Legal Eagles Soar on Top 7 Floors of $1 Billion Mixed-Use Project
“The project itself, Brickell City Centre, is one of the greatest projects to be built in America in recent decades.”
Neisen Kasdin, Akerman’s Miami Office managing partner, has lots of insight about the law firm’s move into 110,000 square feet in Brickell City Centre in early March, about a week after unpacking.
When it comes to revitalization in metro Miami, Kasdin has either seen it happen or helped make it happen.
He is governor of the Urban Land Institute, and he serves as vice chair of the board of directors for the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Kasdin has been recognized by Chambers USA and The Legal 500 as one of the leading land-use lawyers in Florida.
As the state’s largest law firm, it is synergistic that Akerman’s Miami office would take up residence in the city’s largest mixed-use development project to date. In fact they are the largest tenant.
“We occupy about 83 percent of one of the two office buildings. … The space is highly efficient. All the attorney offices are the same size, whether you’re the top partner of the firm or first-year associate.”
The cushy corner office has given way to egalitarianism.
Wheels were put in motion in 2015. After 20 years residing in the Business District’s SunTrust International Center, Akerman’s lease came up for renewal and the decision was made: time for a change.
Kasdin knew about the project four years earlier, when he and Akerman partner Spencer Crowley represented the project developer, Swire Properties Inc., in obtaining necessary approvals, including the first special area plan under new zoning requirements.
The $1.05 billion Brickell City Centre features 5.4 million square feet of office space; residential; EAST, Miami, a 352-room hotel; open-air shopping and entertainment; in addition to a two-level underground parking garage that spans seven acres. Among the bells and whistles: an environmentally sophisticated and innovative CLIMATE RIBBON™ architectural feature that provides active and positive climate control — combining both beauty and practicality as it ties the development together.
Its commitment to large-scale sustainable urban development also is apparent in multiple green building features and a site-integrated Metromover light rail station.
In addition, Kasdin recognized the potential of bringing a whole new level of urban living and sophistication to the area. A global company, Swire Properties is the U.S. real estate subsidiary of the publicly listed Swire Pacific Holdings Ltd., based in Hong Kong. Swire, largest shareholder of Cathay Pacific, is a developer of world-class, mixed-use projects that essentially create destinations and build value for the communities around them. Brickell City Centre was next.
In full disclosure, Kasdin noted that Akerman still does other legal work on the project, including the leasing of the retail space.
Yet, less is more, he continues about the new office. Akerman’s former space totaled 117,000 square feet, more than its current 110,000. Nonetheless, “We actually can accommodate more attorneys and more staff. Creating equal-sized offices and even more shared work spaces allows us to maximize the capacity and efficiency of our office space.”
Also, co-working spaces enhance collaboration, and a 12th floor café overlooks the Miami River. “We probably had 40 people eating lunch there,” he said, recounting a recent day.
“The employees, uniformly across the board, are thrilled with the move.”
Akerman’s strategic relocation puts the firm in the center (or Centre) of substantial economic action. For starters, the project’s overall economic impact is tabbed at $1 billion. The employment sector gains some 1,700 construction jobs, on average, per year for four years. The City of Miami is banking on $6.1 million in permit and impact fees, and Miami Dade County stands to add $9.6 million annually in ad valorem taxes.
Around the new office building, Kasdin witnesses a similar injection of life, a literal renaissance of international proportions. “Miami has become a true international city. I’ve lived through a number of cycles. It’s different today than it ever was before. The quality and the strength and the depth of the investors and developers is unparalleled,” he comments.
Kasdin wants a trickle-down (or Brickell-down) effect. And he’s confident it won’t take long.
“It’s a most forward-thinking, city-of-tomorrow kind of project,” he concludes.