Enrique Manhard, Miami’s great land gambler

Uruguayan fashion mogul has acquired 27 lots in less than 5Y

Enrique Manhard and one of his purchased lots (Facebook, Google, Getty)
Enrique Manhard and one of his purchased lots (Facebook, Google, Getty)

Enrique Manhard, whose past bets on clothing stores turned him into a fashion mogul, is wagering on another lucrative industry: Miami real estate.

Manhard and his partners have purchased 27 lots in the city since 2017. They join other tycoons who have built empires across industries such as professional sports or spirits brands but are now gambling on land in growing Sunbelt cities, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The surge of empty lot purchases comes as markets in Phoenix, Austin and The Magic City have experienced high residential and industrial development demand. Inflation is also likely intensifying the land-grabs, as the asset class is considered a hedge against rising prices. In the past three years, land sales have more than doubled in the Sunbelt, according to CoStar Group’s Land.com listing website.

While some investors could be taking the next steps to develop their lots by building up infrastructure, others may take more of a land-banking approach.

Manhard tends to follow the latter path, keeping his properties mostly unchanged, waiting for prices to rise and turning away opportunities to sell. “I have people calling me left and right, but they don’t want to sell right now,” broker Estrella Perez, who worked on many of his deals, told the WSJ.

The investor often has outdone competing buyers because of his swift deal closings that don’t get tied up in rezoning requests and construction financing.

In one of his recent Miami deals, Manhard and his investment partners paid $8 million for 1.2 vacant acres on the southwest corner of Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 54th Street in February. The land is in the city’s MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, near the Brightline train tracks.

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Manhard also has flipped some of his properties, selling the land at 2000 Biscayne Boulevard in Edgewater for $20.5 million last year to New York-based Kushner Companies, which included the 0.75 acres in its assemblage for its planned three-tower, 1,100-unit project.

The deal marked a 56 percent gain for Manhard and his partners in four years, as they had paid $13.1 million for the property in 2018, according to records.

Shortly after the Kushner deal, Manhard turned to downtown Miami and scooped up the 2.2-acre lot at 16 Southeast Second Street for $46 million. The site allows for a 2.2 million-square-foot, 80-story project with over 2,100 units and a mix of uses.

In February, Manhard put a 2.4-acre Miami River development site at 1670 and 1690 Northwest North River Drive on the market at an undisclosed price.

Manhard didn’t respond to the WSJ’s request for comment.

— Lidia Dinkova