Buyer hopes to raze 550 Brickell for residential with offices
By Paola Iuspa
A New York developer has a contract to buy the 550 Brickell building, listed for $15 million, and wants to demolish it to build a residential condo with office and retail.
Owner Hank Sopher, who bought the six-story office building in 1999, said he is satisfied with the buyer's offer and is ready to move forward with the transaction. Mr. Sopher, also president of Quik Park of Florida, said he plans to close on the deal in five months.
The buyer plans to build about 1 million square feet of residential on the 1.5-acre site across from Brickell Park, Mr. Sopher said. He would not disclose the buyer's name or purchase price.
"About 65% of the project will be residential and 35% will be office space," said Edie Laquer, of Laquer Corporation Realty Group, whom Mr. Sopher called the 'architect' of the deal.
Current zoning allows residential and commercial use on the parcel, said Ms. Laquer, who is representing both seller and buyer in the deal. Although new to South Florida, the same developer is also considering land in downtown Miami. The group is eyeing 6 of the 9-acre One Miami, a planned mixed-used project between the Dupont Plaza, Hyatt Regency and Hotel Inter-Continental Miami, she said.
"They are coming here because they say Miami is going to shift from an economy based on tourism," Ms. Laquer said, into one more dependent on financial trade and exchange.
In addition, as a 'good neighbor' gesture, the buyer will invest a "seven-figure number" to enhance Brickell Park - if the deal for the 550 Brickell building goes through, she said.
Michael Y. Cannon, managing director of Integra Realty Resources AREEA South Florida, which handles real estate and business counseling and analysis, said Miami-Dade County's residential-condo market did well in 2001 when about 5,800 new units were sold, 21% more than a year earlier.
The Brickell market area - south of the Miami River, east of I-95, west of Biscayne Bay and north of southeast and southwest 26th road - has about 1,400 condo units under construction and 2,000 planned, he said. It also has 1,000 rental-units being built and 4,500 proposed. There are 29 residential projects going up or planned in the area, Mr. Cannon said.
Mr. Cannon said new units on Brickell should continue to sell because in 2001 the county recorded the largest number of high-income immigrants in the nation.
"The question is if they are building the right product," he said. "Many young professionals like loft-style apartments in urban areas. But developers build what their architects tell them" and that may not be what future renters and buyers want.
While local residents generally welcome new housing for the Brickell area, representatives said, traffic congestion continues to get worse.
Tory Jacobs, president of the Brickell Homeowners Association, said his group is asking Miami commissioners today (2/24) to restrict development in the area.
"We need to have the infrastructure in place to support new developments," he said. "We already have a traffic problem on Brickell."