A multifamily investor bought a south Miami-Dade County apartment complex and development site, part of a planned mixed-use project that previously faced fierce opposition over claims it would pave over environmentally imperiled land.
Atlanta-based Cortland scooped up the Mareas at Botanica complex at 15520 Southwest 127th Avenue, and adjacent developable land permitted for more rental units, in two deals for a combined $174.3 million, according to records. The properties are north of Zoo Miami.
Palm Beach Gardens-based Ram Realty Advisors sold the complex for $160.3 million and the land for $14 million.
Mareas, which now has been rechristened Cortland South Kendall, has 408 units, so it traded for $392,826 per unit.
The adjacent 9.9-acre lot is approved for 192 apartments, according to Miami-Dade County documents.
Records indicate that Cortland might start building the second phase of the community soon, as it obtained a $42.1 million construction loan from Truist Bank. It also scored a $98.9 million purchase loan for the existing complex from the same lender.
In 2014 Ram Realty, led by Casey Cummings, unveiled the proposed development, which also planned to include a Walmart Supercenter that is currently under construction. Mounting opposition alleged the project would raze at least part of a pine rockland. This tract was one of the largest of this rare habitat outside of Everglades National Park.
In 2017, four environmental groups, including the Tropical Audubon Society, sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies that signed off on the developer’s conservation plan. The suit was filed in federal court in Miami.
Federal authorities decided that plants and animals actually will fare better under Ram Realty’s conservation plan. Authorities reasoned that the tract had become overgrown because the University of Miami, which sold the land to Ram, had failed to maintain it, according to the Miami Herald. Ram Realty had argued that it spent years studying the land to come up with a way to build the project while conserving the habitat.
But environmentalists argued the conservation plan was incomplete in part because it failed to conduct surveys for some species, and only completed partial surveys for others, and that Ram’s preservation plan was artificially inflated.
Environmentalists initially scored a win when a federal judge ordered the land clearing to stop. But the order was lifted in early 2018.
The suit was settled in September 2018, but details of the agreement were confidential, court records show.
Ram Realty completed the apartment complex in 2019 and 2020 on 18 acres, records show.
It offers one- to three-bedroom apartments, with rent ranging from $2,154 to $2,963 a month, according to the complex’s website. Community amenities include a pool, gym, private balconies, a leash-free dog park and a 50-acre nature preserve surrounding the complex.
Cortland has been betting heavily this year on South Florida multifamily projects, as the hot market is being fueled by high demand and rising rents. In August, Cortland bought a newly built, seven-building Boca Raton community for $230 million, marking the most expensive multifamily deal in the region this year.
In another south Miami-Dade deal, Cortland bought a 424-unit, garden-style community in October for $98.9 million.