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Brickell Rivals South Beach As Hottest Spot To Live, Work And Play

September 13, 2011 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Local News  | 19 Comments

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Above: Le Kabob allows customers to smoke out of the hookah while listening to live music

With its high-rise luxury condos, towering glass-lined skyscrapers and elevated trams zipping above streets and between buildings, the Brickell neighborhood in Miami is the epitome of modern American city living.

With the exception that most of its inhabitants are speaking Spanish.

But what can you expect from an area that has the largest concentration of foreign banks in the United States?

There is money on Brickell. Plenty of it. But most of it comes from South America.

However, Brickell can also be affordable on a healthy working wage (or two), especially if you compare it to South Beach.

“I find that newcomers usually have both South Beach and Brickell as top options,” said Jamey Cothran Prezzi, a Miami real estate agent who specializes in both areas.

“But in terms of what you get for the money, you can get a lot more bang for your buck in Brickell than in South Beach.”

For example, rent at the Icon South Beach, a luxurious condo designed by Philippe Starck, goes for about $3,000 a month, Prezzi said.

“And that’s without a balcony,” she said.

But rent at the Icon Brickell, which is also designed by Starck and just as luxurious, goes for about $1,950 for a 1-bed, 1-bath unit.

You won’t have a beach within walking distance, but you will have a balcony.

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Rising Rents

However, rents in Brickell have sharply increased within the last year, due to the increased demand and dwindling supply.

“The average rent (for a 1-bed, 1-bath) is around $1,600 to $1,700 because there is not a lot of rental inventory anymore,” Prezzi said. “It’s super competitive.”

“Last year, they would have been $1,500 or a price people could negotiate. Now there is the list price and if you don’t want it, there are five other behind you who will.”

Ashley Rodriguez and her husband pay $1,575 for a one-bed, one-bath with small den at Latitude on the River.

“We locked in a good price two years ago up on a really high floor,” she said.

Scott Potchik, an underwear model from Ohio who is always posting pictures on Facebook of himself sitting in a pool with various women in bikinis, pays $2,300-a-month for a 2-bed, 2-bath unit.

He loves it there, but admits it is expensive.

“It’s great if you live and work in Brickell,” he said. “You’re living in a metropolitan city, close to the airport, close to the Keys, close to South Beach; the views from the condos are amazing, great food and lots of exciting development on the way.”

Most units come with a parking space and charge you about $150 per month for a second space, so that should be factored in before making a moving decision.

Nightlife

Like South Beach, many of the bars and clubs don’t stop serving until 5 a.m.

And while you won’t have endless blocks of nightclubs, bars and restaurants as you do on South Beach, you’ll have a concentrated section of diverse, thriving establishments ranging from Tobacco Road, the oldest bar in Miami, specializing in live blues acts, to Kukaramakara, a Colombian-owned restaurant and nightclub (pictured below), specializing in live Latin dance music.

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And you’ll have everything in between from the corporate chain P.F. Changs to the locally owned Italian trattoria, Rosinella.

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“We’ve been here since 1998 and have seen this place change very much,” said Angelo Filaccio, manager of Rosinella (pictured above with his staff), a very authentic and well-run trattoria owned by a local Italian family that makes some of the best tiramisu in Miami.

“I used to stand outside and when I saw a car coming, I knew they were coming here,” he said.

Now, they could be going to a number of other locations, including Rosa Mexicano, Dolores but you can call me Lolita, El Vato Tequila and Taco Bar, Blue Martini Lounge, Burger and Beer Joint, Fado Irish Pub, Perricone’s or Baru Urbano.

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History

William and Mary Brickell moved to the area from Ohio in 1876, 20 years before Miami was incorporated as a city.

They bought large tracts of land south of the Miami River to Coconut Grove, which included what is now known as the Brickell area.

Mary continued developing the area after her husband died, creating a row of mansion’s along the bay that was known as “Millionaire’s Row” back then.

Chad Cohen of the Brickell Life blog describes Mary’s goals:

Most historians agree that William Brickell was more of a recluse while Mary was the power player in the marriage. She typically handled the business and earned a reputation as a cantankerous and stubborn woman. After William’s death in 1908, Mary set her sights on developing the neighborhood and laid
out her vision of what it should look like. She had a very definitive idea for how the region should be developed all the way down to the current landscaped median in the middle of Brickell Avenue. In December 1921, the year before she died, Mary Brickell wrote an open letter to the people of Miami describing what she wanted to do with her still ample property: “Many times in the past I have been urged to sell this tract to subdividers but I have not cared to part with it for a number of reasons. The average real estate operator has but one object in view: to develop the land to be subdivided as quickly and cheaply as possible, and to get it off his hands at an inflated value, and reap an exorbitant profit. But I have always had a vision of a subdivision ‘de luxe’ for Brickell Hammock.”

The mansions were long-gone by the 1980s, replaced by towering condos and Latin American banks, which were fueled by the cocaine economy of the time (and probably made Mary Brickell turn over in her grave).

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And while the area has always withstood the Miami cycle of booms and busts, it has always come out gleaming.

And today is no exception. In the early part of the millennium, Miami was going through yet another development boom, which added to the area’s already high skyline.

Units were snatched up in record numbers by foreign investors, mostly from South America, but many from Europe as well.

But then came the bust and Brickell was left with a bunch of empty condos that were valued less than the buying price.

That opened up the area for renters, mostly young, single professionals who were unable to buy a condo, but could afford to rent one.

And that helped spark the nightlife, which provides a less hectic and pretentious alternative to South Beach.

“Brickell is very laid-back and friendly, especially this place,” said Dimitri Секейра (pictured below), a bar manager at El Vato Tequila and Taco Bar, a place where barmaids climb up on the bar and pour tequila down your throat.

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However, not everybody is so enthralled with Brickell.

James Echols, who runs Soul of Miami and lives on South Beach, said he finds it “disturbingly cookie-cutter and bland.”

“The crowd there seems to be mostly whatever passes for Yuppie in the 21st century (do people still use that term?),” he said.

“Everything seems overpriced, but maybe that is just because I do not know the ‘locals’ places. It seems a bit too sterile and not very ‘homey.’ Of course, places like Tobacco Road and Transit and PAX, I love those places, but Mary Brickell Village kind of seems like the Miami version of Stepford.”

Mary Brickell Village, a shopping entertainment complex that offers drinking, dining and dancing as well as several retail stores, was completed in 2008 - during the height of the recession - and struggled to keep up occupancy rates.

However, Brickell’s population boom sparked an interest in tenants and it is now running at 78 percent occupancy rate, said Fernando Perez, general manager of the complex.

By early next year, at least four new restaurants will be opening in the complex, including Taverna Opa, Toscana Davino, Brother Jimmy’s Barbecue and Doraku Sushi, not to mention a TCBY.

“Right now, we have 95 percent leased and it will be 95 percent occupied by 2012,” he said.

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Above: Fado Irish Pub in Mary Brickell Village

The Culture Shock

For those whose only experience with Miami is South Beach, Brickell might provide a little culture shock because so many people are speaking Spanish on the streets, bars, clubs and restaurants.

But these are not the low-wage immigrants you’ll find in other parts of the city, but young, educated professionals from prominent South American families.

So most will be able to switch to English in a second.

“If you are one of those people who feels English should be the only language you hear, then you probably should move to Broward,” said Potchik, who happily describes himself as a “Gringo from Ohio.”

“If you like different cultures, good food and beautiful people, then you will love living in Brickell.”

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Above: A group of Portuguese and Brazilian woman chatting over coffee at the Brickell Starbucks

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Above: The Brickell Tennis Club

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Above: The Brickell Citicentre is another shopping complex that will soon be built in the area


Photos by Carlos Miller

 

Related Categories: Miami: Local News,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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19 Comments on

"Brickell Rivals South Beach As Hottest Spot To Live, Work And Play"

Doug says:

Cool photos! it doesn’t look like the kind of place where you could feel at home in some old jeans and a t-shirt, though.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 12:32 PM

Bryce says:

Good article. I’ve lived in Brickell for three years now and glad I moved here over Ft Lauderdale.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 1:37 PM

Christy says:

Thanks Carols! Awesome article, and perfcect timing for me. The realtor is totally right about the rents..The icon might be more in SoBe but you could rent in flamingo or mirador for the same or less than Brickell. One of the reasons I’ve decided not to move back to Miami is because I wanted Brickell and now the apartments are $200-$300 more than I wanted to spend. I’m still going to look though..

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 1:47 PM

Mario says:

Great article Carlos!  You captured the area pretty well.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 4:07 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

Nice sum up.

As an on-again-off-again part time dweller in the area for over 10 years, it’s pretty amazing how the area has transformed. Even those years looking at dormant constructions cranes have paid off.

Our attraction to Brickell was associated with having one of us work in the area. That is usually the norm. People live,work and party here. After work hours, establishments are jumping. The best part is we can quiet down in very calm Brickell Key at the end of the day.

As I’ve mentioned before, SoBe is a gagged spoon. We like the beach there but have a better option close by at Key Biscayne. Huge advantage !

Our cheif complaint these days though is lack of parking in Brickell when going out.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 6:47 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

Doug - Why not jeans ?

True, many types of hispanics get judgemental sometimes on what you wear. You should know my opinion on that already.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 8:19 PM

Doug says:

It looks like a pristine yuppy fashion show.  At least South Beach, for all its problems, has a little grit and individuality left.  A little.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 10:24 PM

r-k says:

Very nice article and pictures. Not everyone likes living in tall buildings, though. That is one big advantage that south beach (and other places) have over Brickell.

Posted on 09/13/2011 at 10:49 PM

katalina says:

Great article Carlos, you explain very well what Brickell is all about.  I’ve been living here for 3 years now and won’t trade it for any other part of town.

Posted on 09/14/2011 at 8:05 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Fantastic review, Carlos.  Thank you so much for mentioning its white settler history—although you forgot to mention that it’s also the site of the Miami Circle, which is pre-historic at over 2,000 years old when the Tequesta Indians lived there. I mention this because of the Miami Circle Park, which is such a precious anomaly in a place of glassy towers.

Brickell also has some very nice walkways and paths, both waterfront and in the tree-shaded avenue past 8th street.  And Key Biscayne beaches are a stone’s throw away plus there is Simpson Hammock Park—the only nature preserve of its kind right smack dab in urban Miami. I mention all this for our new readers who might not be fully familiar with the area.

I think the Brickell turn-around is probably satisfying the Miami River Commission’s desire to build up that section of the river as a liveable urban area, though it’s still a shame we don’t have a long, useable walkway.  The north bank and Brickell Key is much better for that.

Posted on 09/14/2011 at 10:22 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

RK—South Beach has quite a few tall buildings. Perhaps not as tall—still too much concrete in South Beach for my taste as well.

Posted on 09/14/2011 at 10:23 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Thanks everybody for the compliments.

Maria, there is a lot I could have included, but I needed to finish this article because it was already behind schedule.

But here is my article on the Miami Circle for anybody that’s interested.

http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/index.php?/news/comments/miami-circle/

Posted on 09/14/2011 at 2:51 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

If I had to do it over again, it would have been a home around Coral Way.
Extremely fond of the neighborhood off Brickell. From the Catholic Church to the Synagouge on Coral Way.

Condo life can be a drag, especially with nice options nearby.

Posted on 09/14/2011 at 2:57 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

I used to be a Brickell fan. not anymore.

If you’re the type who ENJOYS being around large amounts of South Americans, yeah, it might be a good time. But every time I go out there I just find myself aggravated and often depressed. I think “beautiful” people is kind of a rlative term, as I rarely even see girls in Brickell I’d be itnerested in talking to.

Probably a decent area if you’re young, professional and Hispanic. Otherwise, really not an enjoyable place to socialize. Living there is convenient, but you can literally pay half that in rent and live on the other side of 95 in Little Havana. And probably deal with less traffic.

Posted on 09/15/2011 at 2:22 PM

Allan Kleer says:

Brickell versus Miami Beach…I think there is always enough room to make Southeast Florida a spectacular place to live and play whether your in the South of Fifth neighborhood, Downtown Miami neighborhood or the Brickell neighborhood. But one thing is for sure…Miami Beach still has the crown for the most luxurious waterfront properties in the city and that is what attracts a lot of people to Miami Beach…sun, sand and surf and a wicked view of the ocean…Brickell with its bay view still has a way to go. Right now now we are seeing examples of near-record breaking sales for these waterfront Miami Beach condo properties and there is no sign of slowing down until oceanfront condos are all gone!  But Brickell is a really great community for those who just want to be a drive away from the beach. http://www.thekleerteam.com/blog/2011/09/Recent-Examples-of-Miami-Beach-s-Top-Dollar-Condo-Sales.htm

Posted on 09/15/2011 at 3:05 PM

Laurie says:

Great article, Carlos! I’ve only been to Brickell a couple times, and not for extended periods. Your article and photos gave me a real feel for the place.

Matt, have you ever tried living in Nebraska? Might be too cold or too much corn, but culturally speaking…

Posted on 09/16/2011 at 8:22 AM

Blackford Oakes says:

If my eyeballs still work: Doesn’t Brickell have a ton of upside, while SoBe does not.

Posted on 09/16/2011 at 7:07 PM

mannyingco says:

Brickell is a great place to live just for convience alone despite what people may say about the yuppie crowd. The rents are however rising pretty dramatically. If you would like to know more about brickell check out my blog at http://www.brickellvida.com

Posted on 09/25/2011 at 9:27 PM

Marc says:

Brickell is a great area, but yes, its all high rises. Lots of restaurants but the ‘walking’ culture doesnt compare to South Beach.

For all brickell tries to be, its never going to have a beach, so it will always be 2nd best.

Yes sobe has high rises, but only in certain parts. The historic/deco designation keeps the old buildings from being bulldozed for high rises.

Posted on 07/07/2012 at 3:12 PM

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