Investing in Florida's Mobility With Rail
By: Michael Reininger, president and chief development officer, All Aboard Florida
The 3 million-square-foot MiamiCentral complex will cover nine acres just east of Miami-Dade County Hall and two acres in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood. Its office, retail and residential space will offer a vibrant urban environment.
All Aboard Florida is an intercity passenger rail project being developed by Florida East Coast Industries LLC, the owner of Florida’s primary passenger rail corridor, that will connect Miami to Orlando with intermediate stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
All Aboard Florida (AAF) is two unique but complementary businesses. The first is the new express rail system, which will connect Central Florida and South Florida in under three hours, transforming the way visitors, residents and business travelers move and conduct work in the nation’s third most populated state. By 2017, this more than $3 billion, privately funded new infrastructure will connect the downtowns of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with the Orlando International Airport. The second business is the development of approximately 4 million square feet of new commercial, hospitality and residential transit-oriented development (TOD) around the three downtown stations.
These new businesses align with two emerging trends. The first is the increasing numbers of people who are choosing to live in urban areas where they can walk or take transit to work, entertainment and social activities. The second is a reduced dependence on the personal automobile and increased reliance on public transportation.
Each of the three downtown stations will be a gateway to its host city as well as a key portal to its shops, restaurants and attractions. All three stations have been designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in association with Zyscovich Architects. Economists estimate that AAF’s rail and real estate development project will add more than $6 billion to Florida’s economy over the next eight years while also subtracting some 3 million vehicles from the state’s highways yearly.
Earlier this year, AAF selected CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) and Blanca Commercial Real Estate as the exclusive retail and office leasing agent for the Miami station development. Both share AAF’s vision of creating a vital inter- and intracity transportation network, as well as a vibrant urban center where people enjoy living, working and playing.
The 60,000-square-foot All Aboard Florida station in West Palm Beach is expected to become a new gateway to the city and county as well as a transportation hub.
The aptly named MiamiCentral will be the rail line’s downtown Miami station. Signaling an exciting future in multiuse transportation services, the Miami station represents the first urban mixed-use, TOD project in South Florida. Boston-based Suffolk Construction began performing preconstruction and construction management services in November.
MiamiCentral has been designed to meet the city’s growing demand for a dynamic downtown center that combines the convenience of mobility with the community atmosphere of a neighborhood and a collection of shopping and entertainment venues. The station also is expected to become the new “crossroads” for up to 12 million business travelers yearly. It essentially will become a multimodal hub for Miami-Dade County and will encompass access to the existing and future transit systems, including Metrorail, the heavy rail system with a direct connection to the airport; Metromover, the elevated people-mover system that connects the city’s performing arts and financial districts; the bus transit system; rental cars; and the trolley system. It also will have the potential to integrate a commuter rail system that would serve cities along Florida’s east coast between Miami and Jupiter.
Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach
Similarly, the Fort Lauderdale station will be an anchor for surrounding urban development. The new station and future TOD will transform nearly seven acres of what today is a host of old buildings, vacant lots and small businesses at Northwest Second Avenue between Broward Boulevard and Northwest Fourth Street. The 60,000-square-foot station and platform complex will attract new visitors into downtown and surrounding cultural, economic and shopping destinations. This new gateway to the city and Broward County also will connect residents and travelers to additional transportation networks, including the Sun Trolley, Broward County Transit system, a future Wave Streetcar and a planned commuter rail station. Site work is underway, and construction is expected to begin in early 2015.
By 2017, the All Aboard Florida express rail system will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with the Orlando International Airport.
The 60,000-square-foot station and platform planned for downtown West Palm Beach will neatly connect rail service’s past and future. More than 100 years ago, railroad entrepreneur Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railway to West Palm Beach, initially thinking that it would be the railway’s terminus. The new AAF station will be built between Datura and Evernia streets, near central attractions like CityPlace, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the government center district and the Clematis Street area. The station’s central location will open a new gateway for both the city and the county. It also will connect to existing travel options like the trolley and pedestrian network. Site work is underway, and construction is expected to begin in early 2015.
Building this next-generation high-speed rail line and the infrastructure to support it, using only private funds, is an unprecedented venture in both the state and the country, one that AAF has undertaken because the company is confident in Florida’s future as a global leader in business, hospitality and international commerce.