Developers’ market outlook: TRD SoFla Forum & Showcase

Craig Robins, Jeffrey Soffer, Richard LeFrak, Gil Dezer and Michael Simkins on the Developers' Market Outlook panel
Craig Robins, Jeffrey Soffer, Richard LeFrak, Gil Dezer and Michael Simkins on the Developers' Market Outlook panel

South Florida is exploding with new mixed-use and residential projects that promise to bring new condo towers, apartments, hotels, offices and retail space to the region  which also raises challenges for the future, developers said during The Real Deal‘s second annual South Florida Forum and Showcase on Thursday.

Five of South Florida’s top developers, many of them billionaires  — Craig Robins, Jeffrey Soffer, Richard LeFrak, Gil Dezer and Michael Simkins — detailed their projects and debated the South Florida market, during the first of three panels held during the event on Thursday afternoon at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District.

They all said they remain bullish on the market, one of the nation’s top luxury shopping and tourist markets, though they recognize that issues lie ahead.

“In the long run, what is going to happen is what always happens: the weak will not survive, the strong will survive, and the ones who survive will thrive,” said LeFrak, chairman and CEO of LeFrak.

“We have to expand the market and not assume it’s coming from Latin America or Russia,” added LeFrak, who is developing SoLē Mia Miami in joint venture with Turnberry Associates. “There are a lot of people who want to come here. Let’s face it  it’s fun.”

The $4 billion SoLē Mia Miami, to be built between Northeast 139th Street and Northeast 151st Streets, is a 183-acre master-planned community, zoned for 4,400 residential units, It is also expected to feature a dine-in movie theater, high-end bowling and entertainment venue, 37 acres of community parks and recreation, upscale shopping and dining, commercial office space.

Soffer, co-chairman of Turnberry Associates, likened SoLē Mia Miami to Aventura, a city his father, Don Soffer, created in the 1970s.

“When you create a community, you’re not building a neighborhood, you’re building a lifestyle.” LeFrak said. “We will have a building in the ground in one year, and we are collectively going to make magic up there.”

Soffer, whose company owns the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, is also building a hotel in Nashville, expanding Aventura Mall and developing the 52-story, luxury condo Turnberry Ocean Club in Sunny Isles Beach, which he said will have 70,000 square feet of amenities.

Every city has its own identity, the panelists said. Dezer, president of Dezer Development, whose family was a key player in the redevelopment of Sunny Isles, said that city “has been heralded as the Dubai of Miami.”

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Dezer’s family first began buying property there in 1999, and built six towers with Donald Trump. He is now completing the Porsche Design Tower, which recently topped off and will be delivered in June 2016, as well as Residences at Armani Casa, which is 60 percent sold and will break ground in November. Dezer is also in partnership with Related Group to build Hyde Midtown, which just broke ground.

And he plans to turn the Intracoastal Mall site into a mixed-use project with 2,100 residential units and 600,000 square feet of retail, which is now in the design phase.

Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, started his real estate career revitalizing South Beach, and is now in the midst of transforming the Design District into a major luxury shopping, dining, arts and culture destination. So far, 20 buildings have been completed where luxury brands have opened flagship stores.

“In general, not just for retail, in Miami we are at a point in the cycle where our ambition exceeds the capacity for absorption, and we are a risk.” Robins said of the market. “Still, it’s a very solid market.”

Robins has now embarked on building 20 more buildings and a boutique hotel. Eventually, he will build 500 to 1,000 units in the neighborhood, and sees more hotel and residential potential for there for the future.

“Hospitality is a key component, making a delightful environment,” Robins said. “So in an area like the Design District, it is not just demand, but the flavor that having some great boutique hotels can give to your neighborhood.”

Like Robins, Simkins wants to create a special neighborhood district, just west of downtown. He has plans to build nine towers that will include residential units, office space and the Miami Innovation Tower in Miami’s urban core.

“No one has looked at the opportunity to create office space that the millennials, our young kids, want to work in.” said Simkins, president and CEO of Innovate Development Group. “Our mixed-use development is live-work-play, you don’t need a car.”

He sees Miami’s future as particularly bright. “We are going to get more high-paying jobs here, get more people riding mass transit,” Simkins added. “And Miami is going to be one of the great metropolises of this century.”