The Baker Program in Real Estate had the privilege of visiting Turnberry Associates during its Miami trek. Turnberry is one of Florida’s largest and most influential real estate developers operating in the commercial, residential, and hospitality space. Turnberry has developed $10 billion in commercial and residential property including approximately 20 million square feet of retail space, more than 7,000 apartments and condo units, 15 million square feet of office space, and more than 3,000 hotels and resort rooms. Turnberry developments are typically grand in scale and include multiple master-planned projects such as Aventura and Solé Mia. Developments such as the Aventura Mall, Town Center Aventura, and Destin Commons create destinations in their communities. These projects have been proven to catalyze major economic advances for their neighborhoods “creating community and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.” (About Us: Turnberry, 2020)
South Florida and Aventura
Our visit to Turnberry was introduced by Donald Soffer, who is the visionary behind the development of Aventura, Florida. In 1967, the site was nothing more than 785 acres of swampland. Soffer, on behalf of Oxford Development Company in partnership with Arlen Realty and Development Corporation, purchased this land for $6 million dollars funded by the John Hancock Life Insurance Company. Soffer moved to South Florida from Duquesne, Pennsylvania, where he was raised in a working-class community predominantly driven by strip mining. His father was a shopping mall developer in western Pennsylvania, which gave Soffer his start in the industry. After graduating from college in Massachusetts, Soffer returned to Pennsylvania and helped his father to develop multiple shopping malls including South Hills Village, an indoor family shopping mall with dining, entertainment, and more than 110 stores. (Bojnansky, Family & Fortune, 2012)
Soffer’s father envisioned South Florida as the next frontier for speculative development. Soffer envisioned Aventura, the Spanish translation of “adventure”, as a masterplan centered around the Aventura Country Club. Soffer was keen to mention that the golf course was designed by the highly regarded golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, and this created an attraction for the adjacent development. Soffer was given the responsibility of executing the development of the 785 acres of Aventura swampland. The site was drained and ultimately rezoned from single-family residential to high-rise development. When visiting the Aventura Mall today, it is almost unfathomable that the area was once swampland. The area is spotless, the roads are well maintained, and the buildings are all gleaming. Aventura, aligning with Soffer’s initial vision, is a high-end neighborhood of upper-class residents. The mall, which includes tenants such as Gucci and Burberry, caters to those seeking an upper echelon shopping experience. We met in the Level Three event space attached to the mall, which is connected to the mall by a large patio with games, ping-pong tables and a food court just beyond.
Though we did not visit the golf resort, Soffer described it to us as the catalyst for the entire community. Once the area was rezoned, the strategy of building vertically to preserve open land was employed and the partnership developed 4,000 condo units. This masterplan essentially created the entire city as it exists today. After developing multiple commercial, residential, and hotel structures on the site, Soffer and his team began to sell the now useable parcels to other developers which contributed to the evolution of the city.
Third times a charm: Miami Beach Convention Center
Going once – a court case moved in the first proposal off the ballot in 2013. (Bojnansky, Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel Wins Approval, 2019)
Going twice – the second proposal was rejected due to concerns of size and traffic congestion in 2016. (Bojnansky, Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel Wins Approval, 2019)
Going three times – with Turnberry now spearheading the project, the 185-foot-tall, 800-key hotel was approved by more than the required 60 percent voter threshold. This time the hotel design increased the vehicle queuing area by nearly six times the previous proposal and reduced the overall height by nearly 100 feet. These efforts eased locals’ concerns and resulted in a general community embrace. The city of Miami Beach also stands to earn an estimated $96 million dollars in rent and percentage of hotel revenue over the next 30 years from the project. (Gurney & Dolven, 2018) Marina Kazartseva, Director of Asset Management at Turnberry, presented the project to our trek class. She mentioned that while the project has been approved, there is still much to be done. They are currently finalizing the architectural and interior designs and are preparing to submit the updated plans to the city for review. Turnberry is also in negotiations with hotel brands regarding operations which will affect the design process to some extent. Once branded, Turnberry will raise the remaining equity investment needed to fund the venture.
Turnberry’s latest mixed-use development, Sole Mia, is currently under construction in partnership with the LeFrak family. This development will consist of 12 residential buildings with 4,390 units and more than 1 million square feet of commercial area. Perhaps most notably, this project will include a 7-acre manmade lagoon!
About Us: Turnberry. (2020). Retrieved from Turnberry Associates Web Site: https://www.turnberry.com/about-us
Bojnansky, E. (2012, January). Family & Fortune. Retrieved from Biscayne Times Web Site: http://www.biscaynetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=1051:family-a-fortune
Bojnansky, E. (2019, July 2). Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel Wins Approval. Retrieved from The Real Deal Web Site: https://therealdeal.com/miami/2019/07/02/miami-beach-convention-center-hotel-wins-approval/
Gurney, K., & Dolven, T. (2018, November 7). After two failures, Miami Beach is building a convention center hotel. What’s next? Retrieved from Miami Herlad Web Site: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article221283950.html