Richard LeFrak
Richard LeFrak (Jill Kahn)

A big out-of-town developer is putting his money where his mouth is on his marquee Miami Beach project, scooping up one of the property’s penthouses for himself.

The 68-year-old multibillionaire Richard LeFrak, the third-generation chairman of the New York-based LeFrak Organization, told the Daily Business Review he’s keeping one of the top units at the 1 Hotel and Homes on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

Buying the pied-a-terre, which LeFrak said would either go to himself or one of his children, is more than a symbolic gesture by the developer, who said he plans to make other big investments in the Miami market. 1 Hotel and Homes is the first Miami venture for LeFrak, one of New York’s biggest real estate players.

“I’m going to continue to expand here,” LeFrak said. “Love the market. Love it.”

The move is similar to one pulled off by developer Jorge Perez, whom LeFrak calls a friend and “the number one developer in Miami.” Perez bought a unit this year at Hollywood’s Apogee Beach, which he built in 2013.

At 1 Hotel, LeFrak is hoping to bring in buyers with a pitch that suggests the area around the property at 2399 Collins Ave. will soon develop to be the epicenter of “South Beach culture.”

“If you think a little bit about how South Beach has developed, first it was Ocean Drive, but then it crept up a little bit when the Delano was developed,” LeFrak said.

“The center of South Beach moved north. The center of gravity of South Beach is now Setai-W-One,” the developer added, referring to two nearby hotel properties and his own.

Sales at 1 Hotel in hard contract form have exceeded $120 million, with 30 percent of buyers coming from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. The top units have fetched $3,000 per square foot, the venture said in a statement.

While getting high-powered brokers with golden contact lists to promote the units has been part of the sales plan, LeFrak said a lot of activity has been through word of mouth.

“Your best emissaries are actually your buyers because if they’re happy they tell their friends,” LeFrak said. Referring to another ultra-luxury development nearby, he noted, “Faena got sold that way. It’s the affinity thing. People bring their friends because they want to be around their friends.”