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Front Page » Top Stories » Chicago Developer Buys Highrise Looks To Lower Brickell Prices

Chicago Developer Buys Highrise Looks To Lower Brickell Prices

Written by on November 14, 2002

By Paola Iuspa
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Chicago developer Evangeline Gouletas says she is resolved to build Brickell Avenue condos that are both luxurious and affordable, a rare combination in an area where new units go for at least a half-million.

By pouring her savings into the 37-floor renamed Skyline on Brickell, she said she plans to pass financing savings on to buyers and help narrow the price gap in Miami’s financial district.

Units will sell from $200,000 to $1 million, said Veronica Cervera, whose real estate firm represents the project. The group this week will start accepting deposits for the one- to three-bedroom condos ranging from 791 to 1,762 square feet.

Skyline’s price range contrasts with other projects under construction in the neighborhood such as Jade, where condos start at about $500,000, and the Four Seasons Hotel and Condominium, where units begin at $695,000.

Ms. Gouletas, whose experience lies in buying rental buildings for conversion to condominiums, two weeks ago bought the project from BCOM Inc., headed by Michael Baumann, who had planned it as a rental project and began construction under the name Brickell Bay Village. Work on the now-360-unit Skyline on Brickell, 2102 Brickell Ave., began in April and is scheduled to be finished in December 2003.

Amenities will include a three-story garage, private marina, lounge, pool and spa, volleyball and tennis courts and fitness center and clubhouse with waterfront views and access to the bay.

Three months ago Ms. Gouletas, president and CEO of Skyline Equities Realty of Chicago, started negotiating with Mr. Baumann, whose 1999 building permit application estimated the project would cost $88 million. While she declined to say how much she will pay for the 3.37-acre development, she said the closing would occur once Mr. Baumann completes the slender, rectangular glass tower.

A former first lady of the State of New York during 1981 and 1982 after marrying then-Gov. Hugh Carey, Ms. Gouletas said she had been looking for a Brickell area waterfront parcel on which to build condos for almost a year.

She said Brickell Bay’s design was key in choosing it. Designed by Bermello, Ajamil & Partners of Miami, building plans took about three years to get city approval, as neighbors from the Atlantis and Bristol Tower opposed the size. Early this year, a new design gained support and Miami commissioners ok’d the concept.

Area real estate agents said the $200,000 price for a one-bedroom unit is a bargain, especially when it promises floor-to-ceiling windows, European kitchens with granite countertops, marble bathrooms and foyers and green glass balconies. Penthouses will sell for about $1 million.

Vivian Escala, a real estate associate with Fortune International Realty, said Skyline prices are comparable to re-sale units, also known as secondary market. She said units at the one-year-old, 29-story Fortune House condominium, 185 SE 14 Terr., are re-selling for at least $150,000.

"No other project under construction on Brickell is comparable with Skyline," she said.

But Chris Basick, a broker with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Inc., said Skyline units will sell for less than some secondary condos selling for at least $225,000, including The Metropolitan, 2475 Brickell Ave., and The Mark, 1155 Brickell Ave., according to the Miami-Dade Multiple Listing Service. About 393 existing condos are for sale in the area with an average asking price per square foot of $302, Mr. Basick said.

Developer Pascual Renzi said units at his condo project, at 170 SE 14th St., off the water and in the permitting process, will range from $190,000 to $400,000.

Before creating the one-year-old Skyline Equities, Ms. Gouletas and her brother had converted rental buildings throughout South Florida and other states since the 1970s. Last year she completed a nine-building conversion in Aventura.

As the federal government keeps cutting interest rates, buying condos – rather than renting them – is becoming more popular.

Michael Stein, the managing director, of Aztec Group Inc. in Coral Gables, a multi-housing investment sales and financing firm, said he is noticing more half-built projects – once planned as rentals – turning into condominiums, responding to the market demand.

For example, he said, developer Tibor Hollo recently hired him to find a buyer for Brickell Bay Plaza, 1200 Brickell Bay Drive. The 645-unit residential high rise on the water recently got city approval and construction started a few weeks ago, Mr. Stein said. While Mr. Hollo is building a rental complex, many of the companies that expressed interest in buying the property would prefer turn it into for-sale apartments.

"The interest rate at 6% to 6.25% is fueling the purchase of condos," Mr. Stein said. "A lot of suburban properties are getting conversions deals."