Creating a Community for Urban Life

On the northwestern outskirts of Miami-Dade County, a sophisticated urban center has taken shape: Downtown Doral, a 120-acre, $1 billion mixed-use development by Codina Partners LLC. Here, CEO Ana-Marie Codina Barlick discusses the project and its diverse offerings

The combination of residential, retail, and office space will give the community of Doral “a true downtown, a heart,” says Ana-Marie Codina Barlick, CEO of Codina Partners.

Downtown Doral Milestones

1970: Koger Office Park begins to take shape in northwestern Miami-Dade County, housing mostly government workers
1994: Koger Company files for bankruptcy, and Koger developments across the United States are sold throughout the late 1990s to different owners
2003: The area surrounding Koger Office Park, known as Doral for the nearby Doral Golf Resort and Spa, incorporates
2004: Codina Partners enters into a joint venture with the owner of the Doral Koger Office Park
2006: The company completes the entitlement process for the Downtown Doral development
2010: Codina Partners finishes the first phase of Cordoba Luxury Rentals
2011: The company builds its first new class A office building, 8333 Downtown Doral
2012: The company erects Doral’s city hall
2013: The second phase of Cordoba Luxury Rentals wraps; Codina Barlick is named the CEO of Codina Partners

Talk about how Downtown Doral came into being.
Doral was an area in northwestern Miami-Dade County, named after the iconic Doral Golf Resort, which is nearby. There was a countywide incorporation movement in the 1990s and early 2000s, and in 2003, Doral incorporated. Soon after, we entered into a joint venture with the owners of the property, institutional investors advised by JPMorgan, and have been developing what we call Downtown Doral now for 10 years.

What was the vision for the project?
We saw that a number of areas that incorporated didn’t have a true downtown, a heart, so our vision was to create a community where people could enjoy all aspects of urban life—living, working, learning, and playing—in the same place.

Where did you begin?
Phasing was a major challenge because it’s an infill project. With a green-field project, you start with the front door then build out the infrastructure. We didn’t have that option. The property itself was an old office park, with 31 buildings and existing infrastructure. We tore down 24 buildings and will tear down two more by early next year because they were obsolete. But we couldn’t just terminate tenants: we had to wait for leases to expire or negotiate with tenants in order to get them to vacate. And, as we demolished buildings, we had to upgrade roads, which required redirecting existing tenants.

Then?
After we dealt with the first part of phasing, addressing the physical location, we had to deal with the second part, which is product type. You need some critical mass of retail, but it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Do you get retailers first because people want to live where they have amenities? Or do you get the people to live there to draw the retailers? Balancing when to proceed with each product type has been a challenge.

Where does the development stand now?
Almost half of the 120 acres of land has been developed. We kept four office buildings, a total of 365,000 square feet, and they’re 95 percent leased. We built a 450-unit rental apartment community, Cordoba Rentals, and a 150,000-square-foot class A office building. We built a 60,000-square-foot city hall. And, we improved a three-acre park across the street from city hall. It features a massive $1 million public art sculpture designed by prominent artist Michele Oka Doner, which we donated.

What about ongoing construction?
There’s a 20-story, 203-unit condo tower called 5252 Paseo. There’s a 75-unit townhome complex; we’ve sold 60 of them, and the first closing will begin at the end of 2015. And, we’ve broken ground on the first phase of our retail project, which will have 80,000 square feet. We’ve already signed a few anchor tenants, including restaurants Bulla Gastropub, Suspiros Ceviche, and Dragonfly, plus a dry cleaner and a bank. It should be open by late 2015.

The Downtown Doral development is going up on the site of a former Koger office park situated near the Doral Golf Resort. Codina Partners had to get creative to work around the location’s existing infrastructure.
The Downtown Doral development is going up on the site of a former Koger office park situated near the Doral Golf Resort. Codina Partners had to get creative to work around the location’s existing infrastructure.

You’ve worked on this project for 10 years. Has it been meaningful to you to see it develop?
I love all my projects. I like that you create something and you leave something behind. You can physically touch what you’re working on. You can drive by and show it to people. But this is my favorite project to date. It has every aspect of development except industrial. Within Downtown Doral, I can’t say I have a favorite building because if you take any building and put it anywhere else, it wouldn’t be the same building as it is in Downtown Doral. All of the parts together make a community.  

Third-floor townhomes in the heart of Downtown Doral will offer sun and panoramic views of the community.
Third-floor townhomes in the heart of Downtown Doral will offer sun and panoramic views of the community.