Foreign buyer accelerates land speculation in Greater Downtown Miami

Peter Zalewski tackles reader questions and opinions about the SoFla market

Jul.July 25, 2014 03:45 PM

Peter Zalewski is a real estate market consultant, non-practicing licensed real estate broker and columnist for The Real Deal who now answers reader questions about the South Florida real estate market in a new weekly Friday column. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected] The TRD editors will choose which submissions will be addressed.

Question: How does the $125 million sale of the land next to the EPIC condo-hotel impact land pricing throughout Greater Downtown Miami? What should the new owners of the EPIC site build there, considering how many condo projects are already proposed in the area?

Land speculation is in high gear in Greater Downtown Miami at this point of the current South Florida real estate cycle.

Despite more than 18,000 new condo units, plus thousands more rental units, already announced for Greater Downtown Miami, investors from around the globe are coming to town to buy up developable land on which to build more condo towers.

Numerous sites for future condo towers are on the market from Brickell Avenue to Downtown Miami to the Biscayne Boulevard Corridor at rich prices that seemed unimaginable less than three years ago, when many investors assigned negative values to land.

The latest development site to trade is the EPIC East parcel at 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way on the north bank of the Miami River in Greater Downtown Miami. At one time, the dirt was slated to be the site of a sister tower to the EPIC Hotel & Residences to the west.

An Argentine grocery store magnate is leading the group that reportedly paid $125 million for a 1.25-acre parcel that has a 2014 market value of $25.1 million, according to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s Office.

The 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way site has existing approvals in place for less than 600 condo units with nearly 860,000 square feet of sellable residential space. The overall tower has approvals to stand 609 feet tall and feature 2.02 million square feet of space with 621 parking spaces, according to the marketing listing literature.

Under Miami 21 zoning, the site ultimately allows a maximum of 1,250 residential units.

Based on some rough math, the new owner of the 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way site – should a traditional condo tower be pursued – has paid somewhere between $100,000 and nearly $210,000 per unit in land cost for the site.

Several veteran developers are saying privately that one of the only ways to make a successful condo tower on the site, given the exorbitant land costs by Greater Downtown Miami standards, would be to achieve unit prices starting at $1,000 per square foot.

For context, the current average minimum price for a new condo tower in Greater Downtown Miami is $540 per square foot as of July 4, according to the latest Developers Price Survey.

(For disclosure purposes, my firm operates the website.)

Currently, only two projects – BrickellHouse and One Thousand Museum – have minimum prices of $1,000 per square foot on remaining unsold preconstruction condo units. A third tower – Echo Brickell – is asking a minimum price of nearly $970 per square foot, according to the survey.

For the 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way site to achieve presale condo prices in the same stratosphere, the development would probably have to associate with an international brand, such as a top-notch hotel or a luxury consumer product to command such a premium.

Consider that developer Gil Dezer is reportedly experiencing tremendous presale success upon joining forces with a pair of luxury European brands for his Porsche Design Tower and the Residences by Armani/Casa condo projects in Sunny Isles Beach.

Even then, the challenge for the new owner of 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way is to create a luxury project despite having a large number of units in a tower that fronts the Miami River, not the Atlantic Ocean or even Biscayne Bay.

If the new owner of the 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way site opts to build a mixed-use project with condos, office space and hotel rooms, the challenge will be to successfully carve out a niche in a market where a number of other existing and proposed projects are located within walking distance of the site.

Remember, the Met complex located across the street from 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way property is planned to ultimately have four towers.

The Met 1 condo tower and the Met 2 office tower with a hotel already exist. The Met 3 rental tower anchored by a Whole Foods grocery store is currently under construction. Met Square – a fourth tower with a hotel and entertainment complex – is in the works following a delay due to the discovery on the site of a historically significant 2,000-year-old Native American village.

The unanswered question going forward is not whether the 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way site will be successful, but whether the site will be developed during this current South Florida real estate boom.

Thought Of The Week: Veteran Miami Real Estate Investors Look To Fort Lauderdale Beach

Veteran real estate investors operate by a simple philosophy: Sell when others are buying, and buy when others are selling.

It is against this backdrop that the announcement that “major Miami real estate players” Sergio Rok and the Brothers Tate – Jimmy and Kenny –purchased control of a long-term lease on the antiquated Bahia Mar Resort and Marina waterfront project in Fort Lauderdale Beach is worth noting at this point of the South Florida real estate cycle.

The new owners – who have “worked on” a reported 18 nationwide deals worth $600 million since 2009 – are considering “adding a condo-hotel, restaurants, shops and offices” to the 39-acre site that features a 297-room DoubleTree By Hilton hotel and 250-slip marina on the barrier island of Fort Lauderdale, according to the Miami Herald.

At a time when only 12 percent of the 255 new South Florida condo towers totaling nearly 35,000 units are proposed for Broward County, a trio of veteran Miami real estate investors is looking to the north for their next opportunity.

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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(Illustration by Andrew Colin Beck)

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