Affordable and workforce housing rises in Miami arts district. Who can live there?

It’s nearly showtime for a new high-rise built for “essential workers,” bringing more affordable housing to a place Miami-Dade County needs it the most — the middle of the city.

The 29-story Uni Tower debuts this summer at 1642 NE First Ave., near the downtown performing arts complex, according to Nir Shoshani, principal and co-founder at real estate development firm N.R. Investments. The tower is intended to house what real estate experts and economists call essential workers — teachers, police officers, local state prosecutors. Starting salaries for these workers often range between $45,000 and $60,000.

Five blocks from the county’s Adrienne Arsht Center, Uni brings to the area 252 affordable and workforce housing rentals, two floors packed with amenities, office space, and 4,500 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Most importantly, the building offers a short commute to where residents are anticipated to be working. It’s a 5-minute walk or a 10-minute drive to some surrounding employers, including iPrep Academy in Edgewater, the city of Miami police station near Overtown, or one of the handful of firefighter stations in the area.

The new apartments arrive during a tough time for Miami-Dade’s renters, especially public-sector workers who play key roles in the community and the economy.

Most Miami-Dade renters are cost-burdened, spending over the recommended 30% of their income on rent. That’s partly because over half of renters in the county earn below $50,000 a year.

At a time when South Florida continues to draw wealthy movers and shakers and their employees, budget-friendly rentals are hard to find. So, many essential workers have departed South Florida, leaving some businesses and public agencies without enough workers.

“By bringing in and bettering the basics, such as housing for police officers, it would create a different type of commitment from them to where they serve,” Shoshani said. “The moment I step out of my house — best case scenario — I will influence my wife, three children, and maybe my employees. When the teacher, police officer steps out of his or her home, they will influence dozens that day. If they have a different type of commitment to where they live and serve, we believe that will create change.”

How the Miami housing plans started

The arts-area project has been years in the works. N.R. Investments bought nearly all of the city block of mostly empty lots behind the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency offices in 2014 for its 1.2-acre development, and started planning in 2018. COVID got in the way, Shoshani said. Uni was planned with more office space, but banks wanted it replaced with housing. So, back to the drawing board.

Construction finally started in 2022 and is expected to wrap up in July. Total project costs are about $98 million, and include a $10.5 million grant from the Omni CRA, a city agency dedicated to revitalizing underutilized lots and promoting affordable and workforce housing in the city core.

Uni sits behind the Omni CRA and within a 10-minute walk of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Above: A rendering of the affordable housing rental tower. N.R. Investments
Uni sits behind the Omni CRA and within a 10-minute walk of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Above: A rendering of the affordable housing rental tower. N.R. Investments

Rents at Uni

Apartment floor plans consist of studios and one bedrooms, with an average 680 square feet. Renters must earn between 60% and 140% of the Miami-Dade median income of $74,700, as set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Rent cap depends on income, but residents can expect to pay far below the average rent.

Those who earn 80% of the county median income can expect monthly rents of at most $1,445 for a studio or $1,548 for a one-bedroom, based on the 2023 income and rent limits set by HUD and the Florida Housing Finance Corp. It’s a big savings when compared to the average rent in the county, about $2,895, according to Zillow.

District 2 Miami City Commissioner Damian Pardo supports the project.

“It’s critical for my district,” he said, “because you have a lot of workforce housing needs around downtown.”

Other company developments

N.R. Investments has more affordable and workforce housing in the pipeline.

The company has a mixed-income development a few streets away from Uni Tower called Unidos. It is also building Oakland Park’s new city hall in Broward County with an adjacent affordable and workforce housing complex.

And it’s pursuing a controversial plan in Allapattah, where residents are pushing to be involved in the development of an 18-acre site of city-owned land.

How to join rental waiting list

Contact: Although Uni is still under construction, prospective renters can land on a wait list as early as May by writing to N.R. Investments’ at