Observations on South Florida business
Can you function without a car in Florida?
A decade ago, most of us would have answered no. But some people think it may now be possible in densely populated areas of South Florida, thanks to new and improved modes of transportation plus technology. In fact, some condo towers in downtown Miami offer no parking for their residents.
Consider a recent trip from the Brickell Financial District in Miami to a technology conference at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.
The trip took only an hour, avoiding perpetually congested Interstate 95. From Brickell City Centre, a rider can hop on the Metromover, a 4.4-mile electrically powered automated people mover to the Brightline train station in downtown Miami. The elevated Metromover is free and runs loops around Brickell and downtown Miami.
The Brightline train is the newly launched hourly train service that connects Miami with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The stations are brightly lit, there’s free Wi-Fi and well-stocked snack bars. Cost to ride to Fort Lauderdale: $15 to $20 for a one-way ticket.
The train whisks you to Fort Lauderdale from Miami in less than 30 minutes, enough time to check email using the free Wi-Fi onboard. From the Fort Lauderdale station to the Broward County Convention Center is a 10-minute ride with ride-sharing apps Lyft or Uber.
The return trip is just as easy and speedy. Bonus: you can change your train ticket if your meetings in Fort Lauderdale end early.
Is this enough to give up your car? Perhaps. There are still many reasons to keep driving, from grocery shopping to shuttling kids to and from school and events. Another obstacle may be cost: The round-trip travel to Fort Lauderdale from Miami using the train and ride-sharing cost about $50, double what it might cost in gas and parking.
But trains and ride-sharing save the aggravation and lost time sitting in traffic on I-95 and arterial roads. Plus, in about two years, the Brightline train line (to be renamed Virgin Trains after an investment by Richard Branson) will be extended to Orlando. Tampa is next.
More reasons to ditch the car? It’s now possible, at least for some destinations.
At a recent business event in Miami, Brazilian developer Marcelo Kingston asked his audience to guess the nationality of the first buyer at 57 Ocean, the ultra-luxury condo tower under construction in Miami Beach.
This is an important question if you’re involved in real estate in South Florida. Kingston is managing partner of Brazil-based Multiplan Real Estate Asset Management and 57 Ocean is one of the region’s most high-profile luxury residential projects.
Developers such as Kingston face a challenge selling luxury condos now that the wave of South American buyers has ebbed, stung by struggling economies at home and the strength of the U.S. dollar. The greenback’s strength relative to other currencies has spooked Europeans and Canadians, too.
But any entrepreneur can draw lessons here. Fact is, your customers may change over time, whether you’re selling clothes or technical services. Finding them in times of economic stress will help you manage any downturn.
The audience attending the South Florida Business & Wealth event in Miami recently shouted their answers while Kingston shook his head. Brazil? No. Colombia? No. Russia? No. None of the usual suspects.
Then Kingston revealed the nationality of his first buyer: Romanian.
Kingston’s guessing game with his audience illustrated his point that it’s going to be a lot harder to find customers for luxury residences in South Florida. But there’s hope that they’re out there — and they may come from unexpected places such as Romania.
Blogging for entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida (SoWeFlo)