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Written by Erik Bojnansky, BT Senior Writer   
May 2017

Dezer Development hopes to attract a new generation of buyers

GMellennialville_1il Dezer intends to start the phased construction of a massive residential and commercial project near North Miami Beach’s Eastern Shores neighborhood in four years, according to the real estate developer’s publicist.

“Gil noted that the project start date will be 2021, and that he has no further comment regarding plans at this time,” confirms Laura Acker, of Kreps DeMaria PR, in an e-mail to the BT.

Acker was responding to a BT query about a blog post by Fernando Pettineroli, a Dezer Platinum Realty listing agent, on the website wesellislands.com.

Dated March 31 over the headline “Millennials to Get 2000 New Condos at Intracoastal Mall in North Miami Beach,” the post features Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development, describing his plans to transform the one-story mall at 3881 NE 163rd St., which now includes an iPic movie theater, into a project that will “cater to the needs of millennials and their families.”

“Millennials are specific about their needs,” Dezer is quoted as saying. “They use Uber. They are minimalist and understand high-end quality. They work, live, and play in a different environment, and we are really loving the idea to build a very special new town, just for them.”

Pettineroli describes a project with “several towers” that will likely include “smaller format lofts,” shared office space, gyms, virtual reality “experience rooms,” and the “largest metropolitan wine cave in the world.” Plans could even include a “neighbors-only” high-speed passenger ferry that would whisk “partygoers to South Beach, downtown, and connections to Wynwood via [the] Intracoastal,” gushed Pettineroli. “This exclusive service will give also VIP access to SoBe in less than 10 minutes, or what it takes to finish just one drink.”

Pettineroli says the project was announced by Dezer during a brokers evening the night before, held at the sales center for Residents by Armani/Casa, a 56-story luxury tower that Dezer is co-developing with The Related Group in Sunny Isles Beach.

In a phone interview with the BT, Pettineroli says he’s already taking “pre-registrations” from people all over the world who are interested in moving into Dezer’s Millennialville.

“Of course,” he says. “Why not? There are 2000 very interesting millennials who are looking for a project that doesn’t exist today.”

Millennialville_2In 2015, millennials became the largest age group in the United States, according to the Census Bureau. Millennials, born between 1982 and 2000, total 83.1 million and represent more than 25 percent of the U.S. population, according to a June 2015 Census Bureau press release. “Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers.” Baby boomers, born roughly between 1946 and 1964, were the largest age group in the nation for decades.

In spite of high rents and home prices, many millennials apparently want to live in South Florida. On March 22, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach census area ranked No. 2 in Realtor.com’s “Top Millennial Home Buying Hot Spot” list, which focused on prospective homebuyers between ages 25 and 34.

These potential millennial buyers and renters aren’t just coveted by Dezer’s sales team. Developers in Miami’s Greater Downtown area, which includes Brickell, the Central Business District, Omni, Park West, Edgewater, Midtown Miami, and Wynwood, are also eyeing them. And so far, at least, builders and brokers in those neighborhoods are getting results. A 2016 Downtown Development Authority report noted that half of Greater Downtown Miami’s 90,000 residents are between ages 20 and 44.

Dezer Development isn’t a new player in real estate. Founded by Gil’s father, Michael Dezer, the firm has property in South Florida, Tampa, New York, Georgia, and Las Vegas. In Midtown Miami, Gil Dezer is co-developing Hyde Midtown Suites & Residences.

In Sunny Isles Beach, Michael and Gil Dezer have completed nine luxury towers so far. The latest is Gil Dezer’s baby: Porsche Design Tower, a 60-story, 132-unit building that features, yes, a “robotic car lift” that moves residents’ cars up to their private “sky garages.” This past March, Gil Dezer celebrated PDT’s completion with a bash that included a performance by singer Alicia Keys. (Though Gil Dezer has the title of president, his father, Michael, is still listed as Dezer Developments’ principal, and remains active in the company. For more on the Dezers’ history, see “The Hunt for Waterfront,” May 2014.)

In December 2013, the Dezers paid $63.5 million for the 234,000-square-foot Intracoastal Mall just west of Sunny Isles Beach, which sits on 26 acres of land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway. Back then the land’s zoning only allowed 717 residential units in buildings less than 15 stories high.

Millennialville_3That changed in the summer of 2015, when North Miami Beach officials “up-zoned” eight areas, including the Intracoastal Mall, to allow for taller and more massive buildings, all in an effort to increase the city’s tax base. Under the new “Eastern Mixed-Use Waterfront District,” the Dezers can build at the Intracoastal 2000 residential units and 2.5 million square feet of nonresidential space in buildings up to 495 feet high.

But there’s a catch. The district’s new regulations require the construction of new roads and access points prior to any development to ensure that NE 35th Avenue, the only ingress and egress point for the Eastern Shores residential neighborhood, isn’t gridlocked with traffic. That four-lane road is also one of just two access points for the Intracoastal Mall.

“That’s what we’re focused on right now -- traffic, traffic, traffic,” says Richard Lorber, NMB’s director of community development, who last met with Dezer Development’s team three months ago.

It’s a detail that many Eastern Shores homeowners will insist on. Chuck Asarnow, the city liaison for the Eastern Shores Property Owners Association, says many of his neighbors saw Pettineroli’s blog announcing the Intracoastal’s imminent redevelopment.

“There [are] mixed feelings about the plans,” writes Asarnow in an e-mail to the BT, “but the one overwhelming issue which transcends all others is the traffic issue and how they propose to ingress and egress the traffic from the project without negatively impacting the thousands of residents of Eastern Shores, whose only access today is NE 35th Avenue.”

Fortuna Smukler, Eastern Shores’ crime watch leader, says development will be unthinkable unless additional roads are built to serve the Dezers’ future project. “If he can’t resolve this issue, of course, we’ll never let them build there,” she says.

That isn’t an idle threat. Attempts to build condominiums where the Intracoastal Mall now stands were quashed by Eastern Shores residents in 1981 and 1982. (The mall itself was built in 1987.) Today around 3000 people call Eastern Shores home, including Mayor George Vallejo and three North Miami Beach city commissioners.

In 2015, at the behest of lobbyist Ron Book, state Senators Gwen Margolis and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla pushed for an $8.9 million “Texas U-Turn” that would loop beneath the Intracoastal Causeway through part of Oleta River State Park and thus enable eastbound traffic traveling along NE 163rd Street to enter the Intracoastal Mall. The Texas U-Turn was among the $465 million budget items vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015.

Lorber, the director of community development, says the Dezers are now looking at other methods of accommodating future traffic, including giving up land for new roads. “They’ve hired a big traffic engineering firm [Kimley Horn] to work on that project,” he explains.

It isn’t just vehicular traffic that’s being considered. The Dezers and the city have approached the county about placing a water taxi stop at Duffy’s Sports Grill on Intracoastal Mall, enabling the transport of visitors and residents to other destinations via the water.

Irene Hegedus, the county’s chief of transportation enhancements, confirms that her office talked with the City of North Miami Beach about placing a water taxi or boat commuter stop at the Intracoastal Mall. In an effort to alleviate vehicular traffic congestion throughout Miami-Dade, Hegedus explains, the county is looking at creating an aquatic bus system that would ferry passengers for as little as $2.25 a ride, as well as create ports for more expensive on-demand water taxis.

Hegedus says the Dezers could easily create a “park and ride” facility for people wanting to travel by boat from the Intracoastal Mall to South Beach or Miami’s downtown area. During rush hour, that could shave as much as 40 minutes off commuter time, she believes. But a “high-speed” boat service? That would be impossible; there are slow zones for manatees and sea grass. “There’s no such thing as ‘high speed’ on the bay,” she says. (For more on water taxi service, see “Taxi! Taxi!” in this issue.)

Lorber says the Dezers, with the help of architect and urban planner Bernard Zyscovich, are looking at various design schemes. “They talked about maybe cutting another canal in the middle of the property to make it [more] waterfront,” Lorber recounts. “They are definitely getting geared up to start.”

Still, discussions the developers have had so far with the city have only been to gather input. “No formal applications have been submitted at this time,” Lorber says.

When the Dezers do start to build, it will be a long process, Lorber adds. Because many of the tenants at the Intracoastal, including Winn-Dixie, have long-term leases, they’ll likely need to be housed in new retail facilities on the site.

Pettineroli is sure the project will be an enhancement for Eastern Shores. “It will substantially help the property values,” he says. “Of that, there’s not a doubt. It will bring a substantial improvement to the values of Eastern Shores.”

 

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