Echo Brickell developer slashes maintenance fees

Jan.January 08, 2014 12:00 PM

Peter Zalewski

As competition to attract buyers to South Florida’s 183 announced preconstruction towers intensifies, the developer of the proposed Echo Brickell high-rise in Miami has slashed its projected monthly fees by 15 percent just two months after revealing the original estimated cost of maintaining a residence in the 180-unit project, according to Miami-Dade County records.

PMG Brickell, the developer of the proposed 57-story tower to be built at 1451 Brickell Avenue in Greater Downtown Miami, filed its “first amendment” to Echo Brickell’s Declaration Of Condominium on Dec. 9. In the filing, PMG revealed the average monthly maintenance fee for every unit in the project would be reduced to 99 cents per square foot.

Less than two months earlier, the developer announced in a filing that the monthly maintenance fee for every residential unit would be $1.17 per square foot.

By comparison, the monthly maintenance fee at the neighboring Four Seasons Millennium Tower at 1425 Brickell Avenue is less than 90 cents per square foot for both the condo and the condo-hotel units in the project, according to the Southeast Florida MLXchange.

Overall in Greater Downtown Miami, condo maintenance fees start below 60 cents per square foot monthly, industry watchers said.

For Echo Brickell, the reduction of 18 cents per square foot in monthly maintenance fees could produce a notable savings for future unit owners in the Carlos Ott-designed condo tower.

With Echo Brickell units averaging nearly 1,300 square feet, reducing 18 cents per square foot for maintenance fees works out to a savings of nearly $235 monthly and more than $2,800 annually.

The maintenance fee reductions are even more significant for future owners of penthouse units, which range in size from 4,232 square feet to nearly 4,400 square feet. In those units, savings range from more than $760 monthly to nearly $9,500 annually.

The reduced maintenance fee is “guaranteed” by the developer only until “unit owners other than the developer are in control of the association,” according to government records.

It is unclear what would happen to the maintenance fees at Echo Brickell after the developer relinquishes control of the association to the individual unit owners, who then can elect an independent board of directors to set the condo tower’s budget.

A component of Echo Brickell’s maintenance fees that will not go away with unit owners taking over the association is the “automatic parking system equipment” that is designed to replace traditional parking spaces in the tower, where condo residences are located beginning on the ninth floor.

Mechanical parking systems in residential towers are a relatively new phenomenon in South Florida, where developers are increasingly looking for ways to minimize costs and maximize profits.

The unanswered question going forward is what other changes developers could consider adopting in hopes of differentiating their projects from the hundreds of other condo towers proposed for the South Florida coast.

Peter Zalewski is real estate columnist for The Real Deal who founded Condo Vultures LLC, a consultancy and publishing company, as well as Condo Vultures Realty LLC and CVR Realty brokerages and the Condo Ratings Agency, an analytics firm. The Condo Ratings Agency operates, a preconstruction condo projects website, in conjunction with the Miami Association of Realtors.

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