French investor details plans for new 901 Brickell acquisition
By Paola Iuspa
Three weeks after a French investor bought 2.9 acres on Brickell Avenue, he unveiled plans Tuesday for a luxurious apartment tower, another that could be for offices and a landscaped plaza with shops and entertainment venues.
Claude Dray, owner of Cidinvest S.A.R.I Holdings in Paris, said he plans to convert surface parking at 901 Brickell into a $200 million, two-phase residential and commercial complex.
Architectural and engineering drawings for Brickell City Center, as it will be named, will begin in October, said Victor Azria, president of Planet Realty in Miami, who will be project developer. Mr. Azria represented Mr. Dray and his four daughters in the $18 million land purchase from Equitable Life Insurance.
Mr. Dray, who has owned a home in Fisher Island for seven years, said it is his first US investment and may not be the last. He also made a $42 million cash offer last month to buy the SunTrust Building, 777 Brickell Ave., but was shy of the mark, said Mr. Azria.
Mr. Dray also tried to buy One Brickell Square, 801 Brickell Ave., office building adjacent to his recently acquired 901 parcel. But Mr. Azria said his client and AFA Asset Services, the owner, could not agree on price and the 801 office building remains up for sale.
Carol Nichols, senior managing director in Insignia ESG's New York-based Capital Advisors Group, which is marketing One Brickell, said development next door "should not affect the value" of her client's building.
Mr. Dray proposes a 42-story tower with 450 units, said architect John Nichols with Nichols Brosch Sandoval & Associates Inc. in Coral Gables. The firm designed the JW Marriott, 1111 Brickell Ave., a 300-room, 21-story luxury hotel and, behind it, the Barclays 30-story office building. A 10-story garage would connect the first tower to a 50-story high-rise that could be a residential condominium or office space, Mr. Azria said.
"The market will decide what to build there," he said.
Mr. Azria said he has been developing commercial and residential projects in South Florida since 1975. He recently acted as the construction manager of Tower Gate, an office building in South Beach, he said.
Brickell City Center already has its city development permit. Equitable got it in 1984 when it planned two office towers to complement One Brickell Square, which it also owned at the time.
Those two buildings never materialized but the permit, which also allowed residential high rises, was kept alive. Miami last year extended the development order to 2005, Commissioner Johnny Winton said.
"The fact that the site has the permits in place motivated Mr. Dray to buy the land," Mr. Azria said.
While it is not clear when construction may begin, Mr. Azria said the apartment building, garage and plaza would be developed simultaneously. The first two stories of each structure are to house shops, restaurants, outdoor seating cafes and supper clubs. All are to open to a plaza with benches surrounding a fountain.
Mr. Azria said the plaza, facing office-dominated Brickell, would inject life into streets now deserted after 6 p.m.
Mr. Dray, a real estate owner, developer and investor in France, said he has financing to begin the job. In 1990, he built a hotel chain in Paris that he later sold for $300 million. He later crated a Paris-based chain of perfume and cosmetic stores called Patchouli, which he sold for $200 million in 1998. He owns two office buildings and a residential tower in the heart of Paris.
Mr. Dray said he is in the process of building and selling 11 homes at $9 million each in St. Tropez.