The Marquis
The Marquis (AMHOLT/Aixa Montero Holt)

Boosted by the emerging cultural quarter across the street and plans for a starchitect-designed luxury tower nearby, sales activity has picked up at the 67-story Marquis, a mixed-use condo tower at 1100 Biscayne Blvd. that was Miami’s tallest residential tower built in the last housing boom.

A 50-unit hotel component in the building has changed hands for an undisclosed price, the Daily Business Review has learned, and the sale of a penthouse on the tower’s 61st floor appears to have shattered the per-square-foot price record for downtown condo units.

Cyril Bijaoui, a broker who arranged the sale of the 6101 penthouse for $717 per square foot, said wealthy foreigners are showing interest in the stretch of Biscayne Boulevard across from the recently transformed Museum Park.

Bijaoui said the buzz surrounding the planned One Thousand Museum tower, which London-based architect Zaha Hadid is designing, means buyers are now willing to consider “Sunny Isles prices” for units in several other towers in the neighborhood. Sales at the Marquis and 900 Biscayne two blocks south are benefiting as a result.

“That stretch of road is driving interest,” Bijaoui said. “What’s happening in this boulevard is that you have 1000 Museum, and they’re saying they’re selling at $1,000 per square foot, which is driving the buzz.”

A few floors down from the penthouse sale, the 50-unit hotel inside the Marquis also has been sold. Mark Scott, Joe Dewey and Missy Turra, Miami partners at Holland & Knight who helped arrange the transaction, told the Review that the Casa Moderna boutique hotel was sold by Yehud, Israel-based Africa Israel Investments Ltd., the developer of the Marquis.

The buyer was Miami-based commercial real estate investment firm CGI Merchant Group LLC, which is acting on behalf of undiclosed private investors. A statement from Holland & Knight said, “CGI has an extensive strategic plan to reposition the building, including expanding the hotel under a new flag and adding a top-tier destination restaurant by the end of 2014.”

Financial details of the hotel sale were not disclosed. CGI Merchant did not immediately return a request for comment.

Unhappy Seller

Both sales are likely to help stoke expectations in a section of downtown Miami already hyped on rising construction cranes.

Bijaoui noted he dealt with a seller, who had what the broker described as “crazy ideas” about what the property should fetch. Miami-Dade County public records identified the seller as Belgian businessman Erik Vandefonteyne.

After receiving an initial offer for the unit’s listing price of $2.5 million, Bijaoui said his client pointed to news of the average selling price at One Thousand Museum and told him he wanted to raise his price.

“We basically had to go back and create a sense of urgency to get more money,” Bijaoui said. The gambit was successful, at least in terms of getting a contract inked. Aleksandr Rudyak, the scion of a billionaire Russian family who runs one of that country’s largest construction firms, closed in September for $2.675 million, less than two weeks after the initial listing.

Showing how high expectations were on the sale, Vandefonteyne was still unhappy with the price and tried to renege on the contract. County records show Rudyak sued Vandefonteyne on Dec. 3 to compel the sale go through. The deed was signed over on Dec. 20.

“I was trying to convince my client that he was being outrageous and pulled up sales data for the area,” Bijaoui said. “I realized [the sale] was breaking all kinds of records. … But he’s a wealthy guy, and he drums to a different beat, so he wasn’t happy. It’s not a good situation to have a seller who’s getting a record price still dissatisfied.”

As to how satisfied buyers might be paying record prices in an area of the city that’s not particularly known as a luxury pocket, Bijaoui said buyer’s expectations were driven by the waterfront location, prime views and news buzz, not necessarily the facts on the ground.

“They’re not living there year-round,” he said. “They’re up in the sky, and then they jump in their car and drive away.”