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U/C: Plaza on Brickell

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Brickell condo project raises saturation questions

by Robyn Friedman, Special to the Sun-Sentinel

April 26, 2004

The Related Group of Florida Inc. has announced plans to bring an additional 1,000 condominium units to the Brickell area of Miami, at a time when industry insiders are warning about the number of units about to flood the Miami-Dade market in the next few years.

The $300 million project, called The Plaza on Brickell, will feature two towers, at 851 and 901 Brickell Ave. They will be integrated with an existing office building at 801 Brickell Ave. to form a mixed-use development with 35,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza with fountains, a meditation lawn and a Zen garden.

"It will be like a mini-CityPlace in ambiance," said Roberto Rocha, executive vice president of The Related Group in Miami. "We're not just creating another residential condominium building; we're creating an entertainment environment, a destination."

The units will range from 680 to 1,400 square feet and will include one- and two-bedroom floor plans with Italian cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and Berber carpet. Pre-construction prices range from the $170,000s to the $500,000s.

The three-acre site is currently being used as a parking lot, Rocha said. He expects to break ground by the beginning of next year and complete construction two years thereafter. One tower will have 43 stories; the other, 53.

Amenities at the condominium will include a fitness center, spa, heated pool with waterfalls and poolside lounges with cabanas. Rocha said the retail space will include restaurants and possibly a club.

Related Group plans to open a sales office next month, and Rocha said that the company is expecting demand to be strong. Like other Related projects, sales will open first to those on the company's waiting list.

"There's nothing coming that's right on Brickell that you can sell from the $170,000s to the $500,000s," Rocha said. "In that price range, your market is very large."

Local real estate agents agree. "Any luxury project priced around $300 a foot is a substantial opportunity for a buyer," said Diane Lieberman, owner of South Beach Investment Realty Inc. in Miami Beach.

Units at nearby Espirito Santo Plaza, at 1395 Brickell Ave., are selling from $236,500 for a 461-square-foot studio to $1.75 million for a 2,485-square-foot penthouse.

But some people question just how many condominium units can be absorbed in the Miami area. "In Miami-Dade County, there are presently more units being constructed than there are buyers," said Richard F. Davis, a senior vice president at Grubb & Ellis Co. who specializes in multifamily properties. "If interest rates were to rapidly increase substantially, I feel Miami-Dade County would be affected negatively."

Dawn Soper, president of Miami-based Market Analytics & Consulting LLC, said that there is "quite a bit of competition" for The Plaza on Brickell. She said that while the unit prices are "very reasonable," there are about 5,000 new condominium units on the planning board for development in the next three to four years.

Many of the people buying condominiums in Miami-Dade County are speculators -- people who purchase units with the intention of re-selling them at a profit. Even if all of the speculators go through with their contracts and close on their units, questions remain as to whether there will ultimately be a glut of condominium units on the market when the speculators' units hit the market for resale.

The architect for The Plaza on Brickell is Coral Gables-based Nichols, Brosch, Sandoval & Associates Inc.

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