Deauville owners offer $200M for historic Casablanca Miami Beach

Sources say the deal is contingent on voters approving Deauville referendum

6345 Collins Avenue (Google Maps, Getty)

The Meruelo family, owners of the Deauville property in Miami Beach, want to buy the historic oceanfront Casablanca resort for $200 million, The Real Deal has learned.

The condo-hotel at 6345 Collins Avenue, with about 350 residential and commercial units, was developed in 1948 on a nearly 2-acre site in North Beach. It hit the market this summer.

Still, certain events have to occur for the deal to go through, sources told TRD.

The offer is reportedly contingent on voters approving a referendum Nov. 8 that would allow billionaire developer Stephen Ross to redevelop the Deauville into a much larger project than is currently allowed. Residents will vote on three resolutions to increase the allowable size of a development for specific properties in the Deauville’s North Beach neighborhood. Ross’ roughly $500 million purchase of the Deauville is contingent on voters approving the referendum.

Only then would the Meruelos move forward with their purchase, sources said.

Alex Stueben, president of the Casablanca condo association, confirmed the Meruelos’ offer but said he could not confirm that the deal would depend on the outcome of the November election. Stueben said the offer was made without that contingency in place.

“This buyer has stated that he would like to keep the Casablanca in the state that it is in at the time being and is not considering redevelopment at this moment,” he said.

The Meruelo family could not immediately be reached for comment. The Meruelos developed the Akoya condo building immediately north of the Casablanca, at 6365 Collins Avenue.

Properties that are designated historic, like the Deauville and the Casablanca, are protected from demolition in Miami Beach, unless the structure is declared unsafe.

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The Meruelo family has been widely accused of intentionally letting the Deauville resort fall into disrepair so that the building could eventually be demolished and a new project could be built.

The city of Miami Beach ordered its demolition earlier this year, and it is being knocked down. Critics said the ruling set a bad precedent for protecting historic structures in the city, and that supporting the November referendum would encourage developers to follow in the Meruelos’ footsteps.

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Ross, founder and chairman of New York-based Related Companies, offered to buy the property and enlisted architect Frank Gehry to design a new project. But Ross will only purchase the site if he can secure additional floor area ratio, from 3.0 to 4.5, increasing the size of a future project on the 3.8-acre property.

The Deauville redevelopment has also sparked a feud between Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who opposes the project, and Mayor Dan Gelber, who brought the proposal to the commission in May.

The Casablanca, which is listed for sale without a price, is protected from demolition, barring a five-sevenths vote of the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board. The building was designed by architect Roy France and is considered a contributing structure in the North Beach Resort Historic District. Yet, a buyer could add FAR totaling about 45,000 square feet and additional height, pending approval from the historic preservation board, of up to 200 feet in total.

Colliers’ Gerard Yetming and Ken Krasnow are listing the property. Colliers did not respond to a request for comment.

Stueben, who owns more than a dozen units at the Casablanca, said the board accepted the offer at a board meeting Monday.

“My point of view is that when the Deauville deal is approved or not approved, we’ll know [Meruelo’s] intention at that time,” he said.

Owners of aging condo buildings across South Florida, especially those fronting the ocean, are under increasing pressure to sell their properties to developers who are hungry for prime waterfront sites. Maintaining older properties is expensive, and many owners can’t afford costly repair and restoration work, on top of rising homeowners’ association fees, insurance and taxes.

More associations have also opted — or at least considered — the sale of their properties in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse. Ninety-eight people were killed when the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South collapsed unexpectedly overnight on June 24, 2021, and it became a wake-up call to a number of condo owners and associations that had been delaying repairs.