MIAMI — It's a great time to be a commercial tenant in downtown Miami or the Brickell Avenue financial district, thanks to a glut of new office space that will begin flooding the market next year.
But for everyone else in the downtown commercial real estate game -- lenders, brokers, bankers, construction workers -- there's a disaster brewing, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1980s.
The recession already has businesses downsizing or closing. At the same time, there are no new tenants moving into the area and vacancy rates have soared to 15 percent -- a level unseen since 2004.
Meanwhile, two behemoth office towers -- Met 2 Financial Center and 1450 Brickell -- are to be completed next year. Another tower, Brickell Financial Centre, might open in 2011.
The future health of a revitalizing downtown area will depend on the ability to absorb as much as two million square feet of new office space -- nearly the equivalent of sprawling Sawgrass Mills. In a good economy, the market absorbs 250,000 square feet of space a year. Analysts estimate it could take three to seven years for the space to be rented, extinguishing many hopes for new construction and the jobs it creates.
How it all plays out could have serious implications for an economic recovery that has begun to take root elsewhere but hasn't quite made its way to South Florida.
``In the short term it will present quite a challenge,'' said Alyce Robertson, executive director of Miami's Downtown Development Authority, which is working to recruit new companies to downtown.
Until that happens, competition for tenants will be fierce, giving an edge to shoppers like Hunton & Williams. ``It's nice to be wanted,'' said Marty Steinberg, managing partner of the law firm's Miami office. ``It's like dating. We're one of the larger tenants in the market so it puts us in a good position.''
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