UPDATED, May 23, 11:05 p.m.: New York developer and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants to buy the historic Deauville Miami Beach, with plans for a luxury oceanfront development.
The 3.8-acre resort at 6701 Collins Avenue is in the midst of demolition, following a yearslong legal saga between the city and the property owner, as the building continued to fall into disrepair. Ross is proposing a hotel and luxury condos on the site, according to a press release.
The billionaire founder and chairman of the Related Companies’ specific development proposal remains in question, as it would likely require approval from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, as well as approval from residents.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber made the announcement on Monday morning via email, stating that he would be asking city commissioners to place an item on the November ballot for Miami Beach voters that would give Ross “the ability and flexibility to do something transformative.”
It’s unclear if Ross is in contract to buy the property, but Gelber said Ross “signed documents that will allow him to acquire and control the parcel,” and said architect Frank Gehry would design the proposed development. Related and the city did not immediately respond to requests for more information.
The Miami Beach mayor wrote that he would not support any development on the property “unless I know that Steve will remain the developer,” citing “too many examples of folks buying and flipping parcels for quick payoffs, leaving the city with undeveloped and vacant properties for too many years.”
Gelber, writing on behalf of Ross, said the developer “does not want to do a dense project” and is “genuinely excited” about building in North Beach, the neighborhood he grew up in.
The Meruelo family, led by Belinda and Richard Meruelo, paid just $4 million for the resort in 2004 via their Deauville Associates LLC. An electrical fire forced its closure in 2017, and the property has remained shuttered and in disrepair ever since.
The Meruelos have been tangled in litigation with the city of Miami Beach over code violations, and earlier this year the city ordered the demolition of the property, citing an unsafe structure report. The same judge overseeing the Surfside collapse litigation ruled in March that the demolition should move forward. That was challenged by the Miami Design Preservation League, which last week lost an appeal of a building official’s order requiring the demolition to occur.
Preservationists have argued that allowing the structure to be demolished would send a wrong message to developers who don’t complete required maintenance and upkeep of historic structures, which forces their properties into similar situations and allows them to build ground-up projects.
Gelber, in his emailed notice, acknowledged that “some have demanded that the city and its Boards should require that any redevelopment of the parcel only allow for a re-creation of the original Deauville.” But Gelber said that was “entirely unrealistic and impractical to expect that result.”
The Deauville was home to the Beatles’ famous 1964 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and attracted celebrities who included the late Frank Sinatra, the late Joan Rivers and the late President John F. Kennedy.
It has been close to selling before, sources have told The Real Deal. But those deals have always fallen apart at the negotiating table, with the Meruelos seeking more money or canceling it at the last minute, sources said.
The property is now believed to be worth up to hundreds of millions of dollars depending on the project that could be built on the site. Land prices have soared in South Florida throughout the pandemic.
Ross and his New York-based Related have been expanding aggressively in South Florida. It has targeted West Palm Beach, where it has long invested in commercial real estate, as well as Miami, where it is planning a supertall office tower in Brickell with Swire Properties.
Ross owns a minority stake in the Miami-based Related Group, led by billionaire developer Jorge Pérez. Related Group is one of the largest condo developers in South Florida.