Art and Real Estate Tango in Miami

The New York Times




One Ocean condominium sales center on Collins Avenue resembles a small gallery these days, fitting right in during Art Basel, Miami’s annual celebration of contemporary art, which ended last week.

At a One Ocean event sponsored by UBS, bankers and other guests drank free-flowing Champagne and snacked on shrimp cocktail while studying the assorted paintings and sculptures from modern Latin American artists.

At least a few guests also asked about the scale model of One Ocean, the 50-unit condominium project that the Related Group of Florida is developing across the street from the beach, south of Fifth Street.

As Jorge M. Pérez, the founder and chairman of the Related Group, addressed the crowd, praising the artists and designers involved in One Ocean, the lines between art and high-end real estate in Miami seemed to be irrevocably blurring.

Blurring lines is a touchy subject down here of late. Many critics have piled on Art Basel about letting conspicuous consumption overshadow the art.

Whether it was Cartier or Moët, everybody seemed to be selling something at Art Basel. Many companies held their own parties or dinners to draw in the well-heeled crowds, who were already splintered by the ever-expanding number of competing art shows. Real estate firms also made their presence known, with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty partnering with the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation for a brunch at a gallery.

And now the branding and artist name-dropping are becoming popular marketing tactics among developers as the real estate boom picks up steam in South Florida, giving rise to a phenomenon best described as conspicuous construction.

It’s working so far for Related. One Ocean, which began sales in October, has only six units left to sell, even though groundbreaking isn’t expected until next fall.

Averaging about $1,500 a square foot, it will soon seem like a bargain compared with projects farther north on the beach. The industry was buzzing at Basel about the Argentine developer Alan Faena’s beachfront hotel renovation and condo project, featuring the work of the architects Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas. And about Ian Schrager’s Residences at the Miami Beach Edition, being built with Marriott at the former Seville Hotel at 25th Street and Collins. Mr. Schrager said prices for 26 condo residences would average about $3,000 a square foot, which would be a record for a new development in Miami.

That Mr. Schrager would even dare to charge New York prices here shows the strength of demand in recent months for trophy-quality residences. Hoping to attract the type of buyer who comes to Art Basel to drop millions on a few paintings, developers are pushing the connection to art in their buildings.

Perhaps it’s not much of a stretch for Mr. Pérez at One Ocean, considering that he is an avid collector and longtime trustee of the Miami Art Museum. He donated $35 million to the museum in art and cash and was rewarded by the museum’s promise to rename itself after him. Four board members resigned in protest. When I arrived for lunch with him early in the week he had a stack of art books on the table. “Research,” he said, explaining that he was headed to an auction later that afternoon.

Several pages of the One Ocean brochure — with its “art of living” marketing line — are devoted to describing the designers and artists who contributed to the project.

They include the Mexican architect Enrique Norten, the interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg and the landscape designer Enzo Enea. Michele Oka Doner, known for public art installations in the New York subway and at the Miami airport and Reagan National airport in Washington, is doing some floors at One Ocean. The Cuban-born artist José Bedia is designing entrance gates.

Mr. Pérez beamed with pride as he introduced them at the event sponsored by UBS, where he is a private banking client.

“We have put all this talent together to do something that is lasting, iconic and hopefully will be my legacy with the company,” Mr. Pérez told the assembled guests.

“We will probably spend over $1 million in amazing art for that project,” Mr. Pérez said.

But do buyers in Miami, a resort town whose real estate industry was flat on its back just three years ago, care that Mr. Pérez spent $50,000 to get a tree from Canada that produced an 18-foot-long table for the One Ocean club room?

He says the profile of the buyers at One Ocean shows that some, indeed, respond to his artistic efforts. Most of them are “billionaires or close to,” hailing from Russia, Argentina, Brazil, India, France, Venezuela and Italy, as well as the United States, he said. The apartments, among them an $8.5 million penthouse, are “pocket change” for them. “These are people that have a deep appreciation for art and design,” Mr. Pérez said.

Of course, the mad rush to buy high-priced apartments that are still in the planning stages could also have a lot to do with the fact that there is little new development along the beach. And what exists often fails to meet the discriminating standards of wealthy sophisticates.

Mr. Schrager, the hotelier who conceived the Delano in Miami — as well as the Mondrian in Los Angeles, the Gramercy Park in New York and the Public in Chicago — said he came to Miami in 2009 and 2010 trying “to steal” an apartment for himself during the financial crisis. But he couldn’t find anything he liked.

“They had views, obviously,” he said, “but the lobbies were too tacky.”

So, after finding the distressed Seville site, which he promptly backed off of buying when Marriott became interested, he set about designing something “more sophisticated, more stylish.”

The result will be Miami Edition, an attempt to continue the “effortless living” theme he developed at 50 Gramercy Park North. Hotel amenities will be included in condo common charges, with services like housekeeping, baby-sitting, party planning and room service available à la carte, he said.

He and the architect John Pawson have designed 26 residences that will sit atop two towers on the beach: the old Seville and a new mixed hotel-condo building with a separate lobby and elevator for condo residents. Mr. Schrager himself is buying a three-bedroom apartment.

The residences will feature terraces that are like outdoor rooms, with hot tubs and kitchens. The priciest apartment, a triplex, is selling for $18 million. It has 4,000 square feet of indoor space, and 3,000 square feet of outdoor space that includes a 40-foot private swimming pool with sunrise and sunset views.

Marriott also hired Mr. Schrager to give the hotel the flair he is known for. There will be a Studio 54-like nightclub, a skating rink with fire and water lighting effects, and a bowling alley “on L.S.D.,” he said.

Even though his last real success in Miami, the Delano, was nearly 25 years ago, Mr. Schrager is confident he still has a following.

“The people that are going to be buying these are the people that I have been creating things for all my life and that have grown up with me,” he said.

With Related hoping to develop more beachfront sites, it wasn’t hard to understand Mr. Pérez’s enthusiasm for the $3,000-a-square-foot price level Mr. Schrager is seeking to set. “Ian is a guy that has been ahead of his time,” he said. “I would love for him to be successful.”

With so many Russian and other billionaires in town last week, even A-Rod was getting into the act of mixing art and real estate.

Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee third baseman, had his contemporary paintings shipped from New Jersey to his nine-bedroom home in South Beach for an Art Basel party that drew 250 guests, including Demi Moore, Owen Wilson and Tommy Hilfiger. His home is on the market for $38 million. But his broker, Mayi de la Vega, the chief executive of ONE Sotheby’s, said Mr. Rodriguez wasn’t intentionally using the art to try to sell the home.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “if he sells the house great, if he doesn’t, it’s no skin off his back. I think there is a sense of pride there, in enjoying his collection and sharing it with others.”


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