Most of Miami’s real estate players hightailed it out of town amid mandatory evacuations, joining the mass exodus of millions of local residents.
South Florida developers, architects and brokers are now just trickling back, after scattering to places like New York City, Los Angeles, Montreal and Buenos Aires. Some even stayed behind to weather the storm.
Miami architect Kobi Karp left for New York City, flying back to Miami on a 6 a.m. American Airlines flight on Tuesday — one of the first planes to arrive at Miami International Airport. In the meantime, he arranged for his Biscayne Boulevard office to be back up and running with a generator and air conditioning.
“We’re pretty well cultured in hurricanes and tropical storms, at this point, and we try not to have any downtime,” Karp said. By Thursday, most of his staff of 85 was back in the office.
In fact, Karp said he is strong believer in generators: his North Bay Road home in Miami Beach remains without power, but a generator is keeping it cool.
Developer Gil Dezer had planned to stay at his oceanfront Sunny Isles Beach condo, but got a call Friday night from a friend who had two seats available on his private jet. So Dezer said he jumped on the plane to New York City, where he keeps an apartment.
“When I saw the mayor on TV, he kind of scared me a little bit, to be honest with you,” said Dezer, president of Dezer Development. “[Mayor Carlos Gimenez] said ‘If you live anywhere on the water, evacuate, there will be 15 feet of water.’ So I thought it’s time to go.” He got back to Miami Wednesday night.
Jorge Pérez, chairman and CEO of the Miami-based Related Group, also left for New York City, and just returned, according to a spokesperson. Carlos Rosso, president of Related’s condominium development division, went to his native Buenos Aires, and is still there, the spokesperson said.
Architect Markus Frankel, of Frankel Benayoun Architects, left his waterfront Bay Harbor Islands condo for Los Angeles, because flights to all other cities in the Southeast, as well as to Chicago, were already booked.
“We understood Irma to be a devastating Category 5 — the likes never seen in South Florida,” Frankel said. “But thank God we all got lucky in South Florida — except for the Lower Keys.” He arrived back in Miami late Tuesday night. The generator at the building kept the place cool for his return.
Developer Masoud Shojaee, chairman and president of Shoma Group, spent Hurricane Irma in Montreal, where he has a home. He had traveled there on his corporate jet before the hurricane, and had planned to return to Miami last week, but decided to stay once he saw Irma headed to South Florida.
Danny Hertzberg, of Coldwell Banker’s the Jills, said his whole family drove to Orlando, and when the storm turned north, they caught a flight to New York. He returned to Orlando on Thursday and planned to drive back to Miami at night. His mother, Jill Hertzberg, of the Jills, intends to fly home from New York, also late Thursday.
Some real estate players actually opted to stay put in South Florida, like Miami Real Estate Group broker Andres Asion, who stayed in his Murano at Portofino condo in South Beach, where the hurricane impact glass windows were “shaking big time.”
And Nir Shoshani, co-founder and principal of NR Investments, rode out the storm at his home in Hollywood.
“We went through a scary 36-hour ordeal, just like everybody else,” Shoshani said. “We lost TV and we lost Internet, so we had no idea where the storm was headed, where it was going. From Saturday evening until today [Thursday], we are completely disconnected.”
Yet for one real estate player who remained out of town, Hurricane Irma brought a welcome surprise.
Shahab Karmely, founder and principal of KAR Properties, lives in New York, and spent Hurricane Irma at his home in East Hampton in the Hamptons.
“Because of Irma we happened to have four days of outstanding surf — the best surfing conditions in five or six years in Montauk,” said Karmely, who surfs every weekend in the summer. “Beautiful, clean waves, coming in day after day.”
Francisco Alvarado contributed reporting.