SAP, we received approvals for that in 2019. And as part of that approval, it's in part an adaptive reuse. There's some industrial buildings that were on the site and it was important to retain those and keep the character of those buildings, some will be raised and then there's some new buildings as well. It's a large nine acre site, in the heart of Allapattah. And right next to public transportation, a true mixed use project that will include, you know, commercial uses, residential uses, educational uses. I think that project, certainly will be transformative for the neighborhood. 

In addition to the Produce SAP, there's a series of residential projects that are I think, in line to be very transformative and Allapattah adjacent, there's also River Landing. While not technically in Allapattah, it's certainly part of the greater area. And that too, will bring a unique twist with a big box retail component and much needed restaurant uses as well. So I think when you look at communities, you look at not just the exact community, but sort of what happens and how that starts to transform the area even further around it. Allapattah, certainly, again, to the earlier point of being geographically centrally located, I think will yield more rapid growth around the health district as well.

GRIMM: Adaptive reuse is definitely a different animal than ground up development. From a developer's perspective, what are some of the unique legal issues that maybe someone needs to look out for or have a conversation about before engaging in adaptive reuse?

AVIÑÓ: Yes, when we embark on evaluating an adaptive reuse project, it is different than a ground up development, I mean, typically, in ground up development, you're looking at the basic density, intensity, what you can, the uses that can be built there. With adaptive reuse, you have to take it to another level, you know, you have to look at it from a building code standpoint, you have to evaluate whether there's any non-conformities that come into play. Ultimately, what tenants are going to be there, what may or may not be acceptable. We're fortunate enough to have a large sort of contingency of folks that have not only a lot of experience with the adaptive reuse environment, but the various sort of specialties that come with looking and evaluating an adaptive reuse project, because as you said, they're vastly different from a ground up development.

GRIMM: Alright well Javier, thank you so much. You've taught us a lot about an up and coming neighborhood, Allapattah, in Miami and about adaptive reuse. And we hope everyone enjoyed our interview series and learned something valuable and we look forward to speaking with you again soon.

AVIÑÓ: Thank you for having me. Thank you.

Related Practices
Javier F. Aviñó
Practice Group Leader, Land Development & Government Relations
Press Release April 18, 2016
Bilzin Sumberg announces that Real Estate Partner Martin A. Schwartz was named a Fellow to the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL). With fewer than 50 ACREL Fellows in Florida, the exclusive invitation for membership is reserved for distinguished lawyers contributing to the improvement o...
Lawcast Podcast April 23, 2021
Land Use & Government Relations attorneys Javier Aviñó and Anthony De Yurre discuss adaptive reuse and historic preservation in one of Miami-Dade County’s most iconic historic neighborhoods, Coral Gables. They cover the City of Coral Gables’ use of adaptive reuse to pre...
Press Release May 04, 2018
More than 50% of the Firm's partners have been recognized in the 2018 edition of Chambers USA. In addition, the Real Estate and Land Development & Government Relations Groups were shortlisted for the Chambers USAAwardsin the Real Estate category.