Joe Kernen: Two family real estate dynasties are teaming up to develop a once condemned property, and hoping to turn it into one of the largest development projects in South Florida. Richard LeFrak, President of the LeFrak Organization, and Jeff Soffer, owner of Turnberry Associates joins us now to talk about this venture which, you know, we go back a ways.
Richard LeFrak: We do.
Joe Kernen:And welcome. Good to see you. We haven’t met before, Jeff, but good to, to have you here. I hope I can call you Jeff. But you told me about this a couple of years ago, I think.
Richard LeFrak: Yeah, well, this is something that I came upon, uh, kind of on the depths of the Florida real estate market depression.
Joe Kernen: Near Miami.
Richard LeFrak: It’s in Miami.
Joe Kernen: In Miami. Hundred and how many acres?
Richard LeFrak: 183 acres.
Joe Kernen: You went in with 20 million dollars in when? 2008?
Richard LeFrak: It was about 2010.
Joe Kernen: It was on, it was a former landfill?
Richard LeFrak: It was a landfill. It had failed under the prior developers and, Credit Swiss there at CNBS.
Joe Kernen: It’s the biggest one. Biggest CNBS failure.
Richard LeFrak: Biggest CNBS failure in their portfolio. They walked away from …
Joe Kernen: And they were happy to take 20. Right?
Richard LeFrak:No, they didn’t get anything. They walked.
Joe Kernen: No, but the people that did, that you got it from, were happy to get 20.
Richard LeFrak: There was one bidder.
Joe Kernen: I’ve tried to do a multiplier on this, because you guys have some pretty fun plans for it, and it includes … You’re, you’re good at hotels. You’ve got, shopping malls.
Richard LeFrak: He’s good at everything.
Joe Kernen: Right. For people that don’t know, Turnberry, Fontainebleau, what, what’s the name of your, uh, the mall down there, too?
Jeffrey Soffer: Aventura Mall.
Richard LeFrak: Which is the most successful single mall in the United States. He won’t say it, but I will.
Jeffrey Soffer: One of them.
Joe Kernen: What will this turn into, this, this the hundred and …
Richard LeFrak: We’re hoping that it will turn into a brand new, exciting community. It’s called Sole Mia, which is Soffer, S-O, LeFrak, L-E, Mia for Miami. It’s going to contain approximately 4,300 residential units. About a million two hundred thousand feet of commercial property, including a brand new, exciting shopping experience that Jeff and his sister, Jackie Soffer are putting together. Hotels, some office buildings. So it’s a new community in Miami.
Joe Kernen: Did, did you like that he signed off on that name, Jeff?
Jeffrey Soffer: Yeah, well a name is a name. Right?
Joe Kernen: No, but it’s good, though. I know Rich- you paid a lot for that, did you? Some guy came up with that. Did he hit you up for half of the fee for coming up with that name?
Jeffrey Soffer: No, no, no.
Joe Kernen:He didn’t?
Jeffrey Soffer: Richard just goes along with everything.
Joe Kernen: (laughs)
Richard LeFrak: No. We, we, listen. We have to re-brand it. We have to create some excitement about it. And, but it’s gonna be a long-term project. It’ll take ten to fifteen years, for sure.
Joe Kernen: Wow.
Richard LeFrak: You know, you have to be an optimist if you’re my age and you take on one of these things that’s a long-term thing. So it’s kind of a longevity thing.
Joe Kernen: Fontainebleau us as popular as ever. Right?
Jeffrey Soffer: Yeah. Miami is doing great. I mean, Miami obviously has turned into a true gateway city in America. We, you know, people from all over. From the South Americans to the Europeans. Obviously the Northeasterner’s are coming there during the winter time, and it’s grown. It’s not just a small, little city anymore. Our airport has 40 million passengers going through it.
Joe Kernen: I know here in New York, I don’t know if it’s been the same impact in Miami, but I know here in New York, the stronger dollar has had an impact, because it’s cut back on some of the foreign buyers. Is that the same situation in Miami?
Jeffrey Soffer: Well, it obviously comes and goes with that. I mean, the South Americans, traditionally, have always run to Miami as their safe haven. So sure, the dollar being stronger has taken, a toll on the South Americans. But the ones that have it, that do well, that are buying a lot of these high priced condominiums and spending money there, traditionally, they’re still going. So they’re still seeing customers buy. And we have a project on the ocean in Sunny Isles Beach, and we’re selling units to South Americans.
Joe Kernen: What’s inventory capacity look like right now in the city?
Jeffrey Soffer: Well, it depends where you go in the city. Right down town, obviously there’s a lot of projects underway or being started. As you go to the beaches, there’s not very many. You know, Miami Beach has a few. Sunny Isles Beach has probably 600 units for sale on the whole beach. Down town it’s thousands, though.
Richard LeFrak: And, South Beach probably has 200. So each market down there is slightly different.
Joe Kernen: Right.
Richard LeFrak: So you can’t generalize it, even though people like to say Miami, but you know … It’s not, it’s not one market. It’s multiple markets.
Joe Kernen: I’m trying to wrap it up, but Turnberry, who lives there?
Jeffrey Soffer: Well, Turnberry Isle Resort is a hotel. My father started in the late 60’s and it was all swamp land. 700 acres of the city called Aventura. So it’s progressed through the years. I think it’s 40,000 that live there today. And so it’s grown through the years. We have built residential condominiums and of course the shopping mall.
Joe Kernen: Come back. It’s good to meet you. Richard, we’ll see you again. It’s fun having you in the studio, but congrats on this.
Richard LeFrak: hank you. Thanks.
Joe Kernen: I look forward to seeing it.
Richard LeFrak: Nice to see everybody.
Joe Kernen: Thank you for coming in. Come on back. We should talk more.