Brickell Rivals South Beach As Hottest Spot To Live, Work And Play
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.
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.
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.
And you’ll have everything in between from the corporate chain P.F. Changs to the locally owned Italian trattoria, Rosinella.
“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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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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