The Biscayne Times

Jun 23rd
Dealing and Wheeling PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Sell -- BT Contributor   
February 2013

Luxury car sellers are bumper-to-bumper, waiting to take over a chunk of Biscayne Landing

Pix_MarkSell_2-13ast month we told of seismic transformations coming to Biscayne Landing. Plans have since changed a bit, and the Richter scale could soon go bonkers.

Brace for not one, but four or more new luxury car dealerships at the entrance to Biscayne Landing, on 25 acres along the southeast corner of 151st Street and Biscayne Boulevard. Imagine a group of dealerships, roughly equivalent in design to Lexus of North Miami, guarding the northern entrance to Biscayne Landing from 151st Street, with showrooms up to four stories high and six-story mega-garages protecting precious inventory from the weather.

Imagine one of those mega-garages across the street from the existing parking structure for the twin 25-story, 381-unit Oaks Towers and you start to get the picture.

And that’s just one piece of the new -- and significantly revised -- master plan sent to City of North Miami staff in late January and coming up before the planning and zoning commission on March 5.

“Auto dealerships want to be here,” says Herb Tillman, hands-on director of Oleta Partners’ Biscayne Landing project and vice president of Swerdlow Group developers. “We are trying to develop a closer relationship with city officials. These guys for the most part are trying to bend over backwards to make this program work.”

The word is that interested parties include Prestige Imports, right across the street from Biscayne Landing, where you can lease a new Lamborghini for $2377 a month, give or take; a South Florida Cadillac dealership eager to expand; a dealer selling the newly refurbished Lincoln luxury brand; and one of the automotive conglomerates with several dealerships along U.S. 441 in Miami Gardens, near the county line. More could be in the wings.

Nothing is final, and all the dealers are said to be in talks with manufacturers to get approval to open in 2015. For them the location is ideal: reasonably handy to the beach, I-95, and Aventura, and between the 123rd Street and 163rd Street causeways. That’s central for all those Latin American, European, and Russian condo buyers.

Prestige Imports, headed by 25-year-old Brett David (who took over when his father, Irv David, died of a heart attack six years ago), has been the most successful Audi dealership in the nation since 2006. So dearly did Prestige want the southeast corner that early last spring, while the deal with developer Michael Swerdlow and his Oleta Partners group was in question, David presented the city with a $14 million check and a prepared contract to buy the 200-year land-lease from the city.

Whether the check was real or symbolic, the city didn’t take it. Instead, Swerdlow and Oleta got all 181 acres of the land and are now doing the selling.

One big and largely unnoticed turning point happened January 22, when the city commission, with little discussion on second reading, voted 5-0 to lift restrictions on car dealerships operating on developments of more than 30 acres, which in North Miami means only one thing: Biscayne Landing.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Suppose you have four car dealerships on 25 acres. Oleta Partners is ready to sell the 200-year lease rights for about $1.5 million per acre along the Boulevard and about $750,000 per acre inland, for an average of about $1 million per acre. In other words, with four dealerships, Oleta Partners would get $25 million.

What kind of deal is that for Oleta? Sweet.

Remember that Oleta wired $17.5 million to the city August 20, suddenly making North Miami solvent rather than nearly bankrupt. Add $1 million-plus in professional and maintenance fees paid to the City of North Miami, $1.5 million for the first year’s rent, and another $1.5 million in back taxes, and that leaves Oleta out roughly $21.5 million.

So if Oleta sells the land lease to four car dealerships for $25 million-plus, for example, it comes out around $4 million ahead.

That beats being $17.5 million behind, but Tillman says any profit would get plowed right back into the projected $30 million expense for land preparation, lights, electricity, sewers, and the spine road that are part of the billion-dollar development.

And what about that seven-acre lake with surrounding greenery that you pass when driving to the Oaks Towers condos from 151st Street?

Answer: No more lake. Those 12 acres would be paved over for car dealerships. Last month we said the lake would remain. Well, money talks and plans change. Now dog walkers, mothers with strollers, and joggers would pass car dealerships rather than a lake with greensward. (The lake, although burnt ochre in appearance and part of the old Munisport landfill, does have ducks, egrets, turtles, and fish.)

Consider Biscayne Landing, then, as a sandwich, with car dealerships and the Oaks Towers on top and big-box stores at the bottom, with those parts handled by Swerdlow Group, developer of Hollywood’s Oakwood Plaza (which the lower portion would resemble).

In the middle, you could get as many as 3400 midrange apartments in buildings of 8 to 25 stories in height, developed by the venerable LeFrak Organization of New York, builders of the vast LeFrak City apartments in Corona, Queens, and much else. Imagine the Oaks Towers at Biscayne Landing multiplied by nine, plus parking.

LeFrak operates big and the rental market is tight. Home loans are tough to get and not about to get much easier, as banks face tightening capital requirements over the next five years. That means Miami will continue to have plenty of cash-strapped renters for reasonably well-appointed, if not lavish, midrange apartments for households making, say, $50,000 or $60,000 a year.

Sizes would not be quite as cavernous as the 1600- to 2000-square-foot Oaks apartments, but 1000-square-foot units with laminate rather than granite and midrange appliances would do many well enough.

Instead of the park around the lake, the master plan calls for 37 acres of open space, 17 acres of which would be in the form of parks. Most of that acreage would be situated in the residential section.

As a resident of the Oaks, I must admit to a certain pause. Will life be more jumbled and dystopian? Traffic at the corner of 151st and Biscayne would undoubtedly worsen considerably, particularly around already hellish school-zone hours. A light would seem a necessity at the Biscayne Landing entrance at 151st Street, although it is less than 600 feet east of the Boulevard.

But at the Oaks, we still have one great consolation: protected wetlands to the east, with views of the swampy woods from the lower floors and of Sunny Isles towers and the ocean beyond from the floors above.

So if car dealerships and mega-garages block the sunset, we still keep our sunrise.


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