By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read October 2020 — Within every crisis, opportunity looms. The dynamic changes in Miami’s real estate market call for an equally zestful strategy for growth. Manuel Grosskopf, CEO of Château Group, shares why income-producing properties are the prized asset of the moment, as well as discussing other significant trends to watch in the near and long term.
What are some recent highlights for the Château Group?
We successfully completed and delivered The Ritz-Carlton Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, which opened in March 2020. It was an interesting experience as the way you deliver a building in a crisis environment such as that brought about by the pandemic is totally different from what we used to do under normal circumstances. New procedures, virtual closings and virtual walk-throughs are but a few examples that showcase how we had to create an entirely different process with our whole team and closing agents. We were also able to quickly repay our construction loan of $212 million in this same process.
Another recent accomplishment was the refinancing of one of the most high-grade ocean-front properties on Sunny Isles Beach, where we are working on a 5-acre luxury project, for a total of $119 million. We already have some approvals in place to have a development of close to 1.2 million sellable square feet spread among two beautiful, high-end luxury residential towers.
What role is technology playing in the application of social distancing guidelines?
COVID-19 triggered a technological acceleration within the touchless realm. We are working to enable such technologies and digital platforms within our buildings, emulating the CDC protocols in hotels: touchless devices, digital platforms, to name a few. In that same vein, the layouts and blueprints we are designing will be adjusted to cater to the new demands in terms of health, safety and working from home.
What other trends are you on the lookout for toward 2021?
Buyers have become increasingly sophisticated and much more selective. In that sense, our co-branding model caters to this because buyers know the level of quality they are expecting. People love identifying with brands. Our latest hospitality project, for instance, was all about lifestyle. Being in a Ritz-Carlton residence equates to privacy, having all the hotel services and amenities without the transient traffic. We are working with a couple of different luxury brands to be part of our new development in Sunny Isles Beach.
What other emerging hotbeds for real estate development are you keeping your eye on?
We have several properties in Downtown Miami. The area is undergoing a huge transformation, including the development of new hotels, residential, commercial, office buildings, convention centers and restaurants. Other neighborhoods in transformation worth mentioning are Wynwood and the Design District. Both are examples of areas going from underdeveloped to one of the most desirable locations to live, work and play. In terms of scouting locations to invest in, there are several places but as a boutique company, we are now primarily focused on our $1 billion Sunny Isles Beach project. After that, our project pipeline includes future developments facing the American Airlines Arena in the city of Miami. There are also sites for development that are in the city of Hallandale Beach. We have one of the most important intersections there: the southeast corner of US1 and Hallandale Beach Blvd, extending over 8 acres. We are looking to erect a mixed-use development that will include two hotels, retail space, an office building, a building with 350 apartment units, assisted living facilities and independent living facilities for the elderly. It is a great location, with proximity to high-desired neighborhoods where people will love having their parents.
Which real estate sectors are showcasing the highest demand?
Our initial company strategy used to be focused solely on high-end condominiums. The 8-acre Hallandale Beach intersection project showcases our shift in focus as it is going to be one of our first projects designed as an income-producing property. The pandemic has heavily impacted the retail sector on one side, while triggering a significant number of vacancies. COVID-19 provided the launching pad for digital purchases, which prior to March 2020 accounted for 20 percent of all retail purchases while now we could say it ranges between 40 and 50 percent. We anticipate retail to come out of the pandemic with a much more service-oriented business.
What are your 2021 priorities?
Our first and foremost priority is health: keeping everyone healthy as we get to the other side of the pandemic. Despite the virus’ impact on our economy, opportunity is knocking. As we speak, we have opportunities at hand to purchase hotels at a fraction of the price one would have anticipated for such a sale in 2019. It is a challenge because we do not know the full extent of the crisis over time and how long the recovery will take. We will continue scouting the landscape for future opportunities.
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