Fortune to build once hotly contested Multiplan tower on southern half
By Sherri C. Ranta
Plans for a high profile, 2.5-acre parcel of bayfront land on Brickell Bay Drive have changed through the years but developers with Fortune International may soon have the last word.
Construction is scheduled to begin in first quarter 2002 on Jade at Brickell Bay, Fortune's $200 million, 324-unit, 48-story glass condominium at Brickell Bay Drive and Southeast 14th Street. Completion is expected in about 24 months.
Led by partners Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International Realty, and Miguel Angel Barbagallo, developers purchased the site and the project - permitted plans and all - for $19 million in late March from Brickell Invest Joint Venture, a Multiplan USA affiliate.
Industry insiders said the price, at $174 a square foot, is among the highest paid for land in Miami since the mid-'80s. The lowest land appraisal was $22 million, Fortune officials said.
Fortune developers plan, for the most part, to stick to original designs developed in 1998 by Multiplan - Fortune was a consultant in that process - and make very few changes, Mr. Fortuna said.
Multiplan received City of Miami approvals and a major special-use permit for two, 57-story twin towers - with 325 units to a tower - for the 5-acre plot in April 1998. Developers then sold the land in two parcels with the project approved for the land eligible to be developed in two parts.
"We'll make minor changes," Mr. Defortuna said. "Multiplan did their work very well. We were hired by them as consultants. We participated a lot on the overall concept and design. We've had numerous meetings with the architect prior to even buying the site."
The changes, he said, will likely require administrative approvals from city staff and are not expected to require architectural board or city commission approvals. Brickell architect Luis Revuelta designed the Multiplan tower. He also designed two other Brickell Avenue buildings, Santa Maria and Bristol Tower.
One change, however, is an increase in the number of planned units from 306 to 324 units, a modification accomplished by subdividing seven large, lower-level bay homes at 3,000 to 4,000 square feet each into 14 smaller lofts.
Fortune plans to keep the tower at 48 stories, Mr. Defortuna said. Multiplan had scaled down the height from 57 stories, he said, citing concerns about economic viability in regard to the additional floors and units.
Fortune developers are expected to open a sales center for Jade at Brickell Bay in mid-summer in the former home of Bank of America, a 12,000-square-foot building at 1300 Brickell Ave. Units are expected to sell for $250,000 to $2 million. Fortune International will handle sales.
Extensive renovations are planned on the first floor to bring the facility up-to-date and present an elaborate and interactive sales center to the public, Mr. Defortuna said. Clients will be able to see a video of the site, virtual tours of the units and a large interactive display, "The Brickell Experience."
The display, Mr. Defortuna said, will educate buyers about the many projects in the Brickell area.
"A lot of us who spend a lot of time on Brickell don't even realize what's going on," he said.
Fortune obtained a four-year lease on the building with plans to locate its corporate development offices on the second floor. The Brickell Avenue location was chosen for its easy access and visibility, officials said.
Fortune and Multiplan are not the first developers to make plans for the Brickell Bay Drive property. In the early '80s, Mutual of Omaha owned the land that was at that time a 5-acre site.
Helmsley Center Inc., led by New York real estate tycoon Harry Helmsley, bought the land for $22 million in May 1981 and planned a $200 million mixed-use project featuring a 56-story office-hotel complex and 36-story and 49-story condominiums. The project was originally named The Imperial Palace and renamed Helmsley's Brickell Center.
However, in the mid-'80s, Mr. Helmsley walked away from the project. In one news report, officials blamed economic woes in Latin America and the resulting fall-off in trade for a sharp drop in demand for office and condominium space on Brickell.
Mutual of Omaha, which held a $16 million note on the property, filed a foreclosure suit against Helmsley for failure to pay semi-annual interest and real estate taxes. In 1988, it was reported that Mutual of Omaha was holding the property, though a company spokesman said at the time the company had numerous requests to purchase the property.
In December 1997, Brickell Invest bought the 5-acre site from Mutual of Omaha for about $15.5 million.
The Multiplan affiliate then developed plans for the site, which were approved by the city after protests from neighboring landowners and developer Tibor Hollo, president of Florida East Coast Realty.
In dispute, city officials said, was the orientation of the Multiplan project. The building was to face the bay, rather than have a perpendicular orientation that protesters said would give neighboring buildings a better view of the bay.
City officials said preserving the view for other landholders was not grounds to deny the project.
Multiplan then sold the southernmost 2.5 acres to Fortune while TWJ, a family-owned company based in Israel, bought the northern half for about $15.5 million.
A representative for Florida East Coast Realtors said nothing is planned for the northern site for at least two years.