Emerging Trends: Miami's Evolution into a Sophisticated Global Real Estate Market

Rodrigo Mattos

Starchitects in Miami Are Thriving. It’s About the Branding Now

Over the last two decades, amidst the flourishing luxury real estate market in Miami, developers sought innovative strategies to distinguish their condominiums and elevate their value propositions.

A notable approach adopted by many developers involved integrating commercial brands. Gil Dezer, a trailblazer in this regard, forged partnerships with renowned names such as Donald Trump (prior to his presidency), leading German car manufacturer Porsche, and esteemed Italian luxury fashion house Armani.

A penthouse at The St Regis Residences Miami is listed for $45 MILLION

Others pursued the expertise of star architects, commonly referred to as "starchitects": including Herzog & de Meuron, the acclaimed Swiss duo recognized for London's Tate Modern art gallery; Renzo Piano, the esteemed Italian architect renowned for the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris; and the late Zaha Hadid, a celebrated architect of Iraqi-British heritage, among others. These luminaries, recipients of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, were not only commissioned to design condominium buildings in Miami but also became the embodiment of the projects themselves.

"South Florida approaches condos with the same fervor as Silicon Valley does technology. It's a playground for developers, builders, consumers, investors, and speculators," remarked ANNA SHERRILL with ONE Sotheby's Intl. Realty in Miami Beach."We're witnessing a competition unfold: between who gets the best brand and starchitect."

A penthouse at The St Regis Residences Miami is listed for $45 MILLION

In the current landscape, both starchitects and branded developments are thriving side by side, each contributing to the dynamic tapestry of Miami's real estate scene. While some developers continue to enlist the expertise of renowned architects to craft iconic structures that captivate the skyline, others are strategically integrating commercial brands to infuse their projects with prestige and allure.

Despite a shift towards branded condominiums in recent years, starchitect-led buildings still hold a significant place in the market, attracting buyers with their unique designs and architectural excellence. Simultaneously, developers are leveraging the power of luxury brands to elevate their offerings, catering to discerning buyers who seek not only exceptional design but also a lifestyle synonymous with exclusivity and sophistication.

A penthouse at The St Regis Residences Miami is listed for $45 MILLION

The synergy between starchitects and brands is palpable in Miami's condominium pipeline, where a diverse array of projects bear the imprints of both architectural brilliance and brand cachet. From iconic towers designed by renowned architects to branded residences associated with prestigious hotel chains, automotive giants, and fashion icons, the market reflects a harmonious blend of architectural innovation and commercial branding.

This symbiotic relationship underscores the resilience and adaptability of Miami's real estate industry, where developers adeptly navigate between architectural creativity and brand recognition to meet the evolving demands of luxury homebuyers. As the city continues to evolve, the coexistence of starchitects and brands promises to shape its skyline and redefine the notion of luxury living for years to come.

A penthouse at The St Regis Residences Miami is listed for $45 MILLION

The move to have both starchitects and brand is visible at One Thousand Group.

Kevin Venger, co-founder of the firm, celebrated a major triumph when he secured Zaha Hadid as the architect for his condominium project in Downtown Miami. Hadid, renowned for her groundbreaking designs characterized by sinuous forms, was the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the highest honor in the field. Developers vied intensely for the opportunity to collaborate with her on her inaugural project in Florida.

"We seized the opportunity and secured her talent," Venger recounted. "She was truly remarkable."

Upon its completion in 2019, the resulting 62-story tower, named One Thousand Museum, made a profound impact. It stood as one of Hadid's final creations before her passing in 2016. Far from mundane, the tower's sweeping facade earned it the moniker "the Scorpion Tower."

One Thousand Museum by Zaha Hadid, in Downtown Miami

However, intricate designs often present challenges during construction. Pritzker laureates push the boundaries of innovation, utilizing cutting-edge technology that can inflate construction costs and introduce risks. Hadid's project was no exception.

“If you see a project that just looks complicated from the outside when you drive by or fly by — it was absolutely complicated to put together,” said Venger.

One Thousand Museum stands as a testament to the seamless collaboration between starchitects and branded developments. The tower's unique exoskeleton, a structural marvel, exemplifies this synergy by blending innovative design with cutting-edge construction techniques.

Traditionally, exoskeletons are constructed using rigid materials applied to a box-like framework. However, Zaha Hadid's vision called for a curved exoskeleton, necessitating the use of fiberglass-reinforced concrete—a novel material at the forefront of construction innovation. Each of the 6,000 panels was meticulously crafted in Dubai and transported to Miami for assembly, a process chronicled in PBS's "Impossible Builds" series, which highlighted the tower's status as one of the most intricate skyscrapers to materialize from concept to reality. The episode shed light on the daily challenges faced by construction crews as they brought Hadid's vision to life.

As One Thousand Group embarks on its next venture—a 52-story condo development in Edgewater—the focus shifts from architectural accolades to the integration of luxury brands. While the project boasts accomplished architects, its allure lies in its partnership with Major Food Group, renowned for its transformative approach to hospitality through iconic establishments like Carbone, ZZ’s, and Contessa. Major Food Group will lend its expertise to design the project's interiors and introduce a signature restaurant, underscoring the growing trend of branded experiences within the real estate landscape.

This shift is echoed by other developers who previously championed star architects but are now embracing branded partnerships. Terra, led by CEO David Martin, notably collaborated with Pritzker winners Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas, and Bjarke Ingels to elevate its profile post-Great Recession. However, Terra's latest endeavors, including a condo building in Coconut Grove, prioritize partnerships with upscale hospitality brands like Cipriani and Major Food Group, signaling a strategic shift towards branded developments.

The modern buyer seeks more than just a residence; they desire a complete lifestyle experience. This is delivered through attentive service and meticulous attention to detail by the management and staff of the building.

Buyers place their trust in brands they have known and valued over the years to curate this lifestyle, often manifested in the form of luxurious amenities. Esteemed hospitality groups, for instance, offer restaurant-quality dining experiences, while renowned hotel names like St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton ensure expertly managed spa facilities, beach clubs, and marinas. These amenities, once the building is completed, are typically incorporated into residents' monthly charges.

Despite a slowdown in the construction of starchitect-led condos, they have not disappeared entirely from Miami's skyline. Zaha Hadid's firm is currently designing a condo on the site of the tragic building collapse in Surfside, while OMA, led by Rem Koolhaas, is designing an oceanfront complex in Miami Beach. However, these projects have yet to commence construction or secure substantial financing, and they are notably smaller in scale—ranging from 12 to 17 stories tall.

According to analyst Zalewski, the lessons learned from past projects suggest that developers are unlikely to brand tall condo projects after starchitects in the future. Such projects require broad appeal, whereas architectural icons have proven to cater to a niche market.

"In our consumer-driven society, the brand holds significant sway.


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