A Chicago developer who's built a handful of small projects in Little Havana and Coconut Grove in the past four years says he has now nailed down one of the most elusive and significant real estate deals in Miami: The redevelopment of a chunk of Grand Avenue, the distressed core of the historically black and Bahamian West Grove.
Ricky Trinidad, president of Metronomic, Inc., said in an interview that he has signed a $25 million contract to purchase some 15 lots along Grand. He said he plans to launch construction on the lots, which occupy most of three adjacent blocks, soon after the deal closes early next year.
The properties had long been tied up in litigation that foiled attempts by other developers to tackle redevelopment of the corridor connecting affluent Coral Gables and the well-to-do, mostly white Coconut Grove. Trinidad said the legal disputes blocking the land sale have been resolved, though that could not be independently verified.
Trinidad's $74 million, ambitious blueprint calls for 13 buildings, including a hotel, offices, a micro-unit apartment house, a mix of affordable and "deluxe" rental apartments and shops. A permanent farmer's market would be set in a grove of trees where an organic market now takes place on Saturdays.
The buildings would be capped at five stories, the limit under current zoning. One roof would be designed to accommodate drones capable of ferrying people that are now under development once they are approved for use, Trinidad said.
But will Trinidad's plan save the West Grove or drive a stake through the heart of what's left of the struggling community? And can a developer who acknowledges he has never done anything this big even pull it off?
Those are key questions that Trinidad, who is virtually unknown in Miami development circles, is likely to face as he moves forward with Grand Plaza, as he's dubbed the project. Trinidad previously announced Metronomic Place, a 44-room boutique hotel to be built on the site of an old gas station on the corner of Grand and Margaret Street, across from a CVS. That block, adjacent to the informal boundary between the West Grove and Coconut Grove's commercial village center, would now be the easternmost piece of the Grand Plaza project.
If it goes through, the purchase would be a coup for Trinidad, who said he came to Miami seeking new development opportunities after the end of the recession. Trinidad worked in the Chicago area for 20 years previously. According to materials he provided, he had a modest track record there for developing several small urban infill projects and consulting on others.
According to press reports, Trinidad also participated in a pair of more-complex real estate proposals that appear not to have panned out. One was a plan to redevelop an industrial district in Rockford, Ill., and another a proposal to build an indoor extreme-sports center featuring a simulated sky-diving free-fall in Hobart, Ind.
He founded Metronomic in Chicago, but sold it to investor David Helmrich, who in turn hired Trinidad to run the firm. Trinidad said he does not have an ownership stake in Metronomic but has lined up private investors to provide project financing.
In Miami, Metronomic finished a six-unit townhome-style apartment building in Little Havana, Villas Beny More, and is building a second, the 16-unit Plaza Celia. It's also nearing completion in Coconut Grove of two upscale apartment buildings on Bird Avenue and is building several single-family homes in the neighborhood. His plan to build a boutique hotel on a narrow parking lot on Commodore Plaza in the village center is in permitting.
In addition, Trinidad said, he is developing several co-living buildings targeted mainly to students at Miami Dade College Interamerican Campus in Little Havana and has acquired properties for as many as two dozen other infill projects.
Trinidad said he is confident he can build the Grand Plaza project. He hopes to tap into federal and state funding for the affordable housing component. Architectural drawings by Pablo Burgos of Burgos Lanza & Associates and Carl Levin of CLAD are already underway, he said.
He said Metronomic can deliver quickly and less expensively than other developers because it has an in-house general contractor and buys its own materials, saving time and money. Trinidad said he has assembled a capable, experienced and hardworking team. He also noted that the project consists of a series of small buildings, something he has ample experience developing and constructing.
Asked why he thinks he can succeed where others have flailed, he ticked off several elements: "The team that we have put together. The political support we're getting. The vibrancy we're going to bring to the neighborhood. Our design," he said.
Then he added: "This is not rocket science, by the way. These small buildings are not hard to build.
"What's new to us is doing it all simultaneously."