Business

New developers for old Biscayne Landing site

(l-r) Harrison LeFrak, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of LeFrak, Richard LeFrak, Chairman and CEO of LeFrak, and Jeffrey Soffer, Turnberry Associates Chairman and CEO, gather at Fountainebleau Aviation located at the Opa-locka Executive Airport Monday March 9, 2015. (Harrison is the son of Richard LeFrank)
(l-r) Harrison LeFrak, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of LeFrak, Richard LeFrak, Chairman and CEO of LeFrak, and Jeffrey Soffer, Turnberry Associates Chairman and CEO, gather at Fountainebleau Aviation located at the Opa-locka Executive Airport Monday March 9, 2015. (Harrison is the son of Richard LeFrank) MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A new real estate developer has joined the team trying to bring life to the long-troubled 183-acre Biscayne Landing project in North Miami.

Aventura founders Turnberry Associates have entered a 50/50 partnership with the New York-based LeFrak Organization, which has held an interest in the site since 2012, said company namesake Richard LeFrak.

LeFrak bought previous investors Michael Swerdlow and Ezra Katz out of the joint Biscayne Landing venture, called Oleta Partners, last week, allowing Turnberry to take over. Terms were not disclosed.

Oleta Partners paid $17.5 million for a 99-year lease with North Miami on the former Superfund landfill in 2012, and bought 50 acres of the property outright in a $20 million deal late last year.

LeFrak’s company, a well-known national firm that recently opened a Miami office, is also a partner with Starwood in 1 South Beach Hotel & Residences. Turnberry CEO Jeffrey Soffer owns the Fontainebleau Resort on Miami Beach.

The Biscayne Landing site, at Northeast 151st Street and Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami near Oleta River State Park, is the largest parcel of undeveloped land in Miami-Dade County east of I-95.

“We are planning something very ambitious that takes advantage of the size of the site,” Lefrak said in a brief interview. The mixed-use project will include more than 4,000 residential units and a million square feet of retail and commercial space, he said.

Soffer said in a statement that the deal was “an exciting opportunity for two of the country’s leading real estate companies to develop an unprecedented master planned community and create a new skyline in South Florida.”

North Miami City Manager Aleem Ghany called the deal a positive step and said the new partnership will be beneficial for the city.

“We have one of the best developers that we could have in the South Florida market in commercial development with Turnberry and one of the best developers in the New York and Los Angeles market in residential development with LeFrak,” Ghany said.

“It should be fruitful and we should get a better product and upper-end development on both the residential and commercial side.”

Soffer and LeFrak said they will rebrand the site, whose current name evokes five decades of failed projects and pollution.

In the 1960s, developers hoped to build a futuristic, Latin American-themed amusement park at Biscayne Landing, but construction went at a snail’s pace before being canceled. Another team planned a 36-hole golf course with an Olympic pool, which was also canned.

From 1975 to 1981, the tract was used as a municipal landfill that grew so tainted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated it a Superfund site in 1982.

After the land was declared safe for development in 1999, various development teams — some with little experience — proposed plans including an indoor skiing resort spearheaded by a former law partner of Andre Pierre, North Miami’s mayor at the time. (Pierre was also found to have business ties to Swerdlow’s firm through a Haitian developer.)

All the projects were non-starters except for two condo towers, which were built in 2007 and went into foreclosure after the housing market crashed.

City leaders have long looked to Biscayne Landing as a source of jobs and revenue. LeFrak said his team has the skills and resources to finally turn the area into a thriving residential and commercial center.

“We are absolutely committed to this project and to this city,” LeFrak said.

Construction on the site’s main road will begin this month, he added. Three design firms are planning the project, including two from South Florida. They are EDSA, Arquitectonica and Maryland-based Design 3 International.

More details will be released in May, according to LeFrak. “We want our plan fully baked before we go to the public,” LeFrak said.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Lance Dixon contributed to this report.

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