Creating Infill Developments True To Their Urban Context


Many of those who go on to become successful developers trace their interest in the field to their college years. Andrew Frey started far earlier on his real estate career journey. He was just 10 years old when, in the living room of his family’s home in Allentown, Pa., he sketched out a regional high-speed rail system for South Florida. The design still exists, framed in his son’s bedroom.

Today, Frey is known as the founder of Tecela, a company specializing in maximizing risk-adjusted returns on city development, and as a board member of the Tri Rail, South Florida’s passenger rail authority. Frey is also a zoning lawyer, educator, advocate and most recently winner of the ULI Southeast Florida Young Leader of the Year. His projects are built around the notion that development can take place without demolition of the urban context in which it is set, and that some types of development foster wealth distribution, as well as greater participation from all segments of society in urban enclaves.

Many developers specializing in urban infill focus all their energies on building as tall as possible. Frey’s vision is different. He is spearheading new creative development solutions for urban infill and residential buildings. His company’s recent project – its second urban infill development – is, like the first, a low-rise but high-density multifamily community.

Situated at 761 and 765 NW 1 Street in Miami’s legendary Little Havana enclave, that development includes two townhouses, each featuring four apartments. A measure of the venture’s success came in a recently-inked lease agreement. Stay Alfred, a trailblazer in the vacation rental field, signed on as a tenant, a nod to the fact both vacationers and residents are increasingly seeking authentic experiences. It was the 33rd domestic location for Stay Alfred, the leading provider of travel apartments since 2011.

“I’m very happy to be collaborating with Stay Alfred in East Little Havana,” Frey says. “It’s the historic and cultural heart of Miami, with attractions visitors crave from great parks, new restaurants and bars like La Trova and Los Altos, to entertainment like Tower Theater and Viernes Culturales. We’re excited to have a tenant that will bring guests in to patronize Little Havana’s authentic vibrancy and amenities — not just for the evening but for days at a time.”

Shooting higher without heights

While he could have developed a much taller building, he opted instead to create a development true to the fabric of the community encircling it. To do so, Frey placed himself in the forefront of efforts to gain zoning changes enabling development without the inclusion of parking. The zoning change allowed developers to provide a higher-density solution while still earning enough margin to make the project viable. His lead has been emulated by other developers, who have created projects on the same Little Havana corridor featuring similar scale. 

“I hope my projects are examples for any small company that wants to develop real estate in a way that also can help the community,” Frey says. “The zoning change to eliminate required parking for small buildings was what unlocked this possibility, allowing dense development that leaves intact the neighborhood context.”

Frey credits an inspiration in helping shape his vision. “The incremental approach to urban planning, design and development is having a moment, with Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena winning both the Pritzker Prize and the ULI Nichols Prize,” he says. “He is famous for designing dense but low-rise developments of ‘half-finished’ townhouses, so families can add to and adapt them over time. I worked with architect Jason Chandler to take a page from Aravena’s playbook, designing a housing prototype that achieves 72 units per acre, but in only three stories.” 



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