Deepak Chopra, the endocrinologist who has bloomed into a world famous but sometimes controversial new-age health guru, is taking a shot at a new line of work: designing luxury condo units in South Florida.
The move unites two recent trends in Miami’s amenity-laden, ultra-luxury condo market: high-profile brand names and healthy living.
Chopra and New York-based real estate firm Delos have signed on to design air purification, water filtration and circadian lighting systems for seven units at Muse Residences in Sunny Isles Beach. Prices at Muse start at about $5 million, or roughly $1,500 per square foot. The 650-foot tower is expected to wrap construction in December.
$5 millionStarting price for Muse condos
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
There will be a premium for units designed by Chopra and Delos, but the exact price tag hasn’t been decided, said developer Kevin Maloney of Property Markets Group.
“It’s a different way of defining a brand for us,” Maloney said. “It’s about your living environment. It’s about what’s happening with your air and with your water. ... Everyone [else] is chasing a designer or a car company or a hotel brand.”
In a bid to stand out amidst a glut of condo inventory, South Florida developers have unveiled big brand names for their residential projects: Armani/Casa, Missoni, Aston Martin, Ritz-Carlton and many more. The Dezer family kick-started the trend with Trump and Porsche-branded towers.
Other residential builders have introduced yoga, elaborate gyms, spas and even entire projects dedicated to health and fitness.
But no condo has fused both ideas together in one slick marketing package.
“The homes we live in can have a powerful effect on our physical and emotional health,” Chopra said in a statement. “I am honored to work with PMG and Delos to design healthier residences for Florida residents.”
Everyone [else] is chasing a designer or a car company or a hotel brand.
Kevin Maloney, developer
Chopra made his name appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show in the 1990s and has penned many New York Times-bestselling books. Time magazine called him “the poet-prophet of alternative medicine.” But some scientists have questioned his health claims, in particular his theory of “quantum healing,” which fuses Indian healing traditions with Western medicine and physics, and his views on evolution.
Moving the market
The seven Chopra units are among 16 unsold condos remaining at Muse, which has a total of 68 units and is being co-developed by S2 Development. Luxury sales slowed significantly in 2016 because of a strong dollar.
“There’s inventory that has to be eaten up,” Maloney said. “The condo market for all intents and purposes has stopped.”
If the Chopra branding helps sell the units, he said, PMG plans to expand the concept to other developments.
Delos, which calls itself the “pioneer of Wellness Real Estate,” will retrofit the Muse units with new systems that it says can improve physical and emotional well-being. Delos has designed residences in other cities, its website states. Chopra serves on the company’s board and will consult on the project. Current and former executives of the well-respected Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic are also listed on Delos’ board. (So is actor Leonardo DiCaprio.)
At Muse, Delos is designing a lighting system that mimics the natural progression of the sun, said Paul Scialla, a former Goldman Sachs banker who founded Delos and is its CEO.
“Artificial light can be very disruptive to our circadian condition,” Scialla said. “It’s not a natural condition for the human body. ... Circadian lighting does a much better job of recreating and bringing the outside lighting patterns inside. Guests will be able to wake up to a sunrise.”
“Circadian” refers to the human body’s natural biological clock. Scialla said health benefits of more natural light include better energy levels, improved mental performance and deeper sleep.
Some scientific research has shown that over-exposure to artificial light at night, particularly the blue light thrown off by screens such as smartphones and tablets, can disrupt sleep and possibly lead to more serious conditions including diabetes and obesity.
It sounds to me a little bit like feng shui.
Bernd Wollschlaeger, physician
Bernd Wollschlaeger, a family-medicine physician who teaches at Florida International University medical school and is a past president of the Dade County Medical Association, said the health benefits pitched by developers haven’t been widely substantiated by scientific studies.
“It sounds to me a little bit like feng shui,” Wollschlaeger said. “But if you’re willing to dish out the money, I don’t have a problem with it. Nobody is being harmed except maybe financially.”
Other Chopra theories have been criticized by scientists, including elements of quantum healing.
In the New Republic, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne wrote of Chopra: “Although he began life as a respected physician, he went off the rails when he encountered holistic, ayurvedic, and ‘alternative’ medicine (the last is synonymous with ‘quackery’), and now he makes millions peddling questionable remedies and phony wisdom to credulous New Agers.”
University of Manchester physicist Brian Cox asked Chopra “to actually understand some science” during a Twitter feud over quantum mechanics.
And in the Washington Post, Steven Newton of the National Center for Science Education attacked Chopra’s views on evolution: “Chopra’s misappropriation of scientific terms in the service of his nonsense mirrors the way Scientology operates, and likely for the same reason: to make a buck from the gullible.”
Delos said quantum healing practices are not being incorporated into Muse.
In an email, Chopra wrote: “My theories may be unconventional but they are not unscientific. I am a professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and was recently given an appointment in the Department of Psychology and Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. ... Accusations of pseudo-science come from critics who are either not familiar with my work or who haven’t kept up with recent advances in mind, body and medicine sciences.”
And developer Maloney dismissed those concerns.
“We think he’s got a much larger market than people who are criticizing him,” Maloney said. “He’s a medical doctor, he’s got ... bestsellers. He’s got a very wide market. Regardless of people calling him a pseudo-scientist, we’re looking at the broader picture.”