“Moonlight has put Liberty City on the map!” says Arthur Klapenberg, a real estate investor from New Jersey who purchased a collection of Liberty City apartments as an investment in 2009. The 66-year-old says he has spent the last several days entertaining offers from developers hoping to cash in on Liberty City’s enhanced profile following Moonlight’s unexpected Best Picture win.
“As a developer, you couldn’t ask for better buzz than Moonlight,” said Juan Casablancas, V.P. of Growth for Satellite LLC, an investment company that hopes to develop the “Moonlight Square Apartments” in what is now Liberty Square.
“Liberty Square could become the next Wynwood, or even the next next Little
River Haiti,” said Casablancas, who says he has already spoken to a number of big box retailers that see Liberty City as Miami’s next hotspot. “I don’t want to say too much, but Whole Foods is very interested.”
“We see this development as absolutely fantastic for Liberty City,” said Miami-based commercial real estate Leslie Gronk-Hart, who though she has never visited the community described it as “charming.”
Visitors and locals are looking for an authentic experience,” said Ms. Gronk-Hart. “I think Moonlight showed the world that Liberty City is all about authenticity. It just needs to become a little more polished in order for it to truly shine. Just look at Wynwood. Before 2007 there was literally nothing there. Nothing. Then we started painting some murals and reaching out to luxury brands, increasing security, keeping locals on their side of the street, and now everyone is enjoying a really fantastic return on investment.”
But what do Liberty City residents think of the proposed development? We didn’t ask any. But Juan Casablancas says that he is going to do everything he can to honor the local community.
“We understand that ‘gentrification,’ whatever that means, can be seen as a negative sometimes, but we are very committed to making sure that Liberty City remains Liberty City,” said Mr. Casablancas, who noted that he would be offering Liberty Square residents a right of first refusal for his new Moonlight Square Apartments, which start at $599,000.
By Chiron "Little" Black