Developers unveil ultra-luxury, Armani-designed condo project in Sunny Isles Beach Units at the Residences by Armani/Casa start at $1.85 million




Giorgio Armani: Fashion legend, global style icon … ultra-luxury condo designer?

Yes, Armani has brought his sleek sophistication to a 60-story condo tower on the oceanfront in Sunny Isles Beach. Units are selling for an average of $3.5 million.

The project’s opulent, Armani-designed sales center opened up for the first time Thursday night as developers Jorge Pérez and Gil Dezer hosted an open-bar party for top brokers and prospective buyers. About 1,000 guests were expected. (“If they’re not on the list, they’re not getting in,” a supervisor told security guards behind the scenes. “But use your judgment on the plus-ones: If it’s a gentleman in a Lamborghini with three ladies, he’s probably a buyer and they should all come in.”)

On the menu? A fusion of Miami and Italian cuisine, including an espresso encrusted beef carpaccio and a lemoncello tartlet with burnt meringue in the style of key lime pie, said chef Martin Rodrigue.

The 308-unit tower at 18975 Collins Ave. is the result of another collaboration by Pérez’s Related Group and Dezer’s Dezer Developments. (Related and Dezer also worked together on several of Sunny Isles’ Trump and Ocean towers.) Construction is expected to start this month and the tower, called the Residences by Armani/Casa, will open by the end of 2018.

“It’s very city chic, something you’d expect to see in Milan but it’s in Miami,” said Dezer, who’s also developing the Porsche Design Tower farther south in Sunny Isles Beach. “Everything here is froufrou palm trees. This is sophisticated design.”

But the timing of the launch may be difficult. Although the developers say sales have been strong so far, slumping economies in Latin America are cooling down South Florida’s booming luxury condo market.

Armani/Casa Interior Design Studio, the design arm of the fashion giant, conceived the building’s interiors and finishes in exchange for a fee. The project is a 50-50 split between Related and Dezer. César Pelli is the architect.

Total cost? Nearly $1 billion, the most expensive project Related has built, Pérez said.

“We’re not just using the Armani name to sell units,” Pérez said. “The level of detail that these guys get into will drive anyone nuts. They pick every bit of the wallpaper, every fixture … When I went to Italy to meet with Giorgio Armani, he knows everything. He is involved in every drawing and design and finish.”

The sales center itself cost more than $10 million to build. Its centerpiece is a roughly 2,500-square-foot reproduction of a penthouse unit’s kitchen, living room, master bedroom and master bath.

Armani/Casa designed and decorated the glass-and-marble kitchen and all its fixtures, including a 90-bottle wine cellar, and the furniture in the living room, which includes a projector screen.

The bathroom features his-and-her toilets, meaning gentlemen won’t have to worry about putting down the seat. A walk-in closet offers 300 square feet of space, as much as a studio.

The Sunny Isles Beach project is the first branded condo tower Armani has done in the U.S., said Fabrice Gouffran, managing director of the home and hotels division at Armani/Casa.

Armani chose Miami rather than Los Angeles or New York in part because of its beach, Gouffran said.

“Here you have a wide oceanfront with no view obstruction,” Gouffran said. “That is almost unique in the world.’’

Amenities include the pampered luxuries that have become standard at Miami’s priciest projects: concierge, dog walker, cigar lounge, in-house private chef and full hotel-style living including room and maid service.

And whoever buys a $15 million penthouse gets a special perk: a private audience with Armani himself in Milan.

Units start at $1.85 million and range from 1,800 square feet to 6,500 square feet for a penthouse.

The project is selling for an average of $1,300 per square foot, which Dezer says is a discount for Sunny Isles. “The last unit we sold at Porsche was $2,100 per square foot,” he said

Other branded projects in the area include the Fendi-Château Residences in Surfside and two Ritz-Carlton Residences, one in Miami Beach and one in Sunny Isles. Realtors say instantly recognizable names can help with sales.

A tough market?

The developers say buyers have reserved 155 units at Armani/Casa, roughly 55 percent of the total. But they’re moving into the home stretch of sales at a difficult time for Miami’s condo market.

Thanks to a strong dollar and economic turmoil in Latin America and Europe, the foreign buyers who’ve fueled the local condo boom are having trouble moving their money into the U.S and keeping up with South Florida prices. Because of currency fluctuations, a condo that would’ve cost 3 million Brazilian reals last year (about $723,000) would now set a buyer back 4.8 million reals ($1.15 million) — even though the dollar price of the unit has stayed the same.

And a new federal crackdown on secret buyers investing in pricey homes in Miami-Dade County and New York City could also scare off foreign money.

“Looking purely at the project, you would say Related and Dezer together plus Armani, this is going to be a success,” said Peter Zalewski, a local condo market analyst. “Unfortunately for them, forces they can’t control are likely to have an impact. The market’s out of their hands right now.”

In addition to the Latin American slowdown and the strong dollar, Zalewski pointed to extreme volatility in the stock market and slumping oil prices.

“I think a lot of people are pulling back and trying to figure out what’s happening,” Zalewsi said. “There’s an overall pessimism that’s starting to enter the market. That could make it much more difficult to actually close these contracts than you would have predicted last year.”

But Pérez said ultra-luxury oceanfront projects such as Armani/Casa are more insulated from economic woes than less expensive buildings in downtown Miami.

“Of course it makes a difference when the dollar is strong,” the developer said. “But for this type of building, the buyers that we have are very wealthy. They already have their money in dollars and out of [their home countries]. They’re not trying to figure out how to get their money out.”

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