Billion-dollar buildings, million-dollar cars, nine-figure hedge funds, mesmerizing penthouses, priceless works of art... Why the wealth of the world is buying into Miami.
Life is grand in Miami. Opulence, elegance and wealth flow from the sprawling oceanfront penthouses through the veins of its sun-kissed owners to the bottles of Champagne being popped on mega yachts in the city’s many beautiful harbors. It’s paradise for the rich and famous, and with new residential towers on the rise, high-end amenities being added and billionaires moving to town, Miami is quickly becoming the year-round stomping ground for America’s elite.
According to Forbes, there are 51 billionaires living in Florida, with most of them residing in South Florida. Carnival’s Micky Arison, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. and H. Wayne Huizenga are some of the household names, while hedge fund wizard David Tepper recently moved his Appaloosa Management down from New Jersey to call Miami Beach home. Why do these folks live where you vacation?
“We have more amenities, more restaurants and just more options geared towards the locals—that coaxes the clients to stay longer,” says Dan Hechtkopf, director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman, who recently helped sell $80 million in property between Park Grove and Arbor in Coconut Grove alone. “Over the past 10 years Miami has really changed from being primarily for vacationers to now being more of an actual place to live full-year round.”
Park Grove has a $14 million penthouse in a building that is reshaping Coconut Grove from a laid-back locale to the newest hot spot, but all over town there are grand residences fit for America’s largest earners. Whether it’s the $65 million Mediterranean-style mansion on Star Island, the $55 million Faena penthouse, the $39 million Regalia penthouse in Sunny Isles Beach or even Tommy Hilfiger’s $27.5 Golden Beach estate that recently hit the market, there is competition in all neighborhoods for the big buyers. Luckily, there’s plenty to go around both on the buying and selling side.
Location has always been the big seller when it comes to real estate, but Miami developers are sweetening the pot with amenities that you won’t find anywhere else south of Manhattan. There are rooftops with helipads like at the Zaha Hadiddesigned One Thousand Museum downtown (why drive to your private jet when you can take a chopper?) and a car elevator at the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles, where you can park your car right in your living room. The four-story penthouse at Porsche holds up to 11 cars and is yours for just $32 million.
“WE HAVE A GREAT LOVE FOR THIS ART SCENE. WE’VE BEEN AT IT FOR 35 YEARS. WE’VE ALWAYS TRIED TO GIVE BACK.” —dennis scholl
Sometimes the perks aren’t even amenities, but rather gifts to lure in a buyer – gifts unlike anything you’d see anywhere else in the world. At Regalia, the $39 million penthouse comes with a rare pink diamond valued at half a million dollars (perfect for a wife, girlfriend, or both!)—a nice memento to tag on to the three-story, 17,000-square-foot opulent residence. At the Aston Martin Residences, which just broke ground in October, if you buy the $50 million penthouse you get a $2.5 million Aston Martin Vulcan as a gift from the developer—one of only 24 made in the world. This is a building that already offers a double-level fitness center overlooking the ocean, spinning studio, boxing gym, virtual golf room, art gallery and two cinemas, as well as a full-service spa, beauty salon and barber shop. So basically, you don’t ever have to leave, but should you want to, you have a rare Aston Martin now to hit the town in.
“The best buildings are going above and beyond to give an amazing experience to the über-wealthy these days,” says Hechtkopf. “It’s not just over-the-top personal service; it’s world-class amenities, security, privacy and a luxury lifestyle that extends beyond the condo itself.”
Forget gifts—some residences come with star power. For around $6 million someone can purchase the 4,800-square-foot penthouse with 3,000-square-foot private rooftop pool deck at Aria on the Bay and live right next door to Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who after signing a $325 million, 13-year contract a few years back, inked a deal for a five-bedroom, 7.5-bathroom unit in the Melo Group’s 53-story Arts & Entertainment District luxury building. “It’s always awesome to have a local celebrity who can afford to buy anywhere and buy anything buy in your building,” says Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, the managing partner of Cervera Real Estate, the firm that represented the Melo Group in the Stanton sale. “These are people who are well-traveled and have seen it all, so for them to come and decide that out of all the choices, your choice is the best one, it’s a wonderful endorsement all the way around.”
The purchase made a big splash in the news, and it certainly helped sales. Lamadrid estimates that there are just 90 of the 600-plus units available after nearly every news outlet ran the Stanton story. “It gave the property a lot of exposure,” she says.
While there are rumors around the sports world that this could become more of a winter home for Stanton, he’s lending his fame (and fortune) to the developers and promoting the building with the same gusto he brings every time he steps to the plate. But the money floating around the sports world locally has changed the game in Miami. Guys like Hassan Whiteside are averaging about $25 million a year for the Miami Heat, and Stanton’s Marlins just sold to a group that includes Derek Jeter for $1.2 billion. It’s more than just money—it’s fame, celebrity and flash.
“MIAMI TURNED A CORNER AND IS NOW A PREMIER DESTINATION THAT HAS THE WHOLE WORLD TALKING.” –dan hechtkopf, director of luxury sales at douglas elliman
With Jeter in town running baseball and business operations, those who can afford it will want to live the Jeter life. He celebrated his new gig alongside Diddy, DJ Khaled, Busta Rhymes and French Montana with a “Welcome to Miami” dinner at Dave Grutman’s high-end contemporary Southeast Asian eatery Komodo in Brickell. You can’t get that kind of welcoming party in Kansas City or Seattle.
But that’s Miami. The price tag comes with glitz and glamour. And if you can’t live like a billionaire every day, plenty choose to become weekend billionaires and pay for the party.
The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is home to the fourth-most-expensive restaurants in the country behind New York, Las Vegas and Honolulu, according to a 2015 study, but at some spots you can really live large. Celebrity hot spot Prime 112 has a 16-ounce rib eye on the menu for $230, Sugar Factory on Ocean Drive has a “gold-coated dark-chocolate truffle melted with dark-chocolate fondue” package for $1,000, and The Bar at The Setai Miami Beach has a $100 24K Gold Martini made with Russian Standard Vodka Gold Edition, Louis XIII Cognac de Rémy Martin, Grand Marnier Cuvée 1880 and Riesling Ice Wine, and topped with 24K gold flakes.
Of course when it comes to nightlife, the extravagance can reach even higher levels. Only the world’s biggest spenders can splurge for the Cristal Rosé threeliter bottle at E11EVEN Miami for $13,500 or the 15-liter Ace of Spades Nebuchadnezzar Rosé for a whopping $140,000 at LIV, the nightclub that is consistently one of the top-grossing clubs in the country. For a slower night, there’s the Ace of Spades Nebuchadnezzar Brut for $90,000 or the Cristal 24K Gold Medallion Jeroboam for $60,000, and all of it comes with an over-the-top show. It will likely be the best night of your life, but it’s also proof that Miami is the big baller capital of America. If a Sunday rosé party is more your thing, you can reserve the Dom Pérignon table at Kiki on the River—sipping on endless bottles while mega yachts dock next to your table unloading the beautiful people of the world.
Most of the credit for all of this belongs to the developers who created homes to match the good life for long-term residents. But one of the first big-name residents, Gianni Versace, saw the potential early on and brought glitz and glamour with him. “The Miami Beach that Gianni discovered was one that was burgeoning [with] the fashion industry and other people for whom design was essential to the quality of life,” says Chauncey Copeland, general manager at The Villa Casa Casuarina, Versace’s old home, where incidentally you can now stay in the Villa’s Empire Suite for $3,200 per night. “This attracted the type of person to Miami Beach that agrees with the importance of lavish design and continues to do so to this day.”
The former Versace Mansion, which has kept the elegance intact, is just one of the year-round stops that once upon a time made for a wild weekend in Miami. Art Basel is the biggest contemporary-art fair in the U.S., and offers over $3 billion of art (last year the Paul Kasmin Gallery sold a Lee Krasner work for $6 million alone), but every day the Pérez Art Museum Miami has at least an eight-figure amount of art in the building. Jorge Pérez, one of the city’s more generous billionaires, donated a $20 million portion of his renowned Latin American art collection and $20 million in cash to get the eponymous museum up and running.
If art is your thing, Oceana Bal Harbour offers two 10-foot-tall stainless-steel sculptures with mirror-finish surfaces created by American artist Jeff Koons that will be co-owned by tenants, not to mention the owners of the two $26 million penthouses. So not only does Miami offer million-dollar art at Basel and PAMM, but in homes as well.
The same can be said for the annual Miami International Boat Show. Yes, you can find some of the greatest yachts in the world docked that weekend, but at any point in the year you might find yourself popping Champagne next to the 377-foot Luna (last valued at $545 million) at The Deck at Island Gardens or Mark Cuban’s 288-foot Fountainhead docked outside the Epic Hotel. Of course, if you have your own yacht, there’s a slip with your name on it connected to many top buildings in town. Even the tech-startup community is taking notice: Miami-based Rokk3r Fuel EXO is a global fund investing in founders who are building exponential-growth companies all over the world. But who says you need to be in Manhattan or San Francisco to do this when you can do it in paradise?
So whether you are billionaire Norman Braman on Indian Creek or Phillip Frost or Jorge Pérez, or just someone who wants a taste of the fabulous life, Miami is now the center of the universe for living large—with options to make your eyes pop at every turn. And it’s a trend that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
“Miami turned a corner and is now a premier destination that has the whole world talking,” says Hechtkopf. “With every neighborhood adding more billion- dollar buildings, the options for buyers are as endless as the reasons to call Miami home.” Of course, its most prized possession is absolutely free—with or without the “billions” in front of it: the beach.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF OCEANA BAL HARBOUR