October 1, 2020
Moving On Up
Moving On Up


In late 2018, the developers of Eighty Seven Park, a condo in northern Miami Beach designed by the celebrated architect Renzo Piano, listed the building’s 12,410-square-foot penthouse for $68 million. It was an audacious move. For one thing, the building was not yet complete. But more importantly, $68 million was more than anyone had ever paid for a residence in Miami-Dade County—$8 million more than billionaire hedge funder Ken Griffin shelled out in 2015, in a record deal for dual penthouses at Faena House, several miles down the beach. It was true, however, that with some 18,000 square feet of terraces, the Eighty Seven Park penthouse had more than twice the outdoor space of Griffin’s place. It also had a full array of amenities to go with the stone finishes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and panoramic vistas that are de rigueur in such properties: indoor/outdoor home theaters, twin infinity pools, a Turkish hammam.

Perhaps even more than its price, Eighty Seven Park’s boldest element was location. Like Faena House, it stood close to the ocean, on Collins Avenue, the busy artery that extends north to south through Miami Beach.

But it was also located 4½ miles farther north, in a quiet residential neighborhood with little in the way of nightlife or restaurants. Arguably, it wasn’t in North Beach at all, but in Surfside, an adjacent, still sleepier community. Eighty Seven Park was a full eight miles from the southern tip of South Beach—that glittering Miami of the Mind—where the city’s most exclusive residential buildings have traditionally been clustered. In effect, Eighty Seven Park’s developers were betting that the most expensive residential sale in Miami history would occur in a place where, until recently, no one would have thought to build a luxury condo at all.

Yet, even as Eighty Seven Park seemed to stake out fresh territory, it could also be seen as just the latest—and most newsworthy—example of a trend stretching back almost 20 years. In 2004, when the Setai hotel and residences opened at Collins and 20th Street, skepticism was pronounced. “People said, ‘You guys are crazy!’ ” one former Setai executive told me. “ ‘There’s nothing there! You’re too far north!’ ” In 2009, Aby Rosen and David Edelstein, evidently undeterred, unveiled the W South Beach, at Collins and 22nd. Five years later, Ian Schrager’s Miami Beach Edition opened, north of 29th Street, to considerable fanfare. In 2015, Faena House (casa de Griffin) opened five blocks north of that, while Nobu Miami cut its ribbon in 2016 at around Collins and 45th. In 2017, the Surf Club, a private beach club founded in 1930 by Harvey Firestone, reopened under the auspices of the Four Seasons as an opulently reimagined condo-hotel a few blocks north of Eighty Seven Park.

This migration to the less-populated north and other undeveloped pockets has allowed developers to go big and build what buyers now desire: self-contained luxury properties where every amenity, from private marinas to world-class restaurants, is right at their doorstep. This isn’t to say, of course, that there’s no longer any top-flight development in South Beach. Buildings like 321 Ocean Drive, a 21-unit beachfront condo, and the Glass, which has ten residences, each occupying an entire floor, represent some of Miami’s most coveted properties. But both developments are now five years old. The Apogee, a perennial contender in the ultra-luxury market and where Miami Heat president Pat Riley has a home, was built in 2007. Where posh living is concerned, the biggest news in South Beach of late arguably isn’t a residence but a hotel: the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, which reopened in January after a two-year, $90 million renovation that owes as much for inspiration to 1950s Art Deco style as to yacht design. Developable land in South Beach, particularly in the South of Fifth—its most sought-after enclave—is now scarce. And this isn’t a This Old House kind of town. “Miami is always craving the new,” said Harvey Daniels, a vice president of development sales with One Sotheby’s International Realty. “South of Fifth just doesn’t offer that, unfortunately.”

At the same time, brokers and developers say, the Northeasterners and international buyers that make up much of their clientele show signs of South Beach fatigue. Tourists have become ubiquitous there, and traffic can make simply driving to the grocery store a trying errand. A few miles north, things are more tranquil.

When I visited Eighty Seven Park, on a balmy morning this past February, the building was complete. Composed of 18 glass-encased stories, it suggested a very refined space station, seeming almost to hover above land and sea. A majority of its 68 residences had sold. One, a three-bedroom, went to tennis pro Novak Djokovic, for $5.77 million; other buyers included a Conde Nast scion and a Canadian construction magnate. David Martin, the president of the Miami-based Terra, which developed Eighty Seven Park with Bizzi & Partners Development, of New York, describes the building’s security as “embassy-like”. After submitting to a friendly but sober verbal frisking, I made for the elevators through the “botanical and library lounges,” a cool, airy, green-and-white passage. Just outside, water could be seen flowing in serene garden pools. Several floors up, brokers from Douglas Elliman, which is handling sales, were gathered in a conference room, engaged in a spirited discussion about selling the property’s last few remaining units. Walls of curved glass disclosed puffs of cloud passing against a blue sky. Below was one of Miami’s wider beaches, almost entirely empty and effectively private.

Martin, the developer, excused himself from the meeting, and we retired to a small office. The son of Cuban immigrants, he has, at 42, lately established himself as one of the city’s preeminent luxury developers. This being Miami, that means, in part, selecting the right starchitects: Piano, Rene Gonzalez, Rem Koolhaas, Bjarke Ingels. But his place at the vanguard of the current wave of high-end Miami development may have less to do with Martin’s architectural taste than with his understanding of how the city is changing. In the past, he said, “the only focus for design-driven projects was South Beach.” Now, he continued, premium development was being built all over the city. “There’s an ecosystem of neighborhoods that provides an experience analogous to New York or Boston, with these super cool buildings where before maybe we didn’t have them.”

In recent years, Martin has completed two projects in Coconut Grove- Park Grove (Koolhaas) and Grove at Grand Bay (Ingels). There are a few more in the works, like Mr.C Residences. Like North Beach and Surfside, Coconut Grove, at the southern end of the city, has lately been attracting the sort of buyer who once would have been unlikely to look beyond South Beach. The same can be said- in the case of Rafael Vinoly’s One River Point and the Zaha Hadid-designed One Thousand Museum, where David and Victoria Beckham recently purchased a unit for $24 million – of Downtown Miami.

For a variety of reasons (the fact that such buildings cater to buyers of second, third, and fourth homes; Miamian’s reliance on cars to get around; the desire for privacy), the appeal of buying into development has more to do with how well it caters to a buyer’s every need, rather than how dynamic the neighborhood is. “New York has become a market where product defines buyer interest at least as much as location does,” Jay Parker, the CEO of Douglas Elliman’s Florida brokerage. “And I think the same can be said for Miami.”

At the Surf Club, in Surfside, the developer, Fort Partners, had – at the very least- an enviable historical blueprint to work from. During the original Surf Club’s heyday, which stretched from its Prohibition-age founding to the early 1960s, the place epitomized an ideal of edgy glamour: bootleg liquor, poolside fashion shows, and black-tie boxing nights. Winston Churchill and Henry Ford hung out there. So did Gary Cooper, the Rat Pack, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Now flanking the old Surf Club are a pair of Richard Meier-designed towers that would not be out of place in South of Fifth. Slee and transparent, they rise 12 stories, containing 120 private residences. Owners include financiers, real estate tycoons, and a fashion mogul. In 2018, Groupon billionaire Eric Lefkofsky reportedly picked up a penthouse for $30.7 million.

The heart of the development, however, remains the original structure, to which have been added a Thomas Keller club, known simply as the Surf Club Restuarant, and the Mediterranean Le Sirenuse Restuarant.

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