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Midtown Miami 33137: Season 1 – Freshman Year

Dear Miamism Readers, are you in for a treat! Everyone knows that when it comes to Miami Condos, there is always an “inside story” that you can only get from an actual resident of the particular development. Midtown Miami has gone through an evolution of sorts during its short existence – from developer changes, rentals of unsold inventory, opening and closing of businesses/restaurants, and not to mention the transformation of its community. I had this vision of you getting that inside story from 2 dear clients and now friends who happen to also be super bright individuals – I cannot be any more thrilled that they have accepted the challenge. Without further ado, let’s get started.

I leave you in the hands of Ritch Holben and Ken De Loreto.

Midtown Miami 33137: Season 1 – Freshman Year

by Ritch Holben and Ken De Loreto

Akin to the Aaron Spelling TV series with a California zip code in the name, Midtown Miami 33137 is based on a drama-filled plot (of land) and born of the minds of creative, profit-driven New Yorkers.  ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ chronicled twins Brandon and Brenda as they navigated culture shock and teen angst after leaving the frosty North for warmer climes.  It became a phenomenon. To tap into a coming zeitgeist, Hollywood visionaries must navigate the wasteland of TV and popular culture.  Such is the same for real estate developers.  The New York visionaries of Midtown Miami 33137 saw a vast wasteland of derelict rail yard at the center of Miami as ready for prime time.

A plotline of ‘The New Urbanism’ inspired the directorial vision; eight high-rise residential buildings, each one a city block unto itself, each a unique character by a distinct architect. Festooned by abundant square footage of retail, entertainment and commercial opportunities, Midtown Miami 33137 touted the promise of a well-balanced, exciting, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood near everything that Miami has to offer.  FRESH, URBAN, REAL became the headline.  The pilot episode for the show was much anticipated by the critics and picked up by the network even before it aired. (Rumor has it that our future building and one of the drama’s characters – Midtown 2, sold out in three hours at a cocktail party – such was Miami Real Estate Fever in 2005.)  Money was raised, characters were cast, sets were built, publicity was leaked and a new future hit Midtown Miami 33137 was set to premier.

Then 2008 hit. By that time, several blocks of parking and retail stretched along North Miami Avenue.  The Midblock complex and two of the eight residential towers were near completion. Over 600 condos needed to close, but the plummeting, economic ‘Nielsen’ ratings shot fear into investors, and the rats scattered as if from a sinking ship. Many of those who pre-purchased these condos were speculating on future profits only, and defaulted, sued the developer, or found other ways out of closing, and thus began the first major mental shift in The Midtown Plot.

Like all good dramas, a nasty antagonist is necessary.  (Dallas was nothing until J.R. was shot.  Dynasty sat fallow until Alexis.  Melrose Place floundered until Amanda and her short skirts sashayed into the complex.)  In Midtown Miami 33137, the Evil Economy was the villain of the Real Estate Game Show, and a LOSE YOUR TURN slot appeared on the Wheel of (Mis)Fortune.  While an antagonist is just what a TV show needs to boost ratings, it is the opposite in the Real Estate Game.  As a result, with viewership down and the price of admission nearly half of what it had been a mere few years earlier, new players arrived on the scene:  The Condo Sharks.

This is where we come in.  Tired of 6-month long winters in the bucolic but frosty Berkshire Mountains, we set our sights on Miami as the perfect life-expansion. Our heroine Ines (of whom you all know by now), navigated us thru the turbulent and shark-infested waters of a Short Sale in Midtown.  (You can see previous posts on Miamism to read more about that side plot.)  Long story short (sale), in this school of hard knocks, we gained admission to Midtown Miami 33137, and our freshman year began.

Raw concrete floors, primed walls, empty units, and only a few retail options (Target, Five Guys, Linens-N-Things, and Circuit City) might have dissuaded others, but put the two of us in pioneer mode.  To paraphrase another TV show tagline, we were boldly going where no one had gone before.  For example, we were told to be careful about where we walked at night.  This was, after all, a former crack hood, and that memory was all too fresh to the locals.  However, with freshman optimism, we walked everywhere.  Others would gasp when we said we went on foot at night to the Design District to dine at Michael’s Genuine.  Before you label them overly dramatic, harken back to 2008.  Wynwood was not yet ‘art-trified’.  Graffiti meant gangs, not galleries.  In some ways, their cautionary tales were right.  For example, our car was broken into at Starbucks at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning while we were ordering Americanos.  Oh, silly freshmen.  Don’t be so naïve.  Yet, as most freshmen are, naïve we were.

Any show that is forging new territory needs time to find its voice.  The same can be said about Midtown Miami 33137.  Our first season was a blur.  In our freshman year, we finished and furnished our retreat in the sky.  We got to know some of our fellow freshmen, tattooed and pierced, driving flashy cars and packing heat (as fellow pioneers often do.)  We dabbled our toes in the neighborhood hangouts, and before we knew it, our character took shape.  We were published in ‘Home Miami’ magazine.  We were photographed and asked to represent the “ideal residents” in the Midtown Miami advertorial for ‘Ocean Drive’ magazine.  We were feeling the roots of a life taking hold in what was once barren and fallow soil. And in what seemed like the flash of a commercial break, five months had passed and it was time to pack up and head north for the summer hiatus. During the three-day drive back to Massachusetts, our collective brain was filled with questions:  Would the show get picked up?  Would the initial promise of the show be realized?  Would the audience’s appetite increase?  Would new cast members arrive on the scene?  Or would the show be canceled and we would lose our shirts?  Only time would tell.

… To Be Continued


**photos by Ritch Holben**

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