Developer proposes 23-story mixed-use tower with racket sports courts in Brickell

Building on former Babylon Apartments site would have 34 condos, 15 hotel keys

Developer Proposes Brickell Tower With Racket Sports Courts
William Jacome and renderings of plans for 240 Southeast 14th Street in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood (MVRDV, ODP Architects, Facebook/Master of Real Estate Development and Urbanism)

A developer wants to build a 23-story mixed-use tower with racket sports courts on the former Babylon Apartments site in Miami’s Brickell. 

The plan comes five years after a contentious proposal for a 24-story building on the property fizzled amid neighbors’ opposition. Yet, the zoning has changed since then. In February, Miami-Dade County included the development site in the Metromover subzone, allowing the 23-story height, according to developer William Jacome. 

Jacome wants to build the Babylon Racquet Club project with 34 condos, 15 hotel keys, 13,700 square feet of restaurants, 4,400 square feet of offices and a gym at 240 Southeast 14th Street in Miami, according to an application the developer filed to the county on Wednesday. The project is marketed as a potential racket sports hub in Brickell with 14 courts for tennis, pickleball, padel and racquetball. 

The 0.4-acre vacant site is roughly a half-mile walk from the Financial District Metromover station. 

Jacome is asking Miami-Dade for a pre-application meeting, which is generally done so developers can gauge county staff’s input on a project prior to filing official applications. 

The site has a storied history. In 1982, the six-story, ziggurat-inspired Babylon Apartments was completed, helping propel the then little-known Miami architecture firm Arquitectonica toward becoming the giant it is now. The project marked Arquitectonica’s first building in Miami. 

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Babylon Apartments’ original owner, Ray Corona, went to prison in 1987 on racketeering charges and for allegedly laundering money for indicted Miami drug lords Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon. 

In 1989, an entity tied to former spaghetti western actor Francisco Martinez Celeiro bought the building, and then led a failed bid to double the allowable height on the site from 12 stories to 24 stories. 

In 2018, Celeiro succeeded in his yearslong effort to overturn a city of Miami landmark status designation of Babylon Apartments, leading to its demolition. Despite strong opposition from neighbors, city commissioners in 2019 approved Celeiro’s request to double the site’s allowable height to 24 stories. Mayor Francis Suarez vetoed the vote shortly after that, and commissioners upheld his veto, with some citing “spot zoning” concerns. 

After Celeiro, whose stage name was George Martin, died in 2021, the site remained vacant and in the ownership of an entity led by his son, Francisco Martinez-Miyashiki. In January, an entity led by Jacome dropped $8.7 million for the site, according to records. 

Brickell has become the epicenter for South Florida’s development boom. In the most notable moves of financial firms to the tri-county region, billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin moved his Citadel and Citadel Securities’ headquarters to Brickell from Chicago in 2022. 

The Babylon Racquet Club site is a block south of the 2.5-acre bayfront lot that Griffin bought for a record $363 million in 2022 and where he is expected to have his Citadel and Citadel Securities’ headquarters tower developed. 

Also, Michael Stern’s New York-based JDS Development Group plans a Dolce & Gabbana-branded condo-hotel supertall at 888 Brickell Avenue. And the Pérez family’s Coconut Grove-based Related Group and New York-based GTIS Partners plan the 75-story, 355-unit Baccarat Residences condo tower at 77 Southeast Fifth Street in Brickell. The project is part of Related’s larger development that would include a 44-story, 506-unit apartment tower at 444 Brickell Avenue and a third building.