New York fashion magnate Naeem Khan plans to leave the Big Apple for Miami, setting up a couture house on the Miami River under a discounted land deal approved Tuesday by Miami-Dade commissioners.
“I’m so excited. I have goosebumps,” Khan said after a lengthy discussion ended in his favor, with only one dissenting vote. “All of my clothes are going to be made here. We’re moving all of our production out of New York, to Miami.”
The celebrity designer has dressed Beyoncé and Michelle Obama, and also produces a consumer line of high-end fashion and bridal gowns sold at Nordstrom , Bergdorf Goodmanand elsewhere. His company employs about 120 people in New York producing dresses and gowns, and Khan said he expects to move the entire operation to Miami in the coming years.
He plans to create a new headquarters facility in a vacant building where Miami-Dade used to operate a machine shop. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration negotiated a below-market rent deal for the waterfront lot at 1175 NW South River Dr., with Khan having the option to buy the property if hiring goals are met.
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Commissioners debated whether Miami-Dade would be better off putting the surplus property up for sale, rather than endorsing a custom-made package for Khan. But ultimately, the measure passed with only Commissioner Xavier Suarez voting no. “It’s clearly not an arms-length transaction,” Suarez said. “It may not be a sweetheart deal, but it’s not arms’ length.”
The deal essentially gives Khan a 90-year lease with a rental formula tied to inflation that would currently cost about about $65,000 a year.
The agreement includes discounted rent to start, and describes the arrangement as providing Khan with below-market rates throughout. The deal also sets the base purchase price at $1.2 million, which is the current value set by the property appraiser’s office. Those values are typically well below what a property would fetch on the market.
Gimenez touted Khan’s venture as a vote of confidence in Miami-Dade, and an opportunity to position Miami as a new hub for fashion production.
“This isn’t simply a real estate deal,” Gimenez told commissioners. “This is an economic-development initiative to bring an industry down to South Florida.”
In an interview, Khan said it will take about three years to create what he said will be an architecturally significant headquarters and production facility in Miami. The proposal calls for a $6 million, 30,000-square-foot facility. Part of the venture includes a training program to work in the Khan production facility.
“It’s about time this industry came back to Miami-Dade County,” said Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, referring to Hialeah’s once vibrant garment sector. “Mr. Khan, what you’re bringing is something very unique and very good.”
The county property at Khan’s disposal sits near where the river meets Northwest 12th Avenue, just east of a drawbridge. Best known for cargo docks and marina facilities, Khan said he sees the scruffy stretch of waterfront as “the perfect spot.”
Khan said he chose Miami for its port, a climate allowing for year-round production and the region’s access to a South American population with a tradition of handiwork.
“You have a humongous amount of labor available to me. South America labor is used to crafts and doing things by hand,” he said. “And it’s so close to New York.”