The Real Deal Miami

Developer Vladislav Doronin doubles down

Russian billionaire lays the groundwork for Edgewater project

October 05, 2016
By James Teeple

Vlad

Vladislav Doronin

Vladislav Doronin, the developer of Europe’s tallest building, first visited Miami in the early 1990s. From the instant he laid eyes on the city, the Russian developer, who would later become a billionaire, fantasized about building a Miami skyscraper. “Then my business grew,” he said, “and now my dream can come true.”

His youthful fantasies have evolved into the plans for Missoni Baia, a 649-foot-tall, 57-story residential tower that he proposes building in Edgewater with his Miami-based development company, OKO Group. The 146-unit tower would be situated on a 2.8-acre waterfront site in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood. Doronin has announced that construction at 777 Northeast 26th Terrace will begin in early 2017, and the building is slated to open in 2019.

The billionaire has already put down roots nearby. He owns a home on Miami Beach’s Star Island. And although his development company Capital Group is based in Moscow, he often jets between the Russian capital, London, New York and Miami. Outside of South Florida, he has extensive real estate holdings in each of those markets.

He’s already made a strong impression in New York. In 2015, he teamed up with developer Michael Shvo to purchase the fourth through the 24th floors of the iconic Crown Building at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan.

Doronin got his start in the Miami property market in 2013, when he invested in two Brickell-area projects with Miami developer Ugo Colombo. But in early 2016, the pair decided to end their partnership by way of a land swap. Colombo is pushing ahead with plans to develop the Brickell Flatiron project at 1001 South Miami Avenue, while Doronin has retained the title to the assemblage of land parcels at 830 Southeast First Avenue, across from Brickell City. Doronin said he has hired an architect and plans to build on the site. The Real Deal contacted a representative of Colombo but received no comment.  Doronin said the two developers remain on friendly terms.

Doronin, now 53, built his global development business among the ashes of the former Soviet Union. When it began to collapse in the early 1990s, he’d been living in the West for a decade. He had been working as a commodities trader in Switzerland for Marc Rich, the notorious trader who was later indicted by the U.S. government for tax evasion and illegal oil deals with Iran before receiving a presidential pardon. Once the Berlin Wall fell, Doronin was finally able to do business in Russia. “I had the know-how,” he said, “which I got outside the country.”

In Russia, his development company, Capital Group, has built up a portfolio of 71 buildings totaling roughly 75 million square feet. The trophy property is Moscow’s OKO Tower, which at 1,160 feet is the tallest skyscraper on the European continent. The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed mixed-use complex includes luxury residences, premium office space, a four-star hotel and extensive landscaping. (He showed up at the 2012 christening of the tower with then-girlfriend Naomi Campbell on his arm.)

Now Doronin wants to bring some of that glamour to Edgewater, a formerly sleepy low-rise Miami community that sits along the Biscayne Bay shoreline.

Edgewater and beyond

Several large condo projects are already in the pipeline for once blue-collar Miami neighborhoods like Edgewater that have recently become trendy, and market pros are beginning to warn about oversupply. An August study by Miami’s Downtown Development Authority reported that prices of downtown condos had fallen for the first time in five years, declining by 4 percent to an average of $438 per square foot in the first half of 2016.

But Doronin remains undeterred. He said the $350 million Missoni Baia project will have amenities that few other Miami condos can match: five pools, two parking spaces per unit, large balconies overlooking Biscayne Bay and common interior spaces designed by Italy’s Missoni family.

Missoni Baia’s architect, Hani Rashid of the New York-based firm Asymptote Architecture, said that he wanted the project to have a “clean and minimal design.” He said large balconies that range in size from 510 to 830 square feet will give the future occupants the sense that they’re inhabiting a space that “floats out into the Bay on one side and the city on the other.”

Mission Baia

Mission Baia

The Missoni family, which owns the high-end Italian fashion house, has been tasked with creating the furniture, fabric and draperies for interior common areas, while New York-based designer Paris Forino said she will be designing the interior hard architectural finishes, such as kitchen countertops, for the condominiums.

Doronin has also proposed a 48-story residential high-rise at 175 Southeast 25th Road, a property adjacent to the Rickenbacker Causeway in Brickell that he and his business partner, Russian businessman Oleg Baybakov, acquired for $48 million in 2014. Baybakov is a former executive at the Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel, which is one the largest global producers of nickel and palladium.

Boardroom brawl

In the global real estate investment community, Doronin is well known for his acquisition of Aman, a luxury resort company operating from offices in London and Singapore.

In early 2016, he won legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic to wrest full control of the company from his former business partner, the U.S. venture capitalist Omar Amanat. The two men had purchased the company for $358 million in early 2014, but the partnership quickly unraveled, with Doronin alleging that Amanat wasn’t meeting his obligations and had misrepresented his financial assets at the time of the deal.

In March, a U.K. court approved a settlement between Doronin and liquidators for an Amanat-controlled company that resulted in Amanat “ceding all interests in Aman resorts and its related companies,” according to a statement from Doronin’s legal representatives. The statement, which was emailed to The Real Deal by Aman, said, “as a result of this settlement, Mr. Doronin continues to be in full control of the luxury hotel group Aman.” The U.K. settlement came just days after a bankruptcy petition by Amanat to assert a claim against Aman Resorts was dismissed by a U.S. court. Contacted by The Real Deal, Amanat said he could not comment on the record about his relationship with Doronin.

Despite the messy beginning to his leadership, Doronin has plunged headlong into the global expansion of the brand. In December 2014, while still in the midst of the boardroom brawl, the company opened Aman Tokyo. In 2017, it plans to open its fourth location in China.

The brand features small hotels with ultraluxury service, and loyal customers refer to themselves as “Aman junkies.” Doronin has said that he bought the chain because he was one.

So is an Aman Miami in the cards?

Doronin declined to confirm rumors that he has been attempting to buy two aging buildings on Miami Beach to create an Aman resort on the site. He did say that he wants to expand the number of Aman destinations from 31 to 47 over the next five years.

Certainly the company’s aesthetic has already influenced his plans for Missoni Baia, his associates say. The designer Forino said the condo tower will feel familiar to Aman resort habitués.

Doronin himself said that at an Aman resort, people feel as relaxed as if they were at home. “I want to bring that formula from the horizontal to the vertical in cities,” he said. “Because that’s what is missing right now in cities.”