New Developments Amp Up Midbeach
by andy wang
Ian Schrager and Alan Faena have a thing or two in common. They’re both maverick real estate developers, hotel pioneers who have merged high art, world-class culture, and sexy nightlife with a place to lay your head. Whether it’s for one night or year-round is your call, if you have the budget.
And they’re both changing Miami Beach. Each has a stunning new real estate development on the stretch of Collins Avenue between 24th and 44th Streets, an area that, until recently, has been a quiet residential corridor, acting mostly as a nondescript drive-by for tourists cruising from the W South Beach or the Setai to the Fontainebleau or Soho Beach House.
They also both have heavyweight collaborators for their Collins Avenue projects. Schrager’s The Residences at the Miami Beach Edition (2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-571-3101) comprises 26 condos designed by John Pawson located atop the hotel brand that Schrager has created with Marriott—a resort that will feature a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. A stone’s throw away sits Faena House (3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-534-8800) 47 residences designed by Foster + Partners that are part of the three-block-by-two-block Faena District. The developer’s eponymous district includes a hotel, marina, and three Rem Koolhaas-designed spaces: an arts center, shopping area, and hightech parking garage. Both men are armed with their respective Douglas Elliman sales teams of high-profile brokers who know New York as well as Miami.
As the neighborhood’s reputation changes from a modest condominium stretch to high-end luxury living, Schrager and Faena are shattering the ceiling for condo prices in town. Both properties have been selling preconstruction units for more than $3,000 per square foot since hitting the market earlier this year. The $34 million sale of two penthouses to one buyer at Edition clocked in at a record $3,800 per square foot.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Schrager says. “There were a number of shifts that Miami was undergoing. A lot of sophisticated people were here, caused in part by Art Basel. When you get a sophisticated international buyer, they’re used to spending that money to live in a sophisticated place. And Miami has become that.”
And Schrager, who’s opened everything from New York’s Studio 54 to Miami Beach’s Delano, points out that the residential feel of the surrounding blocks protects buyers from the tourist throngs they would find in South Beach’s hotel district, practically forming a barrier.
“This is an area that’s surrounded by a lot of condominiums, so it will never get cheesy,” says Schrager, who adds that Edition’s mix of high-end finishes (such as alabaster-glass bathroom partitions, open Bulthaup kitchens, and bleached-teak flooring) with hotel services is an easy sell.
“Having apartments as part of a hotel really brings added value because you’re offering a tremendous amount of amenities. There are only two things you can offer: product distinction and services. If you can offer both, that’s an unbeatable combination,” he says. “You don’t have to have your own housekeeping staff. You get everything with the hotel—we’ll clean, we’ll babysit, plan your parties, set up dinner parties from the Jean-Georges restaurant; we’ll get you reservations. You get everything a great hotel has and also have the benefit of your privacy.”
Buyers, mostly domestic, have responded to Schrager’s pitch. By June, about three-quarters of the building had sold.
Faena House is on a similar path, having sold more than half of its own units by June. Alan Faena has been here before. He already has a Faena District in Buenos Aires, where he turned the formerly grimy Puerto Madero area into a vibrant neighborhood by building apartments, an arts center, and a hotel with an alluring pool scene and a sultry tango show.
Puerto Madero “was an abandoned place, all deserted,” Faena says. “The city thought it had no chance to recover. I saw the buildings, an abandoned factory. I realized the place was great. Everybody was thinking it was impossible and nobody would come, but I created the most expensive real estate in Argentina, the best neighborhood in Buenos Aires.”
And surely, with this influx of money and aesthetics, this sleepy neighborhood, too, will blossom. Retail and restaurants are likely to follow, where there’s space. Of the changes, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower says, “Architecture was the first form of art. The art is moving north. Miami Beach is all about art, culture, and diversity.” Tired and nondescript? Not anymore.
“Once the bar has been lifted, I don’t think it ever goes back,” Schrager says. “The bar’s been lifted, and you’re going to see Miami selling more products at these prices, provided that they are selling distinctive products.”
photography by faena group