By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The coronavirus pandemic has led to a shift in people moving out of the urban core of major cities and into the suburbs.

Doral is one such suburb.

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“We have actually had probably over 700 business people and professionals move into the city since March of last year,” said Doral Mayor Juan Carlos “J.C.” Bermudez.

“You have seen a lot of momentum in the traditional suburban areas, including Kendall, Doral, and the Gables,” said Rafael Romero, Senior Vice President, Retail Advisory at JLL, one of the largest multi-national real estate firms in the world.

In Doral, there are just a lot more people around. Those who have moved there appear to be working out of their homes and not heading east to Brickell and other traditional business centers.

“I think that is driven by the fact that the effective occupancy, meaning how many people are actually in the offices, is below 25 percent,” said Romero.

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A third-quarter retail report from Colliers International South Florida finds that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the retail real estate market. The report indicates high vacancy rates in Miami-Dade’s central business district. Downtown Miami has the highest vacancy rate at 21.5 percent, followed by Brickell (9.4 percent), Miami Beach (7.2 percent), and the Biscayne corridor (5.3 percent).

That’s not the story in Doral with its parks, shopping, new homes, townhomes, and condos. Where the people go, business follows. Restaurants are a good barometer of that.

“Like Doral, for example, we know lunch business in Doral has been strong but what is pushing sales in that market is dinner sales, you have got a larger population there,” said Romero.

“COVID has actually opened up the eyes of a lot of people in Miami-Dade County and the state, around the state, on what Doral is,” said Bermudez.

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Both regional and national retail and restaurant chains are specifically looking in the county’s suburbs to open new locations. Some are even willing to modify their traditional building designs to fit into existing locations.