Development Team Headed to Miami? 4 Things You Need to Know

15 September, 2020

A New York-based acquaintance recently asked me if I thought there was still development opportunity in Miami. I smiled, nodded, and then proceeded to tell him about the continued influx of residents and businesses arriving in the City regularly. The sustained population growth is fueling long-term development opportunity.

As Miami continues to flourish with real estate and development activity, it attracts a growing number of out-of-state developers every day. My team has guided many of them in developing successful projects throughout the tri-county region, specifically within Miami-Dade County. These projects include designing and permitting for unincorporated properties governed by the County, as well as sites within the incorporated cities in Miami-Dade, which are subject to city-specific codes and regulations.

While development opportunities in Miami are far from exhausted, Miami, like any urban city, has its own development nuances and processes. I provided my investor friend with these four tips, and I’ll share them here with you. If you and your development team are new to the area, here’s an insider look at the common challenges you may face and how to be proactive in avoiding or overcoming them:

1. The Effects of COVID-19 on Entitlements

It’s a fluid situation, and jurisdictions are experiencing varying degrees of shut-downs, staffing changes, and processing delays. Many are now accepting electronic submissions. In some cases, city and county staff members are working remotely or in staggered shifts.

What Developers Can Do:

Understand the status, current working conditions, and temporary rules for the jurisdiction and regulatory agencies with oversight over your project. At Bohler, we communicate frequently, often daily with officials, reviewers, and inspectors to understand these conditions and how they affect project timelines.

2. The Risk of Underground Unknowns

If you’re developing in Miami, it’s likely a redevelopment. There is little undeveloped land within the City of Miami. Depending on the site’s prior use, redevelopments may be at higher risk for contamination.

When redeveloping properties with existing, older developments, it’s common to discover unknown or undocumented underground utilities during construction—a time during the project when a redesign significantly impacts budget and schedule.

What Developers Can Do:

Budget for critical due diligence items. I always recommend performing thorough due diligence. Two important items to have at the top of your due diligence list are:

  • Environmental testing to check for contamination, and
  • An underground utility location survey, which can help mitigate issues during construction. This survey can uncover structures that may have been missed on a prior as-built plan of the property.

By investing up front to identify these common Miami challenges, you can act on them early.

3. Miami-Dade’s Platting Initiative

A current trend I’m seeing is cities requiring new platting to clean up their platbooks. As a result, developers are often required to work with a surveyor to prepare a plat for review and approval. The tentative plat must be approved prior to the building permit being issued, and the final plat must be approved and recorded prior to receiving a Certificate of Occupancy.

What Developers Can Do:

At the start of the project, understand what is required and how it impacts project milestones. If the site is within an incorporated city, there is typically a review at the city level prior to county review. Understanding this requirement and time commitment should enable you to develop a more realistic schedule and soft cost projection.

4. Challenging Entitlement Process With Many Stakeholders

As is common with many urban areas like New York City and Washington, D.C., land development permitting in Miami-Dade is an involved and time-intensive process. It’s common for cities within the County to change regulations and add new applications and review requirements.

To further complicate the process, some elements of the project require both city and county review. These jurisdictional processes move along different timelines and involve multiple agencies reviewing the plans. Addressing the needs and comments of different stakeholders while keeping the project on track can be challenging.

What Developers Can Do:

Vet potential entitlement obstacles early with a stakeholder meeting. Engage a land use attorney with jurisdictional experience and a successful record. Meet with elected officials and development directors before submitting your application to gauge their impression of the project and garner support.

Additionally, be aware of the long lead items, like Miami-Dade County Traffic. This process is generally the most time-consuming task on a review and approval timeline, taking nine to twelve months to secure approval. If your project requires Miami-Dade County Traffic input and approval, it is best to know that at the start of the project, so the time can be accounted for in your budget and timeline.

Understanding time commitments should enable you to develop a more realistic schedule and soft cost projection.

With an ever-increasing population, Miami has a lot to offer developers. Understanding the common challenges and how to tackle them puts you in a stronger position to be successful. Start the process off by having an experienced team in place. Local consultants closely monitor regulation changes, understand city and county-specific nuances, and have solid working relationships with local government officials. Lean on this insider information to help you identify and execute deals with confidence.

Considering a development in Miami?

Reach Out To Taylor
About Taylor Parker, PE
Taylor Parker, PE, Branch Manager at Bohler in Miami, Florida

As Associate and Branch Manager of Bohler’s Miami, FL office, Taylor leads a team of experienced and local civil engineering professionals who look beyond the immediate plan set to understand the bigger picture of what’s possible. Having permitted a multitude of projects throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, Taylor has developed strong relationships with city officials and county staff. She has successfully navigated approvals through agencies such as Miami-Dade County Traffic, Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM), and Broward County Surface Water Licensing. Taylor drives the land development process, leveraging creative design solutions and aggressive permitting strategies to keep projects on track and help developers grow their businesses.

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