Miami Worldcenter has been a marathon of sprints, explains Nitin Motwani, one of the sprawling project’s creators. As he speaks, the elevator zooms up the master-planned development’s signature luxury tower.
As the doors part, visitors step onto the 58th floor of the skyscraper named Paramount Miami Worldcenter, where a skydeck, pool and panoramic view beckon near the entrance of Miami’s newest neighborhood.
Construction on the 10-block area that constitutes Miami Worldcenter, announced in 2006, was delayed by the Great Recession and other challenges for a decade. The tower finally opened in 2019 but, less than a year later, the pandemic hit.
Despite the challenges, Miami Worldcenter is inching toward completion. Starbucks announced plans in December to open in a more than 2,800-square-foot space at the Jewel Box, an 80,000-square-foot, lifestyle-driven retail space at the site. The announcement brings Miami Worldcenter’s 300,000 square feet of retail space to more than 90% leased.
The $6 billion master-planned project with mixed uses spans 27 acres, making it the second- largest of its kind still underway in the United States — only New York’s Hudson Yards covers more ground — and it has already reshaped the Miami skyline. The neighborhood’s wide spaces and central open-air plaza seem set to provide the automobile-dependent city with a newly built and expanded urban core designed to be walkable.
“The idea for Miami Worldcenter was an awareness of how other great cities are and have grown,” said Motwani, managing partner of Miami Worldcenter Associates. Other metropolitan centers, including New York, San Francisco, Paris and London started their growth before the advent of the automobile, expanding organically from a dense core.
“But what was interesting is two things made Miami a little different. One was the beach,” which was for much of the city’s early history its main — and perhaps sole — attraction. But second was “that we were one of the few major cities first developed after the car,” Motwani said.
“What we wanted to do was actually do a city the way great cities are. Focus on the pedestrian first,” he added. That mentality drove Motwani and partner Art Falcone to look across the landscape and identify the “confluence of arts, culture, entertainment, transportation and education,” finding it in Miami’s Park West neighborhood. Over a decade ago, the area was considered underutilized, located between Miami’s central business district and a pre-renovated Wynwood farther north. But there was promise.
The area sits between Miami’s airport, seaport and beach, all long recognized as important economic drivers for the region. At the time, a new performing arts center had just opened, and plans were being developed for new cultural amenities that would become the Perez Art Museum, which opened in 2013, and Frost Museum of Science, which opened in 2017.
And a key piece of the puzzle was that an underwater tunnel completed in the past decade re-routed away from the neighborhood the 300-plus trucks, with their accompanying smog and noise, that cut through the area daily on their way to the port of Miami. With all that in mind, “then what could happen if you controlled that space?” Motwani asked.
Back down the elevator to ground level at 851 N.E. 1st Ave., it’s quiet. The sidewalks are wide — Worldcenter’s walkways span 15 feet to 35 feet across compared to the four feet to five feet required by the county code. Entire streets have been vacated and are now exclusively for pedestrian use, and multiple walkways bisect the entire property.
South Florida gained more national attention during the pandemic, not as a spring breaker’s mecca but as a maturing hub of international business. While the region is no stranger to boom-and-bust cycles, a string of high-profile relocations and expansions to South Florida, and Miami specifically, has “affirmed that we are one of the great global cities,” said Motwani.
Those relocations or expansions include the likes of billionaire company founders Jeff Bezos and Ken Griffin as well as securities firms Citadel and Goldman Sachs, online retailer Amazon and tech company Microsoft. According to the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county’s official public-private economic development partnership, 51 companies committed to expand or relocate to the area during 2022-2023 after 57 a year earlier.
Despite Miami’s newfound national prominence, Worldcenter predated the city’s current success, making the initial stages of development a challenge.
“When we started, it was very difficult,” Motwani said.
The Great Recession provided the team a chance to aggregate the land under one developer and bring on Los Angeles-based CIM Group to help provide additional financial muscle. It would nevertheless take 10 years to secure the first $1 billion in financing, Motwani told CoStar News.
Each individual project needed to secure its own financing, and were often under 50% leveraged. Each deal represented its own story. But as the successes expanded, other developers began leveraging their own relationships.
“There was a good story,” Motwani said about Worldcenter’s beginnings. Now both it and Miami’s success has led to a bevy of new projects and developer interest around the area.
Brightline’s Miami Central Station, and the hundreds of apartments above it, sits a few blocks away from Worldcenter, connecting residents and visitors to the rest of the state. Global real estate development and investment firm Naftali Group, with its $15 billion development portfolio, entered the Miami market with Jem Private Residences at 1016 N.E. 2nd Ave.
At 700 N.E. 1st Ave., New York-based developer Lalezarian Properties topped off the 52-story Miami World Tower 1 in July, with three additional residential towers on the way.
Property Markets Group, developers of Miami’s first supertall tower — the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Residences — is working alongside E11even Partners and have already broken ground on E11even Hotel and Residences branded after one of Miami’s most famous clubs along Northeast 11th Street.
Miami Worldcenter extends along 2nd Avenue and Miami Avenue toward 11th Street. Overall, the project is designed to provide Miami with 600,000 square feet of offices, 300,000 square feet of retail space, over 100,000 square feet of public green area, about 11,000 residential units that include both rental and for-sale units, and 850 hotel rooms.
Over 255,00 square feet of retail space is now available, with tenants that include a
showroom and service center for electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors, Lululemon and Ray-Ban. Dining options include Chug’s Express, El Vecino Cigar and Cocktail Bar, Brasserie
Laurel from Michelin-star chef Michael Beltran, and now Starbucks has added its name to the list after the recent announcement.
Juvia, a Miami Beach staple, is relocating to Worldcenter’s Block H. Additional every-day dining options also include Burgerfi, Earl’s Kitchen and Bar, a Sweet Paris Café and Anthony’s Coal Fire Pizza.
If all goes according to plan, Worldcenter’s retail space should be open before the end of 2024.
Residential properties have already opened at Worldcenter. The signature Paramount Miami Worldcenter, with its LED display visible as a beacon across the city skyline, and Caoba phase one, both opened in 2019, providing 569 and 444 luxury and market rate units, respectively. Caoba’s second phase will bring the total number to 855. Bezel Miami, where Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler exercises and directly across the street from the Heat’s home court at the Kaseya Center, offers 434 luxury units and opened in 2021.
The full scope of the Worldcenter is well on its way toward completion, even if it will take years to finish the projects underway. Lalezarians’ Miami World Tower is the first of four towers, three of which have yet to break ground. The sold-out E11even Hotel and Residences, The Crosby being developed by Related Group and Merrimac Ventures, and the Royal Palm Legacy Hotel and Residences are all expected to open in 2025.
Naftali’s 67-story Jem Private Residences will open even later in 2026. New York-based The Witkoff Group, alongside Monroe Capital, are also in the early stages of development for a sixth, three-tower, mixed-use project, with a construction permit application submitted in September.
Even with the development, Miami still faces challenges of its own, particularly around traffic and public transit. Miami ranked fifth in the nation and ninth globally in terms of traffic congestion, according to the latest report form transportation analytics firm Inrix.
“We can’t do enough transit because people want to come here and traffic is bad,” Motwani said, but if current plans pan out, Worldcenter residents would be able to reach Miami Beach, the Dolphin’s Hard Rock Stadium, and over a dozen different communities across South Florida without using a car.
Local officials are working on bringing South Florida’s regional commuter rail service, Tri- Rail, into Miami Central Station alongside Brightline. While the private rail service runs east
of Interstate 95, Tri-Rail runs to the highway’s west, with 18 stations compared to Brightline’s six in the region.
Miami-Dade County has also been working to secure federal funding for the $2 billion expansion of Miami’s elevated subway system, Metrorail. The funding would allow for the long-deferred northern expansion of the network and connect to the Broward County line and Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami World Tower, being developed by Lalezarian Properties, topped off earlier this year and is designed to provide 550 market rate units including one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. (Joshua S. Andino/CoStar News) Additional plans include the expansion of Miami’s Metromover, an automated people mover that circulates around the city’s urban core to Wynwood and Miami Beach that is expected to open in 2030.
Motwani expects Miami Worldcenter to center that growing network.”Where we look at Miami World with a lot of excitement is when I sit at Citizen M before a Heat game and watch friends getting off Brightline from Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale,” he said, describing the city’s potential future.
They didn’t drive, he points out, and as South Florida continues to grow, it has become more regional in nature. It’s for the better, he says, as the region competes against larger metropolitan areas.
“We believe transit is going to play a bigger role, long term,” Motwani said.
The region’s growth has led to neighborhoods to the north and south of Worldcenter seeing increased development and similar transformations. Once a collection of rundown warehouses, Wynwood has become one of Miami’s most famous cultural districts, with dozens of art galleries and street-side murals. Similarly, Midtown Miami and the Design District, now home to luxury shopping, designer brands, and whole communities, was once a rail yard. And while the Brickell Financial District has always been the city’s economic hub, it commands new attention as offices top off and break ground to accommodate the city’s new players.
“From our standpoint, we look at Design District as an incredible success done by one of our very own, same with Wynwood, and same with Brickell. We’re excited to create that other area in-between,” Motwani said.