Gil Dezer’s passion for cars was evident long before he launched plans for the Porsche Design Tower on Sunny Isles Beach. One clue: Dezer keeps a Porsche mounted on the wall of his condominium in Trump Palace, an earlier condo project that he developed.
His father Michael Dezer — who assembled a big portfolio of real estate in the Chelsea section of Manhattan before setting his sites on Miami — also is a motorhead. The elder Dezer has the Dezer Collection auto museum in North Miami, which rents space for parties and events. (“He’s certifiable,’’ said the son.)
So if anyone were going to build a 60-story, ultra-luxury oceanfront condominium as a monument to the über high-performance German brand, Gil Dezer was a prime candidate.
Why Sunny Isles Beach? His family acquired some 27 acres of oceanfront property, mostly old motels and mostly between 1996 and 2000, just as the fledgling city embraced favorable zoning for skyscrapers.
At 38, Dezer is developing his seventh luxury high-rise project at the Porsche Design Tower site at 18555 Collins Avenue. Completed works include the three-tower Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences and three skyscrapers at Trump Towers, all in Sunny Isles Beach. He is about to unveil another two-tower project in the neighborhood in cooperation with Jorge Pérez’s Related Group. Dezer sat down for an interview with the Miami Herald and then responded below to a list of emailed questions:
Q. What led you to do the Porsche Design Tower project?
Our first project in Miami was branded with Donald Trump and that brought us a tremendous amount of presence and helped put Sunny Isles Beach on the map.
Since we had tremendous success with Trump, we decided to go out and find other brands that bring a lot of value to real estate. I am a Porsche fanatic, so for me it was a natural fit to do a building with an automotive design brand.
Q. What was your first car and what do you drive today?
My first car was a Porsche 944, a 1988 model in 1992 when I got my license.
Since then, I have had several different Porsches, and today I own 12 Porsches as well as 17 other cars. It’s a sickness.”
Q. A plunge pool on the balcony of most units, private wine lockers in the building’s restaurant, racing car simulators, remote-controlled toilets, and a Vichy shower. Who lives like this? Who’s buying?
It’s for people who understand the difference. One needs to live it to understand it. [In person, Dezer added that the project has attracted at least 22 billionaires. “You don’t spend $5 million on a condo if you only have like $15 million. These are all people with at least $100 million.’’]
Q. Many luxury condo developers are seeking out “starchitects” to distinguish their projects. Why do you see branding as a better way to go?
The main difference is simple access. Although a starchitect charges about 20 percent to 30 percent more than a typical architect because of their ‘star’ status, ultimately, they need the business too, as that is what keeps their doors open.
With respect to the brand, in most cases I had to explain to these people why they should allow me to use their brand on my building.
For most of the brands, it’s a very out-of-the-box concept that some couldn’t get their arms around. But for the ones that did, we were able to convince them as to why we are the best partner to work with for real estate, therefore securing exclusive territories for these brands.
Any developer can hire an architect. Not any developer can get a multibillion-dollar company to allow them to use their most valuable asset, their brand.
Q. Are the private car elevators designed for the tower turning out to be a popular selling point with clients?
Our car lift system, patented as the ‘Dezervator,’ is one of the main selling features of the tower.
“There are other tremendously unique features in this tower as well, but the elevator seems to get all the attention because of how unique it is. Other car lift systems have been done, but none have been fully automated the way the Dezervator was done, where there is zero human input to get you from the entry floor to your private garage. The clients and the whole world are going crazy for the concept.
Q. If someone shopping for a unit asked how much the monthly maintenance fees will be, what would you think?
Our buyers are not really concerned about the expenses of ownership, but if they were to ask, they would find it to be quite reasonable and in line with other buildings of this caliber on the beach. [Dezer said maintenance fees are expected to be in the range of 70 cents per square foot per month.]
Q. You recently closed on a $214-million construction loan for the Porsche Design Tower. Are lenders being more cautious in this cycle?
As you can see, the lenders are not handing out money to just anyone. That’s why other developers are asking and getting 50 percent to 80 percent deposits on their unit sales.
I like working with one single lender versus 250 buyers/lenders, and fortunately we have been able to show our ability to pay back loans even in the bad times.
In 2010, we proudly paid off a construction loan on the Trump Royale for $210 million, and in 2011, we paid off a $265 million loan to Wells Fargo.
After proving our ability, that opened the doors to lending for us in this ‘new marketplace.’
Q. Three years ago, did you expect Miami’s real estate market to recover as quickly as it has?
It has been actually quite remarkable how fast things came back. I remember sitting in a room with my people thinking about how we will be sitting here for the next 10 years.
Fortunately, we were wrong.