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South Florida Business Journal

Developer nabs $24M to build Brickell condo


Habitat Group obtained a $24 million construction loan for the first tower of the Smart Brickell condo project in Miami.

Miami-based Ocean Bank awarded the mortgage on the 1.23-acre development site at 229, 239 and 243 S.W. 9th St. Featuring 50 condos, 50 hotel rooms and 10,000 square feet of retail, the project broke ground in March and is on track for completion in 2021. It is sold out.

Habitat Group plans to break ground on the second tower of Smart Brickell, which will be the same size as the first tower, in early 2020.

“Receiving this loan for the construction of our first Smart Brickell tower is a testament to the project’s continuing success,” said Santiago Vanegas, president of Habitat Group. “Following the rapid sellout of Smart Brickell Tower 1, Smart Brickell Tower 2 is already 80% sold. We are looking forward to breaking ground on Tower 2 and continuing this construction momentum.”

The condos will range from 558 to 1,117 square feet. Prices range from $300,000 to $600,000. Owners will be able to rent their units up to 50 times a year on home-sharing services like Airbnb. They could also lease their condos to the developer to join the hotel pool.

Cervera Real Estate is the exclusive broker.

The third tower is also planned with 97 multifamily units and 30,000 square feet of retail.

The 25-story Smart Brickell was designed by Gensler. Amenities will include two pools, a spa, a fitness center, a business center and a rooftop lounge.

Habitat Group breaks ground on Brickell condo project


By Brian Bandell  – Senior Reporter, South Florida Business Journal

Habitat Group broke ground on the first phase of its Smart Brickell condo/hotel project in Miami, and revealed a significant change for a future phase of the project.

The first and second phases of Smart Brickell will each have 50 condos and 50 hotel rooms, but the third phase will no longer have 70 condos and 50 hotel rooms.

Habitat Group CEO Santiago Vanegas said the third phase will have 100 apartments because the company wants to hold onto that rental tower as a long-term asset.

Vanegas said the change was not related to the pace of sales in the Miami condo market.

Each tower, at 229, 239 and 243 S.W. 9th Street, will have 10,000 square feet of retail space, he added.

“You have two types of product today,” Vanegas said. “You have the super luxury and then the alternative product. Smart Brickell is the alternative product because of the use of the units and the size of the units.”

The condos will range from 558- to 1,117-square-feet. Prices start in the low $300,000s.

In addition to living in their units or leasing them, owners have the option to do a short-term rental for up to 24 days a year, or lease the unit back to the developer for a fixed rent.

The developer would put the leased-back units into its hotel pool. Vanegas said these options will provide maximum flexibility for investors, who make up the bulk of his buyers.

The first phase condos of Smart Brickell is sold out, and it should be completed in the first quarter of 2021, Vanegas said. The second phase is about 66 percent pre-sold and Vanegas hopes to break ground in the third quarter of 2019.

The third tower should break ground in early 2020, Vanegas added. It has been redesigned so its common areas will be separate from the condo/hotel towers, he said.

Designed by Gensler, Smart Brickell has a furnishing package that comes with every unit. The building has modern technology features, such as Nest smart thermostat control, Lifx smart lighting controls, Amazon Echo and an iPad with each unit.

Amenities will include two pools, a spa, a fitness center, a business center, and a rooftop lounge.

“Smart Brickell is setting the tone for the type of developments Miami needs,” said Alicia Cervera Lamadrid of Cervera Real Estate, the broker for the project. “Selling out Tower 1 and reaching the 60 percent sales threshold for Tower 2 in a short amount of time is proof that Miami has a demand for this type of product.”

Vanegas said Smart Brickell required 50 percent deposits from buyers, with the amount paid in stages during the course of construction. He plans to sign a construction loan to help complete the project.

Habitat Group plows ahead in Miami condo market

By   – Senior Reporter, South Florida Business Journal

While some of Miami’s biggest condo developers have pumped the breaks, Habitat Group is moving full speed ahead with its Smart Brickell condo and lining up property for more projects.

Santiago Vanegas, CEO of the Miami-based developer, isn’t deterred by what some people are calling a market slowdown. This trained economist pays close attention to retail and market trends, and he believes Smart Brickell will be among the first projects delivered as the Miami condo market rebounds.

“We want to be the beginning wave of the next cycle,” Vanegas said. “We have alternative product, something different for the market.”

Habitat Group has become one of the most active developers in west Brickell and east Little Havana with four projects in the pipeline, and a fifth development site it owns. For Vanegas, it was truly a story of building from the ground up.

Vanegas studied economics in his native Colombia for five years and worked as an economist there before moving to Miami in 1998. Two years later, he landed a job with Edgardo Defortuna’s Fortune International Group, one of the largest condo brokers and developers in Miami. By 2005, Vanegas decided to step out on his own and form Habitat Group.

“I was very successful at Fortune and had a very good salary, but every night when I went to sleep I felt I could do a little bit more,” Vanegas said. “I felt I could make more projects on my own.”

He saw the new Miami 21 zoning code would greatly increase the density in West Brickell, so he decided to assemble property there, but first he needed to pool together some money. Vanegas said his biggest investors are the Roa family, which has agriculture and price farming interests in Colombia, and the Codovez family, which owns shrimp farms in Ecuador. He also personally invests in Habitat Group’s real estate funds.

For its first fund between 2005 and 2010, Habitat Group assembled about five acres in West Brickell. That was before the development of Brickell City Centre, so much of the activity in the neighborhood was centered around Brickell Avenue.

“Everybody wants to have the best location, and Brickell Avenue is just one of them,” Vanegas said. “Then you have the whole Brickell area. It’s a hospitality neighborhood.”

The company’s first project was Habitat One, which was originally conceived as a condo but quickly converted into a 25-unit rental in 2008. Vanegas realized the zoning allowed for short-term rentals, so he added furnishing to each unit and started operating Habitat One like a hotel via listings on vacation rental site HomeAway.

Habitat One’s income increased from $300,000 per year as apartments to $1 million per year in the first year as a vacation rental, he said. The building is now called Habitat Residences. Later, the company built a second phase with 55 units.

By 2012, Habitat Group sold much of its remaining property in west Brickell. Other developers have built projects such as Le Parc, Casa Brickell and the Atton Brickell Miami hotel on those properties, while Vanegas reinvested the proceeds in other deals.

Habitat Group acquired seven apartment buildings and two hotels in east Little Havana, the Jefferson Hotel and the Historic Miami River Hotel. All of them were renovated and later sold for a profit, Vanegas said.

“We started seeing the potential that Little Havana has,” Vanegas said. “Today, Calle Ocho is cool and full of tourists.”

For its third fund, Habitat Group has its biggest sellout target yet at $250 million, Vanegas said. It’s returned to the neighborhoods where it’s already experienced success.

Located at 229 to 243 S.W. 9th St., Smart Brickell is slated for three towers. The first two towers would each have 50 condos and 50 hotel rooms, while the third tower would have 70 condos and 50 hotel rooms. There would also be 30,000 square feet of retail.

Vanegas said the first tower is 100 percent pre-sold and should break ground in the first quarter. He recently launched sales on the second tower, asking $300,000 to $600,000 for units ranging from 558 to 1,117 square feet. The average price is around $600 per square foot.

While Habitat Group is marketing its condos, major Miami developers such as the Related Group and Melo Group are wrapping up their current condo projects and haven’t started sales for new ones. There’s been a slowdown in new condo sales for several years that has discouraged many developers from launching projects. The few condo projects that have started sales recently are targeting the luxury market, such as Aston Martin Residences and Una Residences.

Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of EWM Realty International in South Florida, said that new condos proposed in Miami’s urban core are facing tough competition from resales with lower pricing. The building boom has resulted in many recently-completed condos being placed on the market by investors. As a result, Miami-Dade County has an 11-month supply of condos priced under $1 million, based on the current sales pace, Shuffield said.

Despite these challenges, Smart Brickell’s strategy of targeting investors at price points that make renting out the units feasible should ultimately succeed because of the rapidly-growing population in Miami, Shuffield said.

“We feel the market and we are trying to do this anti-cycle,” Vanegas said. “The last condo project of this cycle, Brickell Flatrion, will deliver next year. That is the only new supply for 2019, then the supply on Brickell will stop. If you want to have product ready for 2021, you have to start construction today.”

Vanegas hopes Smart Brickell will open at a time when it will have less competition from newly-completed condos. He designed the units as smaller and more efficient, with furnishings included, to make them more attractive to investors who plan to rent them.

Technology is a main focus at Smart Brickell, as the condos will include a Nest smart thermostat control, Lifx smart lighting controls, Alexa by Amazon and an iPad with each unit containing a special app for the building.

To give condo investors more options to make money, Smart Brickell will allow them to use their units as short-term rentals up to 24 times per year, or they could lease the condo back to the developer for a fixed rent. Habitat Group would then include those leased condos in its hotel pool.

The developer doesn’t plan to retain a national brand or a hospitality management company for the hotel. Habitat Group will manage the Smart Brickell hotel itself, Vanegas said. In fact, the 15-person company has established a hotel management division and it’s open to managing hotels for other property owners, he added.

Habitat Group’s other projects are:

East River Living, a 34-unit apartment building under construction at 39 N.W. 7th Ave. in Little Havana.

Millux, a 114-room hotel planed at 239 S.W. 12th Street in west Brickell. Vanegas said the name denotes a luxurious experience for millennials. It will be full of decorations that will inspire “Instagram moments,” he said.

A mixed-use project with 108 condos, 60 hotel rooms, and 12,000 square feet of retail in the early planning stages at 143 S.W. 9th Street in west Brickell.

The company also owns a vacant lot at 36 N.W. 7th Ave. in Little Havana. Vanegas said he plans 50 apartments there.

“We want to find a way to keep these assets and give Habitat the opportunity to operate those properties in the future,” Vanegas said.

Habitat Development plans condo/hotel in Brickell, two more projects


South Florida Business Journal

By: Brian Bandell

Habitat Development has announced a slew of new developments in Miami’s urban core, as the company moves closer to breaking ground on Smart Brickell.

The Miami-based developer, led by CEO Santiago Vanegas, recently acquired the apartment building at 143 S.W. Ninth Street for $14.5 million. Vanegas said he plans to redevelop the 30,000-square-foot site with a 36-story condo that would include 108 condos, 60 hotel rooms, and 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. He expects to start construction in about two years.

“The total cost for the development will be $59.6 million with a $48.7 million sell-out of the condos,” Vanegas said. “There will be a $26.4 million valuation of the hotel and $6.6 million for the commercial space, for a total sellout of $81.7 million, and expected profit of $22.1 million.”

While some condo developers are holding back on launching new projects amid a slowdown in new condo sales, Habitat Development has been bullish on the market.

Smart Brickell launched sales in summer 2017. It will have three towers at 229, 239 and 243 S.W. 9th Street, about three blocks from the apartment complex Habitat Development just acquired.

The first tower of Smart Brickell, which will have 50 condos and 50 hotel rooms, is 100 percent pre-sold, he said. The second tower will be the same size, and the third tower will have 70 condos and 50 hotel rooms. Smart Brickell will also have 30,000 square feet of retail space.

Vanegas said he expects to start demolition work for Smart Brickell by the end of October.


Read the full article:

Trammell Crow proposes 24-story condo and more real estate news for the week of Oct. 10

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Condo-hotel project could rise in Brickell
Brian Bandell
Senior Reporter
South Florida Business Journal
Habitat Development wants to build the three-tower Smart Brickell condo-hotel project in Miami.
The project would have 170 condos, 150 hotel rooms and 30,000 square feet of retail space, including a spa and restaurant inside the hotel. The hotel rooms would be in the pedestal, while the condos would be in the three towers. It would be on the 1.23-acre site at 243 S.W. Ninth St.


Miami River Inn sells for $8.6 million

By | NEWS | No Comments

The Vagabond Group, a company led by developer Avra Jain, has purchased the historic Miami River Inn hotel.
Aztec Group represented Jain’s company and announced the sale of the 58-unit property this week, which sold for $8.6 million — up 105 percent from its previous sale price of $4.2 million in July 2013, according to Miami-Dade County property records.
The seller was Miami River Inn Holdings, a company affiliated with Habitat Group, which was represented by Alfonso Jaramillo of Fortune International Realty.
The new owner, Jain, was behind the renovation of the 45-room Vagabond Motel in Miami’s MiMo District, which reopened last fall.
“This transaction is an indication of Miami’s growth around its main artery and namesake, the Miami River. Bringing such an important property back to life will only further activate the already pulsating river corridor,” said Jason Katz, vice president at Aztec Group in a news release.
The Miami River Inn is at 437 S.W. 2nd St. in Miami. It was built in 1906.

Emon Reiser
Digital Producer, South Florida Business JournalSenior Reporter
South Florida Business Journal