The inspiring success story of two lawyers turned real estate moguls that overcame adversities to build River Landing Shops & Residences
Andrew B. Hellinger and Coralee G. Penabad were successful lawyers practicing commercial litigation and bankruptcy, but real estate development was their passion. Now, Andrew and Coralee are the principals behind Urban-X Group, a Miami development company with a focus on urban development and community building. Andrew sat down with us to reveal how two Florida-licensed attorneys built one of Miami's biggest and most iconic developments. River Landing Shops & Residences is a 2.2-million-square-foot mixed-use project on the historic Miami River and a catalyst of change for one of Miami’s oldest - and once-neglected - communities in the city’s urban core.
What inspired two lawyers to get involved with real estate development in Miami?
Before creating a multi-million-dollar real estate development company, Andrew Hellinger and Coralee Penabad were practicing Florida-licensed lawyers. Their entry into real estate development starts with Leviev Boymelgreen Developers (LBD).
In 2005, Andrew was asked to become president of the Leviev Boymelgreen Developers or LBD. However, before the Great Recession hit, Andrew and Coralee reorganized, restructured, and sold off LBD's remaining assets to take advantage of the real estate market right before an economic meltdown brewing on the horizon. Due to their quick thinking, the corporation was able to sell its whole portfolio at a profit before the market took a hit and property values collapsed. Andrew’s hard work and proactive planning in South Florida's real estate market earned him the title of Top Dealmaker in 2006 and Coralee was recognized as a top lawyer in finance in 2007.
Buying, selling, and managing real estate
After Andrew and Coralee closed LBD in 2007, they decided to take charge of their own destiny and establish a real estate development venture together. Andrew has always believed that if you can litigate real estate, you can also buy, sell, and manage it successfully. Having done lots of design and development work at LBD, the partners found that there were areas of Miami that were ripe for development investment, especially around the Health District.
They identified areas in the City of Miami that had been overlooked for decades by private and public capital despite having tremendous potential for development. The area west of downtown Miami where the Health District, Little Havana, Allapattah, and the Miami River converged captured their attention. That neighborhood offered them the unique opportunity to reshape the city by creating a new submarket anchored by River Landing. With their sights set on the Miami River, Urban- X set out to develop an iconic development designed to unlock the riverside culture for the residents of Miami-Dade County.
What challenges did they face in tackling this major project?
Andrew and Coralee agree that the biggest obstacle in accomplishing their greatest project emerged during the investment phase. It wasn't easy convincing capital markets that the Mid River area around the Health District was worthy of investment. Since River Landing would be a mixed-use development, investors who wanted to invest in both the residential and retail aspects of the project were hard to come by. Andrew and Coralee bought the land at the predevelopment and acquisition level in 2014, but they had to wait a while before the River Landing project could become a reality.
Eventually, Tom Hofstedter, the CEO of H&R REIT, saw the value of developing an urban, mixed-use project that could transform an entire community and become a catalyst for change. In a short period of time, H&R REIT became the new owner of River Landing, joining forces with visionaries Andrew and Coralee. Together, they shared the same dream: designing and developing a space that would benefit Miami's communities and economy.
What makes River Landing so different?
The sprawling development caters to residents and visitors. The $500 million project comprises approximately 345,000 square feet of retail space, 135,000 square feet of office, 528 market-rate apartments, more than 2,000 parking spaces, and the 25-foot-wide Riverwalk. The architecture consists of four levels of retail, three levels of office space above that, and the two apartment towers – rising 15 and 13 floors – sit atop a 12-story parking deck. The retail side of the building has a steel-frame skin, with glass and precast concrete.
The retail tenants are a who's-who of local, regional, and national retailers including ManCave for Men, Miami Optical Boutique, The Charter Agency, Publix Supermarkets, Planet Fitness, Old Navy, Ulta Beauty, Ross Dress For Less, Burlington Stores, Hobby Lobby, Five Below, Chase Bank, AT&T, Pediatric Dental Center, Aspen Dental, Publix Liquors, Chick-fil-A, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, P.Pole Pizza, Carrot Express, CKO Boxing Gym, Ficelle Boulangerie & Patisserie, and Tanuki. In recent weeks, River Landing announced the addition of Häagen-Dazs and Pet Supermarket.
River Landing fosters and supports local artists
One of the retail spaces is home to Capsule, a curated retail store for local makers and female entrepreneurs. Capsule was designed, in part, to support retailers who had lost their retail space or were unable to establish one during the pandemic. On the residential side, Urban-X’s careful attention to detail created spacious living areas in the Lantower River Landing Apartments with roomy closets and unmatched views. A one-story amenity deck between the apartment towers features an Olympic-sized pool, gym, outdoor fitness area, business center, and party room.
The office portion of the project fills a void in the Health District, where office space is scarce. This game-changing development has injected new life and sparked an economic revitalization in one of South Florida’s largest employment centers home to the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami Hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital, and more. The development is the first large-scale project in nearly 50 years in the Health District area, which has one of South Florida’s largest daytime populations.
Some of River Landing’s office tenants include Jackson Health System’s Public Health Trust, which is leasing the entire fifth floor of the office tower, and The Offices of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, which is leasing one-third of the office space in River Landing. This is the largest prosecutor’s office in Florida and the fourth largest in the United States with 1,200 employees. The combination of retail, office, and market-rate apartments has made River Landing a premier, award-winning development.
URBAN-X is currently exploring more opportunities for development in Miami, particularly around the riverside areas. To learn more about Andrew and Coralee, visit the UrbanX website. To learn more about River Landing Shops & Residences go to the River Landing website.
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