MIAMI HERALD–Tue, Oct. 26, 2004–REAL ESTATE

Beach's South Pointe nears point of build-out

After much debate as to how best to build up South Pointe, developers are planning the final two condo towers in the once-blighted Miami Beach neighborhood.

BY MATTHEW HAGGMAN

After years of false starts and fierce fights about how the southern tip of Miami Beach should be developed, a decade of high-rise condominium construction on South Pointe is set to culminate with two final towers.

Before the end of the year, the New York developer Ian Bruce Eichner plans to break ground on the 38-story Continuum North Tower and Jorge Perez's Related Group will begin marketing its planned luxury condo, Apogee.

Construction of the two buildings effectively ends years of debate about how the Miami Beach neighborhood south of Fifth Street should be developed.

The two new towers will leave nine high-rise condos dotting a South Pointe waterfront that had virtually no tall buildings 10 years ago.

Zoning restrictions snuff out any more high-rise development in the neighborhood, which, before the recent spate of development, was known for its crime rate and as home to Joe's Stone Crab restaurant.

City leaders, meanwhile, are finishing plans to redevelop South Pointe Park, a 17-acre green space overlooking Government Cut that is slated to grow by two acres under a recent deal with Perez's Related Group.

On Friday, a city selection committee is expected to recommend a designer for the park. The City Commission is to decide on Nov. 10 what course to take.

NOT ALL ARE HAPPY

Despite South Pointe's emergence in the past decade, not everyone is happy about its sky-scraping evolution.

''We have ended up with a concrete jungle on South Pointe,'' said Dan Paul, a longtime Miami lawyer and activist, ``a high-rise, concrete jungle.''

But the once-impoverished neighborhood, where some Miami Beach residents once feared driving, now bids to be home for the super rich. When Apogee units go on sale next month, the starting price will be a cool $2.5 million.

A penthouse in the building -- where both Perez and business partner Tom Daly plan to make their new homes -- will cost $15 million. By comparison, the neighborhood's median household income as recently as in 1990 was just $7,780.

Rising 22 stories, Apogee will have 67 units ranging from 3,100 to 6,900 square feet in space. Ceilings will run 10 feet high. Balconies will extend 11 feet, complete with a built-in outdoor grill.

CUBAN ARTIST

Each owner will have a private two-car enclosed space within the main garage for the condos at 800 South Pointe Dr. The Cuban artist José Bedia has been commissioned to do three paintings for the building.

''It is far and away the most expensive building we have constructed,'' said Perez, who plans to complete the building in late 2006. ``This will be the last of the high-rises in this area.''

Continuum North Tower, at the eastern end of South Pointe Drive, is also promising to deliver luxury condos, la its first tower. It is to have 199 units, seven town houses and seven lofts ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet. Penthouses will be 7,000 square feet. It is also set to be finished in late 2006.

In February, The New York Times wrote about how a 270-square-foot beachfront cabana at the already built Continuum South Tower sold for $850,000.

''That's $3,148 a square foot -- four and a half times the average for Manhattan apartments,'' The Times marveled.

Three decades ago, South Pointe had fallen to such depths that city leaders declared it a redevelopment zone. An idea was hatched in 1973 to dig canals throughout the neighborhood to create a modern-day Venice.

A range of proposals was presented subsequently, including building a giant Marriott Hotel on the southeastern corner of Miami Beach. But little happened.

Then, in 1992, the German investor Thomas Kramer blew into town and snapped up 35 acres of waterfront property in South Pointe.

The next year, he convened some of the world's best-known architects at Joe's Stone Crab to propose ideas. The group included the likes of Michael Graves, Robert A.M. Stern and Miami's Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.

GOODWILL GONE

But any goodwill evaporated into lawsuits and stiff political fighting over how high Kramer could build a condo tower and whether density limits could be transferred from one property to another. Perez, represented by Matthew Gorson of Greenberg Traurig, and Eichner eventually bought Kramer's property, and the legal battles were resolved.

With two high-rises left to be built, South Pointe still causes divisions. The height of the condo towers rankles critics. But they admit that South Pointe has turned into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with restaurants and retail areas.

''It is reasonable to expect high-rise development in waterfront property, perhaps not as big as the buildings there,'' former Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin said, reflecting the ambivalence.

''There are some victories and some losses,'' said Plater-Zyberk, dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture. ``The high-rises in front of the marina have gone with town houses on the street, which is successful.''

POSITIVE EXTENSION

She said it was important to have doors and windows at street level, not large driveways or garages. PlaterZyberk, who declined to elaborate on any ''losses,'' deemed the extension of Washington Avenue to the waterfront as positive.

Even David Dermer, who entered politics fighting large-scale development, isn't criticizing South Pointe's high-rise evolution.

''I would prefer less density, obviously,'' the current Miami Beach mayor said. ``But it is hard for any mayor to claim that these $1 million and $2 million condos are bad things.

''The streetscape is beautified,'' he said. ``It is extraordinarily pretty down there below Fifth Street.''





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